Inspired from the international smash hit play seen by over a million people, JEWTOPIA (2012, USA, 89 minutes) stars Ivan Sergei, Joel David Moore, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jon Lovitz, Rita Wilson, Tom Arnold, Peter Stormare, Camryn Manheim, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Wendie Malick, Nicollette Sheridan, Phil Rosenthal, Christine Lakin, Hayes MacArthur and Lin Shaye.
The story is about Christian O'Connell (Sergei) and Adam Lipschitz (Moore) — two childhood friends who reunite as adults to help each other land the women of their dreams. Chris wants to marry Allison (Hewitt), a Jewish girl, so that he'll never have to make another decision for as long as he lives. Adam is on the verge of getting married to Hannah (Sigler), a woman he is not content with. When Chris enlists Adam's help in pretending to be Jewish so that Allison will date him, cultures collide and chaos ensues!
JEWTOPIA is the directorial debut of Bryan Fogel who co-wrote the screenplay, the stage play, and the best-selling book, Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the Chosen People, with Sam Wolfson. The film is produced by Courtney Mizel (Tortilla Heaven), Pavlina Hatoupis (Sassypants, Frankie Goes Boom), Andy Fickman, (director of The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, and the upcoming Billy Crystal / Bette Midler comedy Parental Guidance), Tucker Tooley, (Immortals, The Fighter, the upcoming Mirror Mirror), and Bryan Fogel.
JEWTOPIA (2012, USA, 89 minutes)
Makes its World Premiere as the Opening Night film of the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival
Thursday, April 26th, 2012 at 7:30pm
Edwards Big Newport, 300 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, CA
What prompted the idea for JEWTOPIA and how did it evolve?
The kernel of the idea was a scene for a one act festival in Los Angeles almost ten years ago. At the time, myself and Sam Wolfson were actors and looking to catch a break so we decided to write and perform a scene for an "industry" showcase I was organizing. The idea / hook was simple. A gentile who wanted to marry a Jewish girl so he'd never have to make another decision. We set our characters, Christian O'Connell and Adam Lipschitz at a singles mixer, as that felt like a great and likely place where these two guys would be at…and the story was born.
Upon performing the scene, which the audience responded with roaring laughter, we realized that we might just be onto something special. We spent the next year writing JEWTOPIA the play as the two of us had no idea how we'd ever get a movie or TV version done at that point in time. When the first draft was finished we did a staged reading – (aka a backer's reader) to try to raise money for a production. We packed the house for two nights and felt for certain that investors would line up. They didn't. In an act of desperation we racked out credit cards and borrowed the rest from our parents.
Needing a director, I tracked down Andy Fickman who had recently directed the brilliant Reefer Madness. Andy at first resisted as he was too busy, and then insanely agreed to direct Jewtopia and another show – in addition to his other job at the time – and he somehow did this all at the same time! For this I'll be forever grateful to Andy, as he saw how great the show could be and was fearless in his direction. He also gave me confidence in myself, the material, and was a rock of support. Andy has been my mentor ever since and is also a producer of the movie.
Jewtopia opened in LA in May 2003 and became an overnight smash. We sold out 300 shows in a row before moving the show to Off-Broadway NYC in late 2004. There it became the fastest recouping show in Off-Broadway history and played another 1100 performances and 3 years.
During this time, we evolved Jewtopia into a coffee table book that Warner Books published in early 2007. The book became a best seller and they even had us on ABC's The View.
Jewtopia's evolution has had productions run in cities all over the US and Canada, and a touring show called Jewtopia:Live, which I still star in when free, combines stand up comedy and multimedia, and has been at major performing arts venues nationwide.
The evolution into a feature film always felt natural and was something that I had dreamed of doing. What started as a meeting about how to adapt Jewtopia onto the big screen with Tucker Tooley and Andy Fickman eight years ago, would take years to see into fruition….
Describe the journey of bringing this story -- which you wrote and performed on stage -- to the big screen.
So the journey of the stage play I've written about above, but the journey to bring Jewtopia to the big screen was an entirely different animal!
On a creative level, the challenges were pretty big. In the first draft of the film, Sam and I essentially sought to merely adapt the stage story and stage characters into a film script. When the draft was finished, we realized that this was not the best way to go about it – as what worked for Jewtopia the play, due to the "magic" of theatre and a live audience willing to suspend belief, doesn't necessarily work on film and I was very aware that I didn't want the movie to feel like a filmed production of the play. What I mean by this, is that on stage, if you tell the audience that a tornado wipes out Kansas, then the audience goes with it… they know they can't see that on a stage! But in film, if you tell the audience that a tornado wipes out Kansas, then you better be able to show just that.
