It would be incredibly hard to not be humbled and inspired after a conversation with Adi Ezroni. From quite a commendable acting career, to literally risking her life to produce films that reveal some of the worst atrocities of humanity such as child sex-trafficking, (her film "Holly" opens at the Quad on April 25th), this Israeli beauty brings a certain kind of passion to the world that is simply infectious. In her latest project HomeBase, Adi, along with several other artists of all different mediums and nationalities, invite us to join them in exploring just what "home" means. Harlem is where the "home" of this cross-cultural dialogue will be this Spring, (Opening day April 27th), but it's clear that Adi's journey is far from over....we feel grateful that she has called our city "home" for the time being, and we can't wait to see what else she's got up her sleeves.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? How did you get started in acting? I was born in Israel in a suburb of Tel Aviv, on the beach. When I was 6 years old, my family moved to New York for 5 years and I came back to NY about 5 years ago. Growing up in Manhattan and Israel was great, and it embedded this duality in me - I really got the best of both worlds – the curiosity and diversity of NY, and the fields, beach,and the connection to Israel.
When I was in sixth grade, I went into a video store and chatted with the owner about a film I just saw ( I think it was “parenthood”…) he asked me if I’d like to act in an off Broadway play he was directing, and that’s how I got into acting, I guess…I played Shakespeare’s daughter in a play called “the players” and it ran for about two months. When I got back to Israel I did a couple of shows for the educational channel, but my parents were very focused on keeping me on ground – I was a head counselor in the scouts, went on field trips all over the country, there was no mention of acting or modeling. Then, right before I went to the army (in Israel, it is mandatory for everyone, and I served for two years as medic instructor), an agent contacted me sent me on a couple auditions and I got a couple of big campaigns, and parts on TV. I was super patriotic, and wanted to complete my service, so it was two years later, that I got into the leading children channel in Israel, as a host and actress. I was a well known host for about 4 years, doing interviews, skits, game shows, family moves, commercials, etc. and then I decided its time to move to NY ? Today, I am able to live in NY and go back and forth to Israel and act. My latest TV drama in Israel, which I am the lead in, “When Shall we Kiss” is airing now.
In NY, I focus more on producing and in Israel on acting. I guess that producing allows me to feel more in control, and I act in some of the films I produce.
You are working with so many amazing organizations that are helping to bring people together all over the world on such important issues humanity is struggling with. As a producer, one of your latest ventures is “Holly” a feature length narrative film with Ron Livingston, ("Sex and the City's" 'Berger') Chris Penn (Sean Penn's brother in his last film, he passed away a year and a half ago) and others, deals with the child sex trade and is now in the theaters in the US. What made you so passionate about this project in the first place? I met my producing partner, Guy Jacobson, when I just arrived in NY. He was an investment banker, that had just gotten back from Cambodia where he found himself in the middle of the day, surrounded by a group of 6-8 yr old girls soliciting him for prostitution. When he told me he wanted to write a feature film about a 12 yr old Vietnamese girl who was sold to prostitution and an American man, I thought it was amazing. I told him that I would be the water girl…little did I know that I would become the head producer and the adventures that I would go through, or the many years of my life that would become committed to this project.
During the filming of the movie you were held hostage for two weeks in Cambodia. What was that experience like? How has it helped form you into who you are today? Yes, that was crazy. The minute we landed in Cambodia, we were told we are in danger. We were trying to expose an explosive subject matter in a third world country, and the local mafias were not so happy about it. We ended up hiring 40 body guards with ak47s (that’s a gun), we had to hide some of our film, bribes, everything you can imagine. When at last, the whole production had left, I stayed to take care of the final thing, and when I got to the airport I was stopped, and told that I could not leave the country. I had a bag full of film, and could not read what the warrant said, nor why this was happening, or who I should contact. I switched hostels, and stayed under a fake name for five days, meeting with a couple of local friends in dark bars to figure out how I can leave. A local attorney helped us transfer the funds needed…or so he says and I was let go 2 weeks later.
How has it affected me? I feel like I’m 45…I feel like I’ve seen the dark side of humanity, one that I had no concept of, growing up. But I am glad to say that it has not shattered my faith in the good in people…and, I think I trust my ability more.
