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A Hasidic man reaches a turning point in his recovery from mental illness and addiction, and is determined to start a new life.

Bernie's Story

It takes 5 years to get your marbles back, and another 5 to learn how to use them -Alcoholics Anonymous

FOLLOWING BORUCH is a verite documentary intertwining observational and interview footage to tell the story of Bernie (aka Boruch), a forty-seven-year-old Hasidic man from Brooklyn. After battling alcoholism, drugs and sex addiction, as well as mental illness, for over thirty years, Bernie is sober and eager to live the life he never had.

For decades, Bernie has dreamed of starting a family, the touchstone of Hasidism, but his illness never allowed it. Now in recovery for the first time in his life, Bernie sets out to find a job and ultimately a wife. Filmed over 3 years, Bernie’s rehabilitation and newfound zest for life is soon challenged by a death in the family and his realization that being out of the work force for 25 years due to addiction and mental illness does not look good on a resume, nor does it make him prime marriage material in the Hasidic community.

By observing Bernie's ongoing therapy, job search, dating workshops and commitment to Hasidic Judaism, the film uncovers a universal story of self-discovery, redemption and acceptance embedded in an insular community rarely portrayed in the media. FOLLOWING BORUCH’S verite style and longitudinal filming technique display an actual process of recovery - An approach providing us with an opportunity to experience a somewhat familiar plight (recovery) through the eyes of someone from a completely unfamiliar world (Hasidic Judaism), broadening our understanding of this complex life style.

FOLLOWING BORUCH may be set in a very particular community, however mental illness, addiction, and the stigma that surrounds these conditions, reach far beyond religion, ethnicity, gender and race. Similarly, Bernie’s resilience, rehabilitation and desire to create a new life at forty-seven-years-old is a classic story of the human condition.

Bernie in his 20s
Bernie in his 20s

How Did I Find Bernie:

Bernie (Boruch in hebrew) is my uncle.  

Ever since I was a kid, I've been intrigued by my uncle's appearance - his long beard and black hat, and religious observance - no one else in my immediate family identifies as Hasidic. To me, he was the sage of the family, residing on a spiritual plane so high that it was almost out of reach. As I got older, my admiration for him never faded but I did become increasingly curious about the inconsistencies in his life. He placed so much value on family yet didn’t have one of his own; he was constantly learning and speaking of Jewish law and philosophy yet he would sleep in on the Sabbath; He was middle aged yet he didn’t have a steady job or residence. The sweet and knowledgeable Uncle Bernie I saw and spoke to on a regular basis, was someone way more complex when I wasn’t around. 

I learned that beneath his strict observance of Judaism, Bernie grappled with inner demons and personal affliction that I could have never imagined. When I was told by my parents, and later by Bernie personally, of Bernie’s bipolar disorder and battle with addiction, I was determined to tell his story. I got my first chance at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where I made a 5 minute portrait of my uncle for a documentary class given by my then professor and now Executive Producer Marco Williams.

Back then, Bernie was certainly on his way to recovery but still had some way to go – he lived in an Ohel Family Services residence ( a Jewish mental health facility in Brooklyn) under surveillance where he followed a strict schedule. Yet, he also spoke for the first time of his budding independence and desire to have a fulfilling life. The seed was planted for a larger story. So, when Boruch entered his 5th year of sobriety and set a new goal to find a job and start a family, it was time to roll the cameras for real.

Paula and Bernie
Paula and Bernie

Labor of Love (Literally)

At exactly this time, my son had just turned a year old and I was still adjusting to being a new mom and balancing my career. I was actually working on  another film when I realized this was my big chance to tell Bernie's story. I dropped everything and did just that. 6 months later, I  became pregnant with my second son...

So, in between raising a toddler, and growing another baby, I shot a feature length film (with the help of cinematographer Michael Crommett)! Talk about labor of love.

Driven by our passion for Bernie’s story, my team and I worked at our own expense to capture almost 200 hours of groundbreaking cinema. However, now that the film is shot, we can no longer continue this process on the bare minimum. In order to complete the film as we envisioned it with high production value, we need YOUR HELP.

Avinoam and Yoel
Avinoam and Yoel
Bernie and his grand-nephews.
Bernie and his grand-nephews.

Got it. Now what!?

4 years, 2 children and 200 hours of footage later we are ready to EDIT.  With the enthusiasm from our invaluable fans, mental health organizations, PBS's premire documentary series POV (who have provided us with a letter of support), and, most importantly, Bernie himself we are ready to make this happen! That's where you come in....

Here's What We Need:

$25,000 is the bare minimum we need to bring this massive amount of footage to a rough/fine cut. We will finally be able to answer the call to distributors and funders who want to see what Bernie's story is really about.

If we can deliver a solid cut, the rest of the funding will come through. Without these funds, all we can do is sit on a pile of footage.

Its ALL or NOTHING:

If we don't reach our goal of $25,000, we don't get a penny. BUT, we can certainly exceed our goal, which we plan to do!  It's game time. WE NEED YOUR HELP.

