| Reel Chronicles |

Client: Yidly

Prepare original content appropriate for Chanukah, but even more important, in a style suitable and entertaining for all ages

Client: Yidly
Objective: Create a full-length feature to be played at Chanukah parties, in addition to several promos
Film Locations: Our studio in Lakewood, New Jersey, and another studio in Baltimore, Maryland
Project Deadline: Chanukah 2023


The Proposal

In this case, we were our own client. I launched Yidly because for some time, I’ve been thinking about this void in the frum market for wholesome family entertainment. We envisioned a platform that would have not just videos, but videos that can be enjoyed by all ages together, with an interactive or educational component. The challenges in creating such content is figuring out what material will be enjoyed with the whole family — and will appeal to all frum communities.

For the first program, to launch Chanukah, we settled on three performers: speaker Rabbi Yechiel Spero, storyteller Rabbi Yoel Ferber, and game show host and producer Boruch Perlowitz.

We gave them all the same mission: Prepare original content appropriate for Chanukah, but even more important, in a style suitable and entertaining for all ages. All three of them are masters of their crafts, and they didn’t need much direction from us to come up with material.

The next step was for us to take their presentations to the next level with visuals, animations, and sound effects, giving viewers of The Chanukah Program a complete entertainment experience.


A Prerecorded “Live” Show

Who doesn’t love a good competitive game show? With the right host, original content, and a fast-moving pace, you can almost feel the electricity in the air.

This, in fact, was our challenge: Figuring out how to give a prerecorded version that same live, interactive feel, because the whole purpose of a game show is to involve the crowd, and, well, they wouldn’t be in the studio when we filmed.

Our first line of defense was to film using a green screen background, which gave us the opportunity to substitute the setting of our choice to recreate a visual environment of a game show feel. I asked VFX Associate Miss Shayna Goldman to help compensate for the prerecorded feel by building a full game show style background, complete with a neon question screen, podium, and countdown timer. Although there were just three crewmembers in the room when we filmed, I asked our host, Boruch Perlowitz, to act as if he was dealing with a live audience. He did a masterful job talking to “the crowd,” saying not only the quiz questions and answers, but also chattering as he would at a typical performance. “Time’s running out, only a few seconds left!” and “Who got that one right? Amazing! Great job!”

On the flip side, we did have to make sure certain things were different for our prerecorded version. At his live performances, Boruch gives controllers to the crowd, where they can click 1, 2, 3, or 4 to select the right answer. Our digital version, on the other hand, comes with a printable game card, where contestants are supposed to circle the correct number. There were several times where we had to do a second take on a question, when Boruch said “Press” referring to the number instead of “Circle.”

Another difference we had to account for was Boruch’s freedom of movement. He’s an energetic performer, and he tends to move around a lot, but because we were filming in our green screen studio, it was important that he stayed on his mark throughout, and that even his hands wouldn’t stray off the green screen background.


Bringing a Story to Screen

Rabbi Yoel Ferber has produced many children’s stories, but he’s done them as audio recordings. Our plan was to film him, which opened up a whole new host of opportunities. I reached out to him a week or so before the shoot to ask him if he wanted us to prepare any costumes or props for him, but as he was still finalizing his story choice, he didn’t have a conclusive list.

The evening before the shoot, my phone buzzed.

“I have the perfect story for The Chanukah Program!” Rabbi Ferber announced. “I know it’s late, but is there any way we can still get some costumes? Maybe a Russian hat, a peasant shirt, and other things to set the scene for the mid-1800s in Russia?”

Amazon Prime overnight shipping to the rescue!

I managed to get most of his requests in time for our filming session, and Rabbi Ferber brought some of his own props as well.

Interestingly, for this session we needed a green screen floor in addition to our green screen wall background. Not only did we want to have flexibility with complete room replacements, but Rabbi Ferber brought along a shovel, and it would look pretty strange to have him digging up a carpet.


Visual Tricks

To allow us the most flexibility in the editing stages, I asked Rabbi Ferber to give us a take of the complete story as “himself.” Once we had that recorded, I asked him to put on his costumes and redo several of the scenes. This way we always have the main version to fall back on, but we can transition to the more exciting parts as needed.

I asked Associate VFX Director Jeremy Lewis to sit in on the filming to offer on the spot input, such as how Rabbi Ferber should orient himself when he was pretend sleeping. As Jeremy would be the one putting the bed under him in the special effects stages, he was able to strategize how to best film the scene.

Aside from designing the main “virtual set,” Jeremy was able to create several fully animated scenes, placing multiple versions of Rabbi Ferber in the same scene and even playing with their proportions. Because of these effects, not only were all Rabbi Ferber characters dressed in varied costumes, but we were able to have Rabbi Ferber as Moshe the innkeeper small and slight, while Pieter the peasant strongman — also Rabbi Ferber — towered over him in their conversations.



Rabbi Yechiel Spero managed to weave in current events, a Chanukah-themed story, and an inspirational takeaway message in his eight-minute time slot. Though he was also filmed on a green screen, we didn’t need to animate it as much as a game show background or a full-length story, so it should have been fairly straightforward.

VFX Director Mordy Fisgus used advanced software to create a computer generated beautiful snowy background, even using a smoke effect so the wind blew the softly falling flakes behind Rabbi Spero as he wove his inspirational message.

“It’s captivating,” I told Mordy, “but it looks a little cold. I was hoping for a warmer atmosphere, more of a fireside look.”

No problem! Mordy created a new setting with a roaring fire, casting a reddish glow on the speaker’s face.

“Hmmm, definitely better, but now the fire looks a little too much,” I said. “Can we tone it down?”

We finally took the Goldilocks route, having Rabbi Spero in a well-lit room with a window behind him showing the snowy landscape. A menorah on the windowsill finished the look, blending both the sense of the cold outdoors with a cozy living room. It was just right.



Once the program was built, we needed to get the word out. Because The Chanukah Program is a video feature, we also need PR in the digital world, as a promotional video. I put Jeremy Lewis on the job, tasking him with coming up with an entertaining way of driving home our messaging.

“A lot of the clients will be gifting this, right?” Jeremy asked. “What if I build a promo listing the various Chanukah gifting options that exist, and explain why The Chanukah Program is the most appropriate?”

I liked the idea, but I cautioned him that we don’t want to put anything else down, we just want to promote our feature. In order to strike that balance, Jeremy did some retail research. In addition to the standard Visa gift cards, he found the more unlikely latke-scented candles (yes, that’s a real thing) and glow-in-the-dark sneakers. Semi-gag products like these help give the message that old-school gifting doesn’t always work out, but it’s in a light and playful manner as opposed to cynical or negative.

Jeremy also narrated the piece himself, exploring the value of a program that’s useful for the whole family, and presto, we had a funny promo with a powerful message.



Working on your own project is a two-sided coin: you aren’t limited by your client’s guidance, but on the other hand, you aren’t limited by your client’s guidance. No, that isn’t a typo. Freedom to create anything without boundaries can be liberating, but it’s also overwhelming. Projects that can usually be finished in a week or so can take even longer when we really unleash our internal creativity. But the satisfaction of seeing a project completed in a way that totally matches our vision makes it all worth it.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 988)

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