So we realized that there was a much larger story to tell and that we could take these characters and the comedy that worked so well on stage, and place them into a much broader story. We were able to expand the world and situations of the initial play. Draft after draft, the comedy of the stage play stayed intact while a richer story began to take hold. What we realized is that we could create more backstory, see our characters in a longer time frame, enrich our characters, and inhabit the world in which they live in which we weren't able to do in the stage play.
The next part of the journey was my personal realization that I was better suited to direct the film, then to star in it. This realization came during my time on stage in New York. In the show I played Chris O'Connell, but if you look at me, I think most people would say, "that's a Jew". Not that I have horns and a tail (in plain view), but let's face it, if you have a bit of "Jewdar" I'm definitely getting tagged! Aside from not being physically right to play the role of Chris, I also came to the realization during the New York run of the show that I preferred to look at the bigger picture and found myself directing my fellow cast members (probably to their shock and chagrin!). The problem, or benefit (depending on how one sees it) was that as the co-creator I clearly saw these characters in my head and also how I wanted these characters to be in life and on stage. I think this naturally happens when you write something – especially comedy. You feel where the punch line is, and know the moment when an actor says his lines, whether or not the joke will land. So as Jewtopia progressed, I became more entrenched with the idea that if I was ever able to get the film made, that I would fight like hell to be able to direct it.
The "getting the film made" part of the journey was one of the most challenging adventures I've ever had. I remember when Sam and I first finished a draft we thought, "Ok, great. Here's our movie, shouldn't be hard to get it made." HA – was I delusional. The film came together and fell apart more times than I can imagine, but the constant was my conviction and drive that I had to get it made. None of it would have been possible without the support and belief in me from my producers Courtney Mizel, Pavlina Hatoupis, Andy Fickman and Tucker Tooley that finally made it happen and brought all the pieces together.
There was one day about this time last year when it finally felt real. About five years back a Japanese friend of mine gave me of those dolls where you make a wish and color in one eye – and when your wish comes true you color in the other. That damn doll sat on my desk for five years staring at me – taunting me – filling in that other eye was one of the best feelings in my life.
How did you assemble the cast?
The cast really came together in a super organic way. I had the blessing of having an amazing casting director, Wendy O'Brien who helped us go after everyone I dreamed of and I'm still in shock that all these incredible actors are in my film! The crazy thing was pretty much every actor I imagined or wanted for the role, said "yes".
It was a bit like dominos and once one person came on, another came on, and then another. The process became a daily pinching myself of having readings, meetings, lunches, beers and dinners with some of my favorite actors of all time…and then begging them to come and do the film.
We shot the film in Los Angeles last summer and pretty much all the cast knew each other --or had worked with each other before, so in many ways I think it was a great reunion of sorts for a lot of them – I hope!
What surprised you the most about making the film?
That I've always heard from people I look up to in Hollywood that 'there's the movie you write, the movie you shoot, and the movie you edit' and that they are all totally different movies. This couldn't be more true!
The other thing that I loved and found surprising in a good way, was seeing what I had lived with for so long in my head come to life before my eyes. It was an awesome experience to see what each actor brought to the role, and how creative and collaborative the process was.
Describe the experience of working with your actors.
Every member of my cast was totally different to work with and what I quickly realized was that every actor responds differently and has different needs on set. What really blew me away was how professional everyone was. Coming from a theatre background I'm use to actors running lines for weeks in rehearsals, taking time to be 'off-book' and lots and lots of rehearsal time. But with this cast, it wasn't like that. Every actor in the film came each day totally prepared, off book, and with strong choices made as to the scene and their characters. I loved it and the commitment of the cast was astounding and I'm very blessed for that. Oftentimes I would get calls at night to discuss the next day, constant emails to discuss script, and everyone in the cast cared about the film and their role. I think a lot of the magic was that every member of the cast was there because they liked the script and thought that the film would be fun – we certainly didn't have the big bucks to pay them - so I think in many ways it lent itself to a very organic process and meant that everyone in the cast was there to be a part of the ride.
For me as the director, I'd imagine it to be a similar experience to coaching a professional sports team – where every athlete on the team is already amazing, you're blown away by their abilities -- and you're the guy on the sidelines with the playbook getting to watch the magic happen.
