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How Israeli director Alon Juwal made it to Hollywood?
It takes a lot more than a shiny film degree from a prestigious school for a director to be taken seriously in Hollywood – otherwise we'd see every AFI and USC film school graduate's name up on the marquee; and we don't.

While many aspiring directors go to event after event trying to network their way to the top, this route can be exhausting and reap few results, especially if the director has little to show in the way of what they've already done. Others try to get their foot in the door by working on set as a PA, runner or other low level job in hopes of working their way to the top – another long-shot, at least if their true hope is to make it as a director.

The lucky few aside, most directors who have managed to break into Hollywood spent years shooting everything they could, continually using the medium to tell stories and perfecting their craft along the way, so that when it finally matters they actually have something to show for their work.

Israeli director Alon Juwal, who earned the Festival Award from the New York City International Film Festival this year for his film Visitors, is one of those directors who put in countless hours shooting everything he could in order to get to the place he is today. Earlier on in his career Juwal wrote, directed and produced the dramatic films 'The One That Got Away', 'The Homeless Guy' and the 'Businessman', 'Claw Hammer' and the comedic mockumentary 'Four Tires'.

Though Juwal attended the New York Film Academy where he obtained a bachelor's degree in filmmaking, it was through his hands-on experience that his talent as a director was really given the space to develop. From the time when he first decided that he would become a director he never stopped shooting.

"I always felt like practical experience teaches a person a whole lot more than just sitting in a classroom, and I think that applies to any field. The time I spent on film sets as an aspiring filmmaker taught me way more than any film school ever could," admits Juwal.

Learning more and more about the filmmaking process through each of his early projects, Juwal quickly discovered what worked and what didn't, and most importantly, he was never afraid to take risks. In 2014 Juwal wrote, produced and directed the mockumentary film Four Tires, which tells the story of four childhood friends who set off on their annual road trip to Jerusalem to visit the grave of their deceased friend.

"The film was my first experience with documentary form, and it was a very unique and different experience for me as a filmmaker," explains Juwal. "My main idea with 'Four Tires' was to create a comedy that was fun, entertaining, but carries deep emotional punch. It was also a way for me to test my own capabilities as a documentary filmmaker."

A comedy about the power of friendship and adventure that bares a powerful emotional story, Four Tires was also Juwal's first foray into the comedy genre. As a new director without the backing of a studio, Juwal made the film entirely by himself, a truly remarkable feat that served as a strong stepping stone and learning experience.

"I shot the film all by myself, using my friends. Since they were not trained actors and never performed in front of a camera, they lost their patience very quickly... It was definitely a lesson for me about what it means to be working with first time actors," recalls Juwal.

All of those early experiences perfect his skills and making films for the pure love of bringing stories to life on screen paid off in a big way for director Alon Juwal later in 2014 when he wrote, directed and produced the film Castor.

The film, which earned the Best Foreign Film Award at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival, followed a K-9 handler in the Israeli Army who flees his base without warning in order to take his dying dog, Castor, for one last walk in the desert before he is put to sleep. While in the desert he meets a young backpacker who ultimately teaches him an important lesson about life, loss and finding the strength to move on.

Driven to use film as a way to tell meaningful stories and impact audiences on an emotional level, Juwal was inspired to write the screenplay and make the film after watching a news story on Israeli television.

He explains, "It told the story of an IDF K-9 handler that had to sacrifice the life of his attack dog in order to save the lives of his squad mates. It was such a unique and emotional story that I felt like a movie had to be made about it. I had the option to shoot the film in the US but I knew that it would not feel authentic, so I decided to shoot it in Israel.

A touching and beautifully shot film, Castor did incredibly well on the film festival circuit internationally and marked a major turning point in Alon Juwal's career as a director. In addition to being nominated for awards at the Madrid International Film Festival and the Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival, Castor was chosen as an Official Selection of the St Tropez International Film Festival, Catalina Film Festival, Silver Springs International Film Festival and more.

For Juwal the film Castor, which he says remains 'very close to his heart,' was the project that propelled him forward in the highly competitive US film industry.

He says, "It helped me to establish my reputation as a serious director and 'get my foot through the door' of the industry."

While it's Juwal's talent, perseverance, and the years he spent shooting non-stop and perfecting his craft that have undoubtedly made him a successful director, something a film school degree can't buy – his time at NYFA did give him access to state of the art filming equipment, which is the main reason he chose to attend to the program in the first place.

Since the success of his award-winning films Castor and Visitors, Alon Juwal has been hard at work directing music videos for artists such as Guy Barak, Kalax & Valu.

Juwal is currently managed by Michelle Parimore, the CEO and founder of Parimore Entertainment, which represents him as a director in the United States.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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