January 7, 2016
The Making of a Mensch is the Jewish Film Institute’s Online Short of the Month for January 2016!
Happy New Year from JFI! We’re diving into 2016 with The Making of a Mensch, an online short perfect for your New Year’s resolutions. In her newest project, filmmaker and influencer Tiffany Shlain ponders what it takes to be a mensch, refracted through the ancient Jewish teachings of Mussar. The Making of a Mensch is a companion film to her previous The Science of Character, which investigates the neuroscience and social science around social development.
Dir. Tiffany Shlain, USA, 2015, English, 11 min.
Filmmaker Q&A with director Tiffany Shlain
JFI: What inspired you to make this film?
TS: I think a lot about practices that bring meaning and purpose to life…and when I learned that there was a Jewish model (Mussar) for these kinds of practices, that was very exciting to me.
JFI: What was your greatest challenge during the filmmaking process?
TS: To take these ideas about Mussar and decouple them from whether you believe in God or not. I wanted to set these ideas free for everyone. I’m personally more culturally Jewish than religious, and these ideas and practices about one’s ongoing journey to being a mensch really are for everyone.
JFI: Any thoughts you’d like to share about screening this film in a Jewish context?
TS: I do think the ideas in the film of what I call “Menschiology” speak to everyone but it’s from a very specific Jewish lens. It’s a very Jewy film..and I love sharing Jewy ideas with fellow members of the Tribe.
JFI: What film/media has inspired you lately?
TS: I just saw on Netflix the BBC show “The Honourable Woman.” It’s an 8 part series and it absolutely blew my mind. It’s about Israel, it’s about family, secrets and so much more. I cannot recommend this series enough. I also think Amazon Prime’s “Transparent” is fantastic.
JFI: What do you do when you’re not filmmaking?
TS: Spend time with my husband Ken and daughters. We cook a lot, read, play, hike, sculpt, bake challah, yoga.
JFI: Lastly, gefilte fish: delicious, or disgusting?
TS: Gefilte fish is one of those things that once a year on Passover I crave…then the other 355 days, not so much.
About the director:
Tiffany Shlain is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker who has received over 70 awards and distinctions for her work and is a highly in-demand public speaker, with appearances at Google, Nasa, Harvard, and was the closing speaker for the TEDWomen and TEDMED conferences. She founded and runs the film studio + lab The Moxie Institute and the nonprofit Let It Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change that makes free films for schools and creates global events to catalyze conversations around important topics. (bio and photo courtesy of The Moxie Institute)