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Lights, Camera, Action

We started shooting our first Uncle Moishy videos over 30 years ago

NO matter how prepared you might be, shooting footage for DVDs and music videos is always full of surprises. And that’s what makes every shoot so much fun. We started shooting our first Uncle Moishy videos over 30 years ago, and looking back, the mishaps actually helped create some great memories.

After doing Uncle Moishy productions for a few years, we felt it was time to move ahead with a video. It was 1990, and our plan was to film Uncle Moishy in a helicopter. I rented a chopper and we met at the heliport near the West Side Highway in Manhattan — except that when it came to actually getting in and taking off, Uncle Moishy’s acrophobia got the better of him. So with the little improvisation, we pulled a switcheroo: We filmed Uncle Moishy climbing into the helicopter, and then I climbed in afterward, flying into the sky.

The same happened when we were shooting footage on a hot-air balloon in Florida for “The Balloon” on Uncle Moishy Volume 8. We got up at 5 a.m. to board the balloon, but when it was time for Uncle Moishy to fly away, once again, he got the butterflies. So Uncle Moishy got into the balloon and lifted off about six feet above the ground and then one of us went into the balloon instead, wearing the Uncle Moishy hat. Watching it now and even knowing the backstory, there’s no way to tell who’s really in flight!

During the famous Uncle Moishy “Pizza Song” shoot (Volume 2), Uncle Moishy’s pizza goes flying when he bumps into another fellow in the store (that was me), and then when he trips on a broomstick and the second pizza goes flying, it actually landed splat on the camera lens. The cameraman was not thrilled, but we reshot the scene after cleaning the lens.

The song “Only Kosher Food” (Volume 9) was shot at Teterboro Airport on a private jet. When the owner heard we were looking for a plane to shoot some Uncle Moishy footage, he said, “Use mine!” The private plane was magnificent, lined with actual gold furnishings and full leather seats. That was one 14-seater we will never forget. As we were waiting to start filming, the cameraman noticed a state-of-the-art, luxury-furnished Bell helicopter that had been parked near the plane. As soon as he turned his camera on the craft, one of the attendants rushed over to him and said, “You must put the camera away. Mr. Trump doesn’t let his helicopters appear in filmed footage.” (And that was before he became the president.)

Another Unexpected

Uncle Moishy moment happened in Israel at Ben-Gurion Airport. We were working on Volume 4, and somehow, Dedi got permission to actually film behind the glass at passport control. Dedi played the customs agent taking the passport from Uncle Moishy. But he didn’t have the real stamp to mark Uncle Moishy’s passport, so he used his flip phone to stamp it instead — and broke his phone in the process.

As for everything working out in the end, well… not always. When we were shooting “Pharaoh in Pajamas” at the Avenue Plaza Hotel, we shot Pharaoh running around looking for Moshe. The scene was so funny that nobody noticed me standing in the background, laughing my head off. We only saw it during the edit, but unless we wanted to redo the entire shoot, we decided to leave it in, hoping no one would notice. Boy, were we wrong.

As the original producers of the HASC concerts, we had a hand in their videos as well. Early on, for the second year’s concert, Abie Rotenberg composed “Who Am I,” with an amazing video to accompany it. It was during the winter, and although Camp HASC was not open, they arranged to take a bunch of campers and counselors to a performance at the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. The shots they got there made the video totally genuine.

Music videos moved up several notches with 8th Day’s “Ya’alili” in 2011, which received over 6 million views. But even with the new sophistication, things don’t always go as planned. They shot it at Pomegranate Supermarket, beginning at 10 p.m. when the store closed, and wrapped up shooting when the store re-opened the next morning. Toward the end of the shoot, singer Shmuely Marcus, as a cashier, gives the opening line, “You’re having a bad day, huh? You should try Ya’alili.” The actor who they had on hand to deliver the line, “Huh?? What’d you say?” kept trying to get the right combination of frustration and angst, but it just wasn’t going — until Eli Schwebel just happened to walk in to say hi to the guys — and got that line on his first take.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 953)

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