January’s Online Short: THE MAKING OF A MENSCH (Tiffany Shlain)

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:

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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)

Inspiring communities to expand their understanding of Jewish life through film, media and dialogue. Presented by the Jewish Film Institute! www.jfi.org

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