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An Interview with Noah Benshea, Creator and Star of Jacob the Baker

by Mike Haberfelner

January 2024

Noah Benshea on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Jacob the Baker - in a few words, what is it about?

 

A young, skeptical reporter is sent to interview the author of a bestselling book series and discovers the incredible story of an author whose inspiring fictional character, Jacob, provides help and hope to countless people around the world. During the interview, the reporter’s own secret struggles emerge, making her pause and consider the real possibility of Jacob's help and hope for her own life.

 

Before we continue talking about the movie, could you provide us with a little bit of background about the actual Jacob the Baker character, his fictional origins, and what inspired you to create him back when? And was he always supposed to be a recurring character in your writings or did this just happen eventually? And how much of yourself do you see in Jacob, actually?

 

Forty years ago I was commissioned by a small publisher to write a book about a character whose life in many ways resembled my own. I wrote the book, at a very busy time in my life, over two years from 4am-6am. When the book was finished and passed around for a read, several major publishers came into play and cross-bid on the book, with Random House becoming the publisher of the book both in hardback and Ballantine in paperback. Jacob the Baker was almost immediately a national and international bestseller. There are now, over the forty years, 4 Jacob the Baker books in the series. Like Jacob, I have gotten older. Across time, I have been repeatedly asked if Jacob and I are the same character. And my reply is as true today as it was when I first proffered it, “in many ways Jacob and I are the same person, but I’m the one with character flaws.” In our film, when I am asked if this is me being humble, I reply, “This is me being honest.” But this is also an add honesty. Being in Jacob’s company so completely across time has made me a better man. And for this, I am profoundly grateful. With much work still ahead for me.

 

Even if it sounds like a silly question, are you actually into baking yourself, and how has this craft informed Jacob the character?

 

I came to Santa Barbara in 1975 as a Fellow at a renown long range think tank, but with the passing of the dynamic leader, I decided to leap into my love of cooking, and I with my wife and another couple opened a bread company in 1989. I thought it would be fun, but I was wrong; it was a success. And I wrote Jacob in the midst of a skyrocketing bread business that had us selling product across North America. I was the president and later chairman and after 15 plus years, sold the bakery to a public company. I wrote 3 of the Jacob the Baker books while this was also happening and my children were young. Clearly, having an insight into a baker’s life was not a leap of imagination for me. And bonded me with a baker named Jacob.

 


When did you realize that Jacob is more than just a character on paper, and where did the idea to "take him on the road" stem from?

 

Jacob was never a character on paper. He was always, and is always, within me. And with Jacob’s national and international success, it was less me taking Jacob on the road and more his taking me. To heaven.

 

Can you still remember your first time on stage doing a Jacob-show, and what did that feel like?

 

While I had been asked to step into the Jacob character as an unscripted one man show many times across time, I have only done this once. And the footage from that first time was a catalyst for the film.

 

So what did eventually spark the idea to turn the Jacob the Baker-phenomenon into a movie, and who kicked the project off, actually?

 

I was approached often by many to turn Jacob the Baker into a film, but I have always also seen myself as Jacob’s guardian. And it was me who woke up at 3am almost 4 years ago and decided I was going to take responsibility and produce the film. I raised the funds, brought in by my good fortune the best of producers, and absolutely was blessed to engage in talent and caring the very best creative team. The very best. Gev, Wendy, Sharon, Summer, Omer and Eden…are a blessing.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing Jacob the Baker, and how much of it is based on actual experiences?

 

For over 50 years, I have by calling and effort been titled a poet, philosopher, theologian and scholar. And more or less, I am guilty as charged.

 

What can you tell us about your collaboration with your co-writers Wendy Kout and Gev Miron [Gev Miron interview - click here]?

 

When I was 23, I was an Assistant Dean of Students at UCLA and Wendy Kout was a student in a class I taught. She wanted to be a writer. And simply put, she became that in so many ways, and in every way, she is flatly amazing in her talent and in her being. Wendy introduced me to Gev. And in that introduction I was blessed. Blessed to know him, and blessed by his flat out magic imagination and talent as a writer, but in no less and perhaps even more in his talent as our director and editor.

 

What were the challenges of making Jacob the Baker from a producer's point of view?

 

If I had known more about what it meant or would take to be a producer, I never could have done it.

 

You basically play yourself in Jacob the Baker - now how did that feel, and how closely is the Noah Benshea in the movie based on the real Noah Benshea?

 

None of the footage of my time on stage speaking to the audience was scripted. That was extemporaneously me in Jacob. And while much of my dialogue in the film was brilliantly scripted, much was not. In the back and forth with the reporter, she was never sure what I was going to say, which only made her acting all the more amazing. After one very emotional reply thinking back on my parents, I grew very teary, and when we finished, Gev said, “That was great. Now let’s do it from another angle.” I told him, “No.” “Why?” he asked, and I said, “Because if I do it again, it will be acting.” After that Gev always had two cameras on me so the added angles he needed didn’t need me to “act.” Honesty is truth in Jacob the Baker. And the audience can smell the truth in our film.

 

What can you tell us about the rest of Jacob the Baker's key cast, and as a producer, how much of a say did you have or demand in the casting process?

 

As the producer of Jacob the Baker, I always had the producer’s say in our film. But because of my faith and trust and respect for my crew, I was always fortunate when I was wise enough to also listen. And I was often times taken to a better place than only my opinion.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!

 

Bottom line, bottom line, early on in my internal communication, my emails were to Team Jacob. Team Jacob was and is the atmosphere.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Jacob the Baker?

 

We have been deeply blessed to have been represented by CAA and Roeg Sutherland, Christine Hsu, and Megan Crawford who were and are key allies and deeply believe in Jacob the Baker. And when CAA held a private screening for approximately 160 major figures in the entertainment world. Mark Johnson, Academy Award producer of Rainman and multiple Emmy awarded producer of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, who was brought in by our wonderful key executive producer Steven Rales, Indian Paintbrush, has been an ally and kindly introduced our film, and after the film he said that he had been to many screenings and had NEVER seen industry people so emotionally absorbed, not talking, not on their phones, just so struck by what they were watching. After our premiere at the famed Saban Theatre for 900 people, people grabbed me and said thanks, from their heart, from their heart. Jacob the Baker touches lives. Lifts lives.

 

As far as I know, Jacob the Baker was your first excursion into the filmworld - so could you at all imagine to ever again embark on another cinematic adventure ... and/or any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Yes. And yes. I have a very clear vision of next. The amazing in life is often the portal to the more amazing. Yes, the more amazing is in Noah and Jacob waiting. See you at the movies.

 

Do describe yourself as a writer!

 

When my son was young, and someone asked him what his father did, he answered, “My father types.” I am still typing. I leave the titles to you.

 

Writers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?

 

All of the above, and the reason I chose a simple unassuming baker as my role model is because there are many “Jacobs” we each pass each day paying no attention to the truly amazing living among us, unobserved.

 

Your favourite movies? ... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

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Let’s just leave it that I love and have been inspired by movies and like with people and choose not to explicitly deplore.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

It’s not a world I can speak to with authority.

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Thank you for the kind insight in you, by this question. Here is my reply: We live in a world where too many think too little about too many. And Jacob the Baker is an attempt to speak to the despair and lift the despair harbored in each of us. Jacob says, “Of all the things you can make in life, why not make a difference.” Like Jacob, I’m trying. And I’m blessed to have this work in this life.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry

 

directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

Amazon

Amazon UK

Vimeo

 

 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!