This is your directorial debut. Discuss the biggest challenge that you faced in making the film.
Well the biggest challenge was getting the film made period. But as we started to roll into pre-production and then on set, I quickly learned that filmmaking becomes a time vs. money challenge each and everyday and that to get the film you want, it's all about compromises both small and large – as there is NEVER enough time and never enough money. So I found myself having to constantly adapt, reimagine, and oftentimes scrap a shot or even a scene – as the most important part was to make sure that no matter what that I could still tell the story. The shooting schedule was super tight, so it meant that I needed to come in with a script that was already lean and mean, as I knew I wouldn't have the luxury of lots of extra footage and stuff in the film that I might or might not use. It forced me to prepare and analyze the script over and over again to lose anything that didn't drive the story forward as I knew I wouldn't have time to shoot it and that it could end up on the cutting room floor.
But my biggest ass saver was having a team of people who had done this many times before-- all around me. I've always tried to have that approach – when you don't know something, then surround yourself with people who do, as they will bring you to their level and teach you what you don't know. This was so much so the case, that I think I was the only first timer on set! I'm embarrassed when I go on IMDB and pull up all my crew's credits… it shocking.
I remember my first day on set and Andy kicking my director's chair to call action, when to call cut, and teaching me that I could call a "reset" instead of cut in many cases. Having him there was a godsend as he saved me from so many first timer mistakes… not that I didn't make a ton…but just less of them!
What do you hope audiences take away after watching it?
That they laugh themselves silly, and then tell their friends that they need to see it. My film doesn't conquer life or death questions and is a far cry from a drama, so for me if audiences laugh like crazy, like they did at the play, and then go and tell their friends and family that they need to see the film -- I'll be very happy.
That, and I hope that I will get the chance to direct another film …as this has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I've ever done in my life thus far.
|Jennifer Love Hewitt||...||Alison Marks||...||Bio|
|Peter Stormare||...||Buck O'Connell||....||Bio|
|Bree Turner||...||Marge O'Connell|
|Christine Lakin||...||Helen O'Connell|
|Joel David Moore||...||Adam Lipschitz|
|Wendie Malick||...||Marcy Marx||....||Bio|
|Jamie-Lynn Sigler||...||Hannah Daniels||....||Bio|
|Rita Wilson||...||Arlene Lipschitz||....||Bio|
|Jon Lovitz||...||Dennis Lipschitz||....||Bio|
|Nicollette Sheridan||...||Betsy O'Connell||....||Bio|
|Crystal Reed||...||Rebecca Ogin|
|Lin Shaye||...||Dr. Sutton|
|Rachel G. Fox||...||Jill Lipschitz|
|Ivan Sergei||...||Christian O'Connell||....||Bio|
|Tom Arnold||...||Bruce Daniels||....||Bio|
|Camryn Manheim||...||Eileen Daniels||....||Bio|
|Hayes MacArthur||...||Chuck O'Connell|
|Philip Rosenthal||...||Rabbi Schlomo Marx||....||Bio|
|Brennan Bailey||...||Young Chris O'Connell|
|Sharon Wilkins||...||Nurse Boo|
|Elaine Tan||...||Sala Khan|
|Austin Abrams||...||Young Adam Lipschitz|
|Conor Dubin||...||Clayton O'Connell|
|Mark Anthony Williams||...||Trombone Player|
|Joseph S. Griffo||...||Melvin Fleischam|
|Brian Fong||...||Mongolian father|
|Nick Plantico||...||Angry Neighbor|
|Christopher Carrington||...||Smokey Joe|
|Joe Childs||...||Marvin Fleischam|
|Cheryl Daro||...||Soo Yun (uncredited)|
|Rico Devereaux||...||Malt 4T (uncredited)|
|Joel David Moore||....||executive producer||....||Bio|
|J.B. Popplewell||....||associate producer|
Original Music by
Film Editing by
Production Design by
Art Direction by
Set Decoration by
Costume Design by
|Caroline B. Marx|
|Jeremy Bramer||....||assistant makeup artist|
|Lorraine Martin||....||key makeup artist|
|Miko Nishida||....||key hair stylist|
|Brittania Perri||....||assistant makeup artist|
|Brooklyn Stephen||....||hair stylist|
|Cherie Parks||....||unit production manager|
|Christine J. Russo||....||post-production supervisor|
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
|John David Denison||....||second assistant director|
|Shauna Frontera||....||second second assistant director|
|Matt Henderson||....||first assistant director|
