Film Director Goes to the Fans for Hebrew Hammer Sequel
by Zach Pontz
When Jonathan Kesselman wrote the script for The Hebrew Hammer , he couldn’t have imagined the following it would attract. Filmed in 2002, and released in 2003, it’s initial acceptance to Sundance Film Festival, and subsequent release in a handful of theaters across the country would signal a success for most any filmmaker. But it was soon plucked from possible obscurity by TV executives. Ask anybody about the film now and, even if they haven’t watched it, they’re likely to at least remember seeing a commercial or advertisement for the film from its five-years on the Comedy Central television network. This cemented its cult status, which was great, but didn’t exactly mean Hollywood was jumping at a sequel. Fast forward ten years and a lot of fruitless discussions with production companies and distributors and Kesselman’s follow up, titled The Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler may finally be getting the green light, albeit with the help of some new fundraising tactics.
“It was like mission impossible,” Kesselman told The Algemeiner of trying to get Hollywood to produce the film. “I’ve had multiple movies that have fallen apart and I realized there’s a big fan base for this movie over the last ten years and I just figured why not just go to the fans. I thought ‘Why am I going to a bunch of people who are paid to say no?’ I knew there was the big fan base and I knew crowd funding was a new way of making movies and getting a film going and getting attention and the reaction has been amazing.”
What Kesselman did was start a campaign on the Jewish crowd funding site Jewcer. Individuals are able to donate money, and in return, besides getting the pleasure of helping to finance the film, receive prizes.
Thus far the film is nowhere near the $200,000 it initially set as its goal, but with the deadline date of January 28th close at hand Kesselman isn’t fretting about that figure: that’s because $50,000 is the key number. At that point the fundraising is activated and Kesselman can collect donations. Anything below that and it’s as if the campaign never even happened. Right now he’s about $5,000 away.
“Once I get to $50,000 I’ll be relaxed, I’ll be calm,” He told the Algemeiner.
Kesselman hasn’t simply relied on new media either. Last Thursday he held a fundraiser at an apartment in Manhattan. A mint Jewlip (vodka, white wine Manishewitz—some other fun stuff) was the drink of choice, a stiff libation meant to loosen up everyone’s bidding hand. The silent auction featured original props from the first film, signed photo stills and original scripts. One attendee had flown down from Edmonton for the day to join in on the fun. He was representative of the type of fan Kesselman is hoping will offer support to the movie. Having personally donated $10,000 to the drive, the Canadian insisted that he’d spent the ten years since the release of the Hebrew Hammer checking the internet nearly every day in the hopes of finding any news he could about a sequel.
Lucky for him, having almost given up on the film Kesselman figured he’d give it one last shot. “It’s the best script I’ve ever written in terms of comedy,” Kessleman told The Algemeiner. He says he’s lined up most of the principle cast members from the Hebrew Hammer. Adam Goldberg, who played the eponymous lead, and Judy Greer, who played the love interest, have both committed to the film. The other major role to fill will be that of Hitler. At the fundraiser the overwhelming favorite was Sacha Baron Cohen.
Kesselman isn’t out of the woods just yet, but the sense of relief he feels at not having to rely on Hollywood to get his film made is palpable. Instead, there’s a certain joy and excitement one can detect when Kesselman speaks of the whole crowd funding process. “My analogy,” he said, “is jumping off a cliff and hoping that the fans would catch me. And I think they have.”