NEW REWARDS!!

Give $25+ or increase your donation by $10 and you will get a personal shout out in the final Shabbos with Shane Shane!

Give $100+ and Shane will include YOU in a special musical performance!

Check out our updates to see what Shabbos with Shane Shane is all about!

The Team


Paula Eiselt, Director/Producer:

Paula Eiselt is a NY-based filmmaker and Director of Programming at The Edit Center. Paula is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where she directed and produced three award winning short films - My Mom the Dead Head (Cannes Film Festival's Short Film Corner); The Fitting Room (NY Jewish Student Short Film Festival); Priscilla (NY Newfilmmaker Series, Show Off Your Shorts Film Festival). Since graduating, Paula has worked as a Researcher on Marco Williams’ The Undocumented (PBS) and as an Assistant Producer on Yoni Brook's and Musa Syeed's Bronx Princess (PBS).

Paula has also served as Additional Editor on several projects currently in post-production including Life at Ease(Dir. Debra Granik); Working Class Musician (Dir. Kerthy Fix); Begin the Beguine (Dir. Ari Gold); Stay than Go (Dir. Shelli Ainsworth). Following Boruch is Paula’s first feature film. 


Marco Williams, Executive Producer:

Marco Williams, is an Associate Arts Professor of Undergraduate Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and an award winning documentary filmmaker. He received a B.A. from Harvard University and a M.A. and M.F.A. from UCLA. 



Williams’ directing credits include: THE UNDOCUMENTED, INSIDE THE NEW BLACK PANTHERS, BANISHED, FREEDOM SUMMER, I SIT WHERE I WANT: THE LEGACY OF BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, MLK BOULEVARD: THE CONCRETE DREAM, TWO TOWNS OF JASPER, MAKING PEACE; REBUILDING OUR COMMUNITIES, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS: WITH ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, WITHOUT A PASS, IN SEARCH OF OUR FATHERS and FROM HARLEM TO HARVARD. 

Heidi Reinberg, Consulting Producer:

A longtime nonfiction producer, Heidi Reinberg works in both the documentary and television worlds. Heidi is currently working with Sundance/Oscar winner Ross Kauffman on a nonfiction series about conflict photographers. Recent directing highlights include a micro-doc spotlighting THE ARC AUDI RACING PROGRAM and multiple episodes of HGTV's popular HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL. Heidi's previous film work includes: WORDS OF WITNESS (Al Jazeera) and GARBAGE DREAMS (PBS); POSTER GIRL (HBO; Oscar nominee); SHELTER DOGS (HBO) and GRIST FOR THE MILL (Cinemax).

Heidi is also an active part of the I/DD community, having served as a consultant at Gateway Counseling Center (GCC), a Bronx-based dayhab program, for 5 years. Her tenure at GCC included teaching documentary filmmaking to GCC clients; launching GCC's Brooklyn-based arts-centered dayhab program; and overseeing GCC's website and social media efforts.

 Michael Crommett, Director of Photography:

Michael Crommett, has worked as a cinematographer and camera operator on projects both big and small, with large crews or as the only crew. He is comfortable with a wide range of productions including documentaries, commercials, ENG, fiction films, corporate, music videos, or anything else that requires compelling visual storytelling. His work has appeared on NBC, Discovery, MTV, and other outlets, and he is currently involved in various feature fiction and documentary productions.

Shane O'Neil, Editor:

Shane O'Neill is a film and video editor living in Brooklyn, NY.  He has worked on the Food Network television show "Chopped," Lee Camp's comedy webseries "Moment of Clarity" and has contributed style editorials and episodes of "Second Skin" for the fashion website Style Like U.  "Following Boruch" will be his editorial debut on a feature film. While not editing, he performs under the name "Shane Shane" and throws a monthly party in Bushwick called FANCY.

 Richard Berman, Composer:

Richard Berman is a California-based performer, producer and composer. He is an award-winning tuba player and plays several other instruments – including the didjeridoo, tanpura, theremin and 1970s analog synthesizers. Richard's has a lifelong interest in genres including bluegrass, klezmer, punk, classic rock and Bengali chamber music.

Richard has performed and recorded extensively, including on the Grammy-nominated album We’re Not Kidding and with the American roots band The Harkenbacks. He has composed for several films, including the forthcoming Back Alley Bulls and the award-winning documentary film Married and Counting. He currently leads Meme, an ambient/trance group in which he plays fretless bass, didjeridoo, Stylophone, Moog and a number of other instruments.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Once we have a solid cut, our next step is to raise a bit more money to complete the more technical aspects of post-production, including color correction, the online edit and the sound mix, as well as secure distribution. We've already started this conversation with several distribution outlets, who have screened early scenes and are updated on the project's progress on a regular basis.

Upon the film's completion, we will be working closely with mental health organizations to execute an effective outreach campaign surrounding the film. We've had preliminary meetings with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Elijah's Journey.

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