|Geoffrey McNeil||....||second unit director|
|Marie-Hélène Riverain||....||second assistant director|
|Sabine Asanger||....||art department assistant|
|Gaby Kuhn||....||assistant property master|
|Steven Avila||....||supervising sound effects editor|
|Omar Barraza||....||boom operator|
|Trip Brock||....||supervising sound editor|
|Lorita de la Cerna||....||foley artist|
|Peter D. Lago||....||sound effects editor|
|Tom Marks||....||sound re-recording mixer|
|Greg Mauer||....||foley mixer|
|Alexander Pugh||....||sound effects editor|
|Matthew Sanchez||....||sound mixer|
|Steven Utt||....||sound recordist|
|Stacey A. Washer||....||utility|
Visual Effects by
|Wesley Cronk||....||visual effects|
|Thomas Dane Wagener||....||visual effects|
|Joe Childs||....||stunt performer|
|Joseph S. Griffo||....||stunt performer|
|Nick Plantico||....||stunt performer|
|Lou Simon||....||stunt coordinator|
Camera and Electrical Department
|Kevin Akers||....||first assistant "a" camera|
|Dominic Bendijo||....||still photographer|
|Joshua Bushek||....||best boy grip|
|Jorge Devotto||....||first assistant camera: "b" camera|
|Hillary Elder||....||second assistant "a" camera|
|Elton Hartney James||....||best boy electric|
|Uxue Jiménez||....||first assistant "b" camera|
|Michelle Pizanis||....||second assistant: b camera|
|Jerry J. White III||....||grip|
|Shaunessy James Quinn||....||extras casting|
Costume and Wardrobe Department
|Georgia Fletcher||....||key costumer|
|Stephanie Fox||....||costume supervisor|
|Camiille Liim||....||costumer (as Camille Lim)|
|Kristina West||....||key costumer|
|Neal Ficker||....||post-production assistant|
|Richard Glazerman||....||assistant editor|
|Lee Hultman||....||digital intermediate editor|
|Leandro Marini||....||digital intermediate colorist|
|Rain Valdez||....||digital intermediate producer|
|Andrew J. Wahlquist||....||digital intermediate technical supervisor|
|Brad Hamilton||....||music editor|
|Anastasia Levine||....||transportation captain|
|Lauren Levine||....||transportation coordinator|
|Mark Alkofer||....||studio teacher|
|Allison Andrade||....||production accountant|
|Lori Beth Bernat||....||executive assistant to Andy Fickman|
|Tiffany Boyle||....||sales executive|
|Erika Canchola||....||production attorney|
|Michelle S. Chang||....||production attorney|
|Erin Connarn||....||script supervisor|
|Sara Correa||....||key production assistant|
|David Flannery||....||key assistant location manager|
|Allen Kelley||....||assistant production coordinator|
|Corbin Larson||....||production coordinator|
|Christina Lee||....||production assistant|
|David McNayr||....||production assistant|
|James Phares||....||production assistant|
|Michael Edward Smith||....||location manager|
|Eric Stangeland||....||key assistant location manager|
Born in Denver, Colorado, Bryan dreamed of being a professional bicycle racer and one day racing in the Tour De France long before his foray into the entertainment biz. Racing from the time he was 13, it didn't dawn on him until the age of 20, that while in his heart he wanted to be like Lance, that his genetics from years and years of asthmatic eastern European Jews didn't have that in the cards for him. Moving to Los Angeles after graduating from the University of Colorado, Boulder, he attempted to break into the world of stand-up comedy and acting. Meeting Sam Wolfson through a mutual friend who was also doing stand-up, the two decided to write and perform a ten minute scene for a one act festival. The scene over the next few years would morph into Jewtopia the stage play that Bryan starred in also. Jewtopia went on to become one of the longest running and most successful shows in Los Angeles and off-Broadway history. Productions have been mounted all over the US and Canada, and to date, Jewtopia has been seen by over one million people. Bryan also co-authored the best selling coffee-table book Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the Chosen People published by Hachette as well as the national traveling show, Jewtopia: Live! Which has played to sold out audiences in major performing arts venues all over the US and Canada. Bryan has also written and sold an animated pilot, another screenplay, which he hopes to bring into production, and is working on a bunch of new projects he is in various stages of developing. Jewtopia is his feature film directorial debut. He still considers being a pro bicycle racer as his back-up plan.