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  • Shmuel Hoffman

The Long Short Way

The name of an institution says a lot about what it stands for.

Yeshiva Ohavei Torah is not a place where boys dabble in Torah and learn to kind of like it a little. It's a place where they learn to love it, with all their heart, with all their might, and with all their resources.

As we filmed in the yeshiva and encountered the menschlich boys who surprised us in their enthusiasm for learning, and also in their commitment to excellence in academics, we really wanted to somehow convey that love, that beauty, through film, to their audience.

But how do you take something intrinsic - a feeling - like love, for example - and show it? How can you show a value in a short film?

Most people making yeshiva films would take the approach of just letting talking heads discuss how much they love Torah.

But we want to SHOW. If you're not going to show something visually, why not just send an email saying how much you love Torah? Film is so powerful because people believe their eyes more than they believe someone's words.

Another thing most people making yeshiva films would do is simply to show the learning. While this is, of course, a key ingredient, a feeling needs to come along with just watching someone learn. If you're not sitting in someone's shiur, but just watching them learn, without sound, how can you tell that they are passionate about what they're learning? If you don't know that person personally, how can you tell that they love it enough to let it affect their lives, and let it shape how they live and interact with people every day?

We focus on 4 main ways that we take the visuals of Torah learning to the next level so that the film will actually move you:

1. We try to make the music and the way we edit reflect that joy and excitement.

2. We focus on not just the straight Torah learning in our imagery, but on those in-between moments that give the geschmak to any experience.

3. We try to find a visual metaphor to have a non-literal way of getting a point across (In the case of this film, it's right at the beginning: the fire that is lit by the teachers, the student takes that fire into his hands and with that, lights up the world.)

4. We film in black and white in order to bring out the emotionality. When we want to tell a story that shows off physical beauty and anything in this world, then color would be the obvious choice. But when we want to get past the physical and focus on feelings, black and white helps the viewer feel the raw emotion underneath the visuals.

Most people making a film for a school will tell the school, "Well, for this price, you'll get this many minutes of a film, and for this price, you'll get this many minutes."

But the quality of a film and its worth is, of course, not in its length.

A film can be as long as you like, but if it doesn't engage the viewer, and if it doesn't bring you on a journey, it might as well be 2 seconds long.

With Open Houses, schools have a captive, live audience. That is your chance to show off everything, no holding back. It's a school's chance to brag; in fact, people came specifically to hear that bragging.

But the story of a school that instills its students with hard-won middos and to-the-bone integrity doesn't wrap up in 2 minutes, and can't be told in a happy-clappy, jumpy second. There needs to be some meat in the film to convey that there's weight and substance to what the school gives its students.

We are thankful to Ohavei for having the kind of administration that lets us go there, that lets us do the work and take the viewer on that journey so they can see the intrinsic value of the yeshiva, not just the surface skills that students gain.

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