Written by Gev Miron - Director/Co-Writer

In May of 2020, I received a phone call that changed the next three years of my life and took me on an incredible filmmaking journey around the world. On the other end of the line was my dear friend, writer/producer Wendy Kout, who told me she had just shared with Noah benShea a project I completed for the United Nations and told me he wanted to talk to me. I had no idea who Noah was so I googled him, and learned he was the author of “Jacob The Baker” - a beloved international best-selling book series in the late 80s.

The book was translated into 18 languages and tells the story of a wise and humble baker in a small town who writes little inspirational notes to himself every morning while baking bread. One day, one of his notes falls into the dough, gets baked into a loaf of bread, and is sold to a woman who discovers the note. She runs back to the bakery to find who wrote the note that touched her so deeply and finds Jacob The Baker. Soon after, Jacob is found by everyone else in the town and becomes a source of wisdom and support to the people around him, and in the real world, inspires millions of readers.

Jacob The Baker (2023) | Trailer | Dramawww.youtube.com

Two weeks later I found myself sitting across the table from Noah, who told me that after the books were published, people from around the world began reaching out to Jacob, people who needed Jacob’s wisdom and support.

Since Jacob is a fictional character, they mailed their letters to Noah, Jacob’s creator. Over the years Noah personally replied to hundreds of letters from people he'd never met, or spoken to, because they needed a “Jacob” in their lives. Most of the letters were about the most universal challenges and struggles: parenthood, challenging relationships, death, addiction, and faith.

Noah was also invited to speak to audiences, where he read some of the help-seeking letters he had received over the years, and shared Jacob’s compassionate and wise responses. Still trying to grasp the fact that people sent letters to a fictional character, I asked: “So hundreds of people from around the world are reaching out to Jacob, and you reply to them as Jacob?” Noah nodded and smiled.

Over the years, there were many attempts to make a film about Jacob, but all were focused on the story in the book. I thought the incredible real-life story of Noah and the letters was a far more interesting story to tell. In following conversations with Noah and Wendy we agreed the stories of the diverse people in need who wrote to Jacob were as important as the fictional story of Jacob.

But this was an attempt to make a small independent film, and shooting around the world on an indie budget seemed unrealistic, especially during a global pandemic that shut down most productions around the world.

However, we decided to pursue the idea regardless and found great partners in Steven Rales of Indian Paintbrush and Billy Wiesman, our EPs who said: “The world needs Jacob now, and Jacob is a story of hope.” This was a remarkable step forward in getting the film made. It grounded us and gave us our initial budget to get going. But how exactly we were going to make this international production happen was still unclear.

'Jacob the Baker'Buffalo 8

Summer Xinlei Yang, an AFI alumni and a rising independent producer, who had already made several award-winning films in different parts of the world came on board as a producer alongside Noah. She knew it was going to be a real challenge to make this film happen the way we wanted to, but was as enthusiastic as we were to make it happen.

We came up with a plan: I will direct remotely with local units in each of the countries: Denmark, Israel, and South Korea. I, of course, had never done remote directing before, and an important part was to select local teams I could fully trust with the vision knowing they would be shooting on their own for the most part.

Because of the production restrictions we had to overcome, a decision was made to work with the smallest crews possible, have only the essentials on set, and find a way to make it work. Omer Lotan, our cinematographer and I planned our shots, shared visual references, location photos, and spoke to our local teams at length about what we were looking to achieve, knowing that this would only serve as a base for the shoot, but would most likely have to be adjusted on the fly.

We decided that the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras paired with Angenieux EZ zoom lenses were our best option to get the shots we needed with such small crews. We also decided to go ahead and shoot all the remote units first, before shooting the main storyline that connected all of them together in Los Angeles, so that we’ll be able to tune our script to whatever we end up getting from our remote units abroad.

Dailies started pouring in as the units were filming, and I spent most of my nights watching them and sending feedback while spending the rest of my days prepping for the main unit shoot in LA.

'Jacob the Baker'Buffalo 8

From the footage we received I started to see the storylines of our international characters come to life, and had a clear idea of what needed to be adjusted in our ever-evolving script to make them work. Once they were done, we shot in LA for another week and then began to assemble our film. This was one of the most compelling experiences I’ve had as a filmmaker.

I watched hours of footage that was shot around the world, coming together as a single cohesive film, a puzzle that slowly revealed itself step by step, piece by piece. One of the decisions we had made early on was to shoot everything MOS for the remote units.

We hadn’t recorded any sound other than for the main storyline in LA and only had voice-over recorded for each of the characters. When I watched the edited film, especially in several early theatrical screenings, I felt that it was something we needed to change.

Our sound team from This Is Sound Design, led by Nathan Ruyle, spent several weeks recording foley, digging up sounds from the locations we shot in, and doing ADR with our cast around the world. This has made, in my opinion, a huge difference in the viewing experience of the film.

The last piece of that puzzle, and a very important piece was the score. As I was editing the film, I began sharing thoughts with our composer, Sharon Farber, who at the time was writing our theme song. We both thought that the film should have a main theme, but each of the international storylines should have its own style, influenced by the culture and part of the world it was based in, as well as by the characters themselves.

Sharon’s music was the glue that helped connect everything, and she so masterfully did so; by incorporating the style and instruments of the different countries, while maintaining a main theme throughout - all based on the theme song she had written to lyrics by Noah, “Better Times”.

After almost a year the film was finished and we had tremendous help from so many great people who believed in the film, the story, and Jacob’s message of hope. The team from CAA, legendary producer Mark Johnson, and writer/producer Jeff Arch were only a few of the people who took a leap of faith on a small indie film and helped us get it to the finish line. And now, Jacob The Baker is finally released. An impossible journey? Maybe. But if so, we can all do the impossible.

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As a filmmaker, I read stories like this and ask myself: “What can I take from this?” or “They made a movie, I want to make one too, what should I do?”. So, what can you take from this? Making this film was a practice in trusting the process. We decided to go for it, and we found the means to do it. If we had waited to get everything in line first, this would’ve never happened. We showed initiative, we were driven to make it, and people saw this and came on board.

We faced so many challenges along the way, we had to find more money, rework the story, cut out entire scenes, reshoot, spend time in distribution limbo, and so much more, but we did, and we finished it.

So, perhaps this is the most important lesson here, these three words from a major shoe company: “Just do it.” Even if it seems impossible to shoot a movie around the world, even if you’re looking at a project that seems too complex to make, or even if it’s your first film and you’re not sure where to begin. Gather a group of enthusiastic people who want to make something great together, and just do it.