“Jacob the Baker” Book Series That is Now a Movie Turns Bestselling Author into a Star

Noah benShea, the bestselling author of the “Jacob the Baker” books, ran into a former student from his teaching days at UCLA who wanted to turn his uplifting series into a movie. Wendy Kout bought in director Gev Miron and the indie film shot in four different countries during the pandemic is now streaming on Amazon.

| 29 Dec 2023 | 10:25

We could all use a little hope and emotional support in these troubled times. Coming to the rