These are busy times for Barak Marton. When I caught up with him, he had just returned from a brief Mount Carmel vacation, where the writer/director/cameraman took advantage of the solitude to clear his mind before embarking on two major projects.
As head writer for a potential new series, he had just completed a presentation deck, preparing to pitch the project with his partners.
Additionally, come October, Barak’s first novel, Dream Maker, a work of speculative science fiction, is scheduled to be published.
In many ways, Barak’s journey to author and filmmaker is quintessentially Israeli. Both sides of his family emigrated from Romania to Israel in the aftermath of World War II and the declaration of Jewish statehood. Although his family was not subjected to the deepest horrors of the Holocaust, his grandfather was forcibly taken to a brutal labor camp, enduring appalling conditions for nearly two years.
Upon arriving in Israel, Barak’s family was sent to ma’abarot, the primitive and notorious tin huts built to handle the massive influx of immigrants pouring into Israel during the formative years of the state. They eventually moved to Rishon LeZion, a coastal town five miles south of Tel Aviv founded by Zionist pioneers, where Barak and his brother Yair were born.
Barak’s passion for filmmaking developed early on. Citing Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma as inspirations, he says, “I was a film fanatic for as long as I can remember.” He got a home video camera at age 14, and began making movies, teaching himself to edit and incorporating whatever he found around the house, such as a stereo for adding music. “I worked all night to make a film of about two minutes,” Barak remembers. “It was crazy, but I loved it.”
Entering the IDF, he put his film aspirations on hold. As a member of a combat unit, “I wanted to serve my country the best way I could. When I was in the Army, I didn’t have time to do anything except fulfill my mission day after day.”
Following his IDF service, Barak, like many young Israelis, went on a post-Army journey. His was to New York, but, “Sadly, it coincided with 9/11. Everything was chaotic and a big trauma for the world.”
Returning to Israel, Barak enrolled in film school. It was around this time that he had the dream that changed everything. “I awoke from a dream about an ex-girlfriend. I tried to understand why I had this dream, because I hadn’t thought about her for a long time. At the time I thought, ‘Maybe someone placed it in my head.’”
And that was the germination for what, over the course of two decades, became Dream Maker. The book’s protagonist, Danny, is a millennial still residing with his parents, living a life devoid of meaning. One day, he is contacted by a secret global consortium that hires individuals to be dream makers, creating dreams that are planted in the minds of individuals specifically chosen for their potential to make a difference.
Unlike, say, Total Recall, the Arnold Schwarzenegger film where individuals pay for a particular fantasy to be implanted in their minds, the recipients in Barak’s book are unaware their dreams have been imbedded, with the idea being that those dreams will be the catalyst for affecting change.
As Barak explains, “The company finds you and, without your knowledge, helps you realize your potential. The dream writers become familiar with the target individual and, after building a profile, construct a dream appropriate for them. When the dream is inserted, the individual thinks it’s a creation of their own subconscious. What they do next is all on them. After all”, he asks rhetorically, “if you knew someone had entered your mind, would you ever go to sleep again?”
In writing the book, which is not set in a specific time period, Barak says he was not influenced by any particular science fiction writer, but rather Israeli novelist Etgar Keret. “I was inspired by his outlook that anything is possible.”
Barak emphasizes that Dream Maker is “very Israeli. It takes place in Tel Aviv and,” he adds somewhat mysteriously, “there is also the involvement of security forces. If it is eventually adapted as a series, I would like it to be an Israeli series, as opposed to a foreign production, because the authenticity of Dream Maker is here in Israel.”
Barak describes his book as “realistic” science fiction. By this does he mean implanting dreams might eventually become plausible? “I think so,” he speculates. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it happens one day.”
When asked what he looks to accomplish through Dream Maker, Barak responds, “There’s not a lot of sci-fi in Israel, which is a shame – Israel is a small country with a million stories, and science fiction can make a big contribution. I hope my book adds to the culture of stories in Israel that are a little bit different, not just as sci-fi, but as an atypical perspective on life, art and storytelling.
“I think Israel is known throughout the world for Fauda,” Barak continues, “but there are more things in Israel than fighting. I hope people will come to learn about Israel not as a military state but as a state of culture, art and imagination. That’s what I want to achieve.”