How the creator of Greenhouse Academy is building binge-worthy kids TV

The man behind several popular Hebrew-language tween adventure shows, and Netflix’s Greenhouse Academy, explains why his new series Sky will engage eight to 14s globally

The creator of Netflix’s tween drama series Greenhouse Academy, and several popular Hebrew-language series, Giora Chamizer, is aiming to grow his reach with another internationally successful show.

Using his formula of blending dense stories, twists, cliffhangers and complex themes—which has helped him to create popular series on low-budgets, retain viewers and catch the eye of global SVODs—Chamizer is readying another project for Israeli viewers, with his sights set on reaching worldwide audiences again. Sky, a tween-skewing live-action series, produced by Ananey Communications-owned Nutz Productions, is gearing up to shoot the show across Israel, starting in February.

Chamizer is writing the new series with Noa Pnini (The Neighborhood), and the Israeli prodco is making two seasons (totaling 40 x 22 minutes). The adventure drama will air on Teen Nick Israel later this year, and orbits around an alien named Sky whose spaceship crashes in a small town on earth. While waiting to be rescued, Sky transforms herself into the most popular (and meanest) girl in high school, and with the help of three goofy friends, she must survive on earth for two weeks without being discovered.

Besides the popular Greenhouse Academy, which Chamizer created (a fourth season was commissioned by Netflix to air later this year), he has also has a handful of tween-skewing live-action series, including The Island (150 episodes on Israel’s Children Channel), The Eight (150 episodes on Children Channel) and Neighborhood (150 episodes aired on Nickelodeon Israel, and was picked up by Portuguese channel RTP2 and aired as O Bairro).

His shows have often tackled complex topics such as family relationships and LGBTQ identity, but at each show’s core, the theme follows a family falling apart, which gives series global appeal, he says.

Take, for example, Greenhouse Academy on Netflix. Based on the original Hebrew-language The Greenhouse, the series follows the day-to-day drama at a school for gifted youth. After their mother dies, a pair of siblings are put in rival groups at the school and must learn to cope.

The original ran for four seasons exclusively on Nick Israel. It won the Ophir Award (Israeli Emmys) for best teen drama three years in a row, and in 2013 Nick UK picked up an English-dubbed version of the series. More recently, Netflix commissioned Nutz to remake the series titled Greenhouse Academy, which Chamizer adapted for international audiences as showrunner and head writer alongside Paula Yoo (Supergirl). In 2018, the global SVOD later ordered a third and fourth season of the show.

Netflix has been leaning into local original content and giving it international legs lately, according to Netflix’s Q4 2019 financial report. In fact, some of the most popular 2019 titles on the SVOD were locally-made productions from countries such as India and Japan, according to the financial report. This strategy has also worked with Greenhouse Academy, says Chamizer. The original show was popular in Israel because of its focus on issues important to Israeli kids, such as growing up and learning to be independent, says Chamzir.

The Greenhouse Academy has one of the highest retention rates of the shows on Netflix, the SVOD told Chamizer. By following fans conversations on social media, he’s also learned that a lot of kids are binging the whole show at once.

Made on roughly US$40,000, Chamizer says they have to compensate for tighter budgets with more engaging stories with lots of twists and cliffhangers.

“Give kids a dense plot where something is always happening, that gives them a lot to get invested in,” he says.

Beyond beefy stories, Chamizer makes sure shows tap into the fundamental fears of his core demo, of eight to 14.

“Their biggest fear at that age is that their family will break up. My shows always start with a family breaking up,” says Chamizer.  “The heroes’ journey then revolves around them finding out who they are without their parents, and them tackling the growing up process.”

Netflix is airing season four of Giora Chamizer’s Greenhouse Academy this year.

As production begins on Sky, he’s breaking out his formula again to create a story where the protagonist has to find out who she is after she’s separated from her family. Plus, he’s mixing in sci-fi elements to up the stakes, and he’s hopeful that this mix will propel the show’s global reach.

“Making a living in a very small industry is a challenge, and the biggest challenge is to break through and make my shows international,” says Chamizer. “We took the first major step with The Greenhouse, but this is the beginning the road. I hope Sky will become an international show, but I’ve done one international production and I have four more to go, and making that happen is going to keep me busy for the next decade.”