Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

“Soon By You” is the Web Series Orthodox Jews Have Been Waiting For

Hi! Welcome to my blog! Maybe you just came to read about the excellent web series “Soon By You,” but you are certainly welcome to stay and read a little more about the truth about feeding small children, maybe get a little inspired by a shift in perspective, or just laugh about the time I had to disassemble my oven. If you like what you read, you can sign up for posts via email (in the sidebar there). I post about once a week or once every two weeks, so your inbox won’t be flooded by my presence, no worries. Or you can follow my Facebook page, which is more active. Whatever works for you! Enjoy! 

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Who among the frum of us have not cringed at the portrayal of observant Jews in movies or shows? It’s rare for an Orthodox character to not be reduced to a caricature, a representation of how some people think an observant Jew might act.

Well, welcome this bit of fresh air! There is a web series called Soon By You about young professional Orthodox Jews in shidduchim made by young professional Orthodox Jews in shidduchim. That’s right.

It’s spot on, captures the nuances and humor of the grueling parsha of dating. If you haven’t yet seen the award-winning pilot episode, “The Setup,” go here now and watch it before you read any further. Seriously, it’s about 16 minutes, and totally worth it. I’ll wait.

In anticipation of the release of episode two (which you can watch here), I had an opportunity to ask some questions (can we call it interviewing? Let’s do that) to Leah Gottfried, a producer, writer and also an actor in the series. Talented woman!

soon by you

1. You cast yourself as a superficial-type girl who totally doesn’t catch David’s humor. Why did you choose to cast yourself in a supporting role instead of as the female protaganist, which is what I sensed Sarah Feldman to be? Also, I love your outfit in this episode, and your attitude on the date. It totally cracked me up. Your date basically ditches you and you seem completely unfazed. Yes to the bottle of wine!

It’s funny you mention that, I actually originally wrote the role of Sarah Feldman with myself in mind. Substitute my filmmaking for her painting and we are basically the same person. There are a number of reasons I chose to play Sarah Jacobs instead. Firstly, I knew it would be difficult to be directing and acting at the same time, and Sarah J. has a smaller role. But mostly I realized how boring it would be for me to play a character that is so similar to who I am. It’s much more fun and challenging as an actress to play different kinds of characters. Also we held auditions for Sarah Feldman, and Sara Scur (the actress who plays Sarah F.) was so wonderful in the role, it was obvious she was the perfect Sarah F. And I’m really glad I play Sarah J. She is super fun!

I wanted to empower her when David basically ditches her-so yes she is unfazed, gets some wine and starts swiping through other options. I love that about her.

The outfit is all the brainchild of my amazing wardrobe designer, Chana Lea Galy!

2. Have you ever had this type of experience of accidentally starting a date with the wrong guy? I still remember the feeling of walking into a hotel lobby and wondering which one of the bochurim loitering around was the one I was supposed to meet. So awkward.

I have not had this type of experience but I definitely have been out with my share of Bens.

3. What inspired the web series? Did this idea of starting out a date with the wrong person come right away, or did it arise out of discussion?

The series was inspired by the Israeli TV show “Srugim”. It took a few months to come up with the final story and characters that we have now. It arose mostly out of discussions.

4. How did you meet the other producers?

I met Danny Hoffman a few years ago when we were both cast in a Jewish parody of the show The Office. (It’s still on YouTube and fairly embarrassing now). He auditioned for the role of David and was perfect for it. When I decided to expand the project into a web series, he expressed interest in producing and now we co-write the show together and he co-produces as well.
Jessica Schechter and I met at the ATARA arts conference about 5 years ago and immediately hit it off and have been friends ever since. For years we had been wanting to collaborate and finally now we can. She came on as a production assistant on “The Setup” and totally went above and beyond for the project so I brought her on as co-producer for the series. She also has the best bad date stories.

We are a great team and have a lot of (too much?) fun working on the show together.

5. What was it like being both an actor and a producer?

It’s extremely intense. I had to learn how to turn on and off different sides of me depending what I was doing at the moment. So the director side of me has to be dormant while I am acting and vise versa. It can be overwhelming and I tend to collapse for a few days after we shoot but I absolutely love giving my whole self to a story I am excited about.
6. Did you come up with the idea for the second episode at the same time of as the pilot? Or did it come later? Or (plot twist), did you have an idea and then it evolved?

The pilot episode actually started out just as a short film. Once people started watching it and wanting to see more, I decided to continue the story as a web series but at that point I had no idea of where the story was going. I just knew I wanted to stay with these four characters and add two more. By this point we have a good idea of the next four episodes and I feel like we really developed the characters to be able to continue on with them.

7. How do you come up with the ideas? Is it a group process?

Our process is very collaborative. I have an outline of the next couple episodes and when we are ready to begin writing, the three of us usually get together to further outline the episode we are working on. That usually involves us sitting at a coffee shop for long hours and laughing a lot. Then once we have a beat sheet (detailed scenes, but no dialogue written yet) Danny and I begin writing the dialogue with the three of us giving notes as the writing progresses.

8. Are all your actors Orthodox in real life? How did you do the casting?

Three of the actors are Orthodox-myself, Danny Hoffman (David) and Jessica Schechter (Noa). We post casting breakdowns on casting web sites and hold auditions. We generally see 50-100 actors per role. We put them on tape and discuss who we think is best for the role and sometimes hold callbacks to see them again or see how different actors play off of each other.

9. What about the music – where do you find that?

I have a wonderful composer, Aaron Symonds, who composes an original score for each episode. Aaron is also the founder of JenLA, an organization in Los Angeles that we are working with to allow all our funding and donations to be tax deductible! (www.jenla.org/soonbyyou)
Thank you, Leah, for giving us a peek into the creative process of this great series! I cannot wait for the next episodes!
You can watch Episode One here and the just-released Episode Two here.
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