Don’t you ever feel that you are up against a giant mammoth (the selling of children, sex trade industry, etc)? What can people do to help, and how do you remain positive about the future? As for the issue itself – its huge. Child trafficking and sexual exploitation affects 2 million children each year. I think the thing I can do is raise awareness and promote action through law enforcement and governmental pressure. If you go on priorityfilms.com you can read more.
Tell us a little bit more about your production company Priority Films… We are three partners – Guy Jacbobson, Mandy Tagger (former head of production at IndiGent) and myself, with an incredible team of people. We are growing this year as a company, and hope to become a studio for micro films – 1-5M dollars - so that we can provide an alternative for the bigger distributors by creating innovative strategies for smaller films.
What are the pros and cons of living in New York? Of living in Israel? Big question. I guess, I am, like many others in NY, dealing with the duality of being an immigrant (even if you’re American, you’ve kind of immigrated to NY). NY is a place for individual growth, for “doing”. Its crazy how much energy needs to be extended in order to create a community, or a routine with friends, its lie theres a big wheel that’s turning, and you really need to stop it for a second in order to create a home routine, to meet up with friends, to do nothing… Israel is super communal, family is very strong, its so small – you see everyone all the time, people go to their parents for Friday night dinners EVERY WEEK, so its also a place that keeps you in check in a way – you cant “just disappear” for a while. I feel like Israel, as a land, is like my lover. Every place I go to feels familiar, I feel like I belong to it and it belongs to me… so I guess I have two homes…
All this focus on home, an idea that so many New Yorkers struggle to define…you are currently a co producer of The HomeBase Project, an annual international site specific art project that explores the notions of “home”. This years project is in an old brownstone off the ‘A’ train in historic Harlem. Can you tell us more about this, why you were anxious to become involved and what you hope comes out of it? The project's founder, Anat Litwin, is the former director of the Makor Gallery, and is just magnetic. This is an incredible project – we all deal with what is home in some way or another. And especially after working on social justice issues. It is the essence of our definition of ourselves, and it is such a fertile ground for artistic exploration. So to bring international artists that create a true cross cultural dialogue about it, is amazing. I love art, and I am very curious to see what will happen this year – so many different mediums – from fabric installations to video and sound installations… And what better place to do it then in the historical area of Harlem, across from one of the oldest jazz pubs in the city.
The project is broken up to 2 – the first phase, the artists meet twice each week to talk about home and hear lectures and create their site specific installations. Then, on April 27th, we open HomeBase for the public to interact, come to guided tours, and hear lectures, and consider what home means to them…
What does home mean to you? I am dealing a lot with this question now because my apt in ny is temporary, and my childhood home, in Israel is home, but also not really, anymore…so now I’ll need to create my own. Good question – Yesterday, in our first artist meeting I wrote this: my parent’s kitchen; the smell of jasmine in the summer; falling asleep with my boyfriend.
What is a typical day like for you? There is no “typical” for me. For instance yesterday I started my day meeting the musicians who are doing music for a film that’s in the edit room, emailing about the upcoming release of Holly, continued to a meeting with Anat, the founder of HomeBase to finalize things, then a screenplay conference call on an upcoming film, and in the evening, I started creating my art project for HomeBase…
In the many amazing projects you have helped produce, you have no doubt met some extraordinary people along the way….who have some of your role models been? Hmmm…I guess different entrepreneurs that I meet – that are creative in making things happen, artists that confront the vulnerability of presenting their art with devotion and passion.
The best part about my job is…..the creative juices, new ideas, traveling all over the world.
Where is your favorite place in the world? The lake of Galilee in Israel
You are one of the most passionate people I have ever met. Where do you find your inspiration? Wow! thanks. I am energized by people like YOU. Truly. I find inspiration in many little things, and the idea of the potential for things to happen is invigorating. That’s not to say that I don’t have moments where I just want to do nothing and stay under the covers…
What’s next for you after HomeBase, after Holly screenings? Do you have other projects in mind or are you taking things one day at a time? My next project is “Rachel” but that’s for next time…
Favorite thing to do in New York on a Sunday afternoon? Sounds geeky – the Rubin museum is the most serene place in NY – its like stepping out of the city to a different energy zone.
I hope that during my time here on earth I ……….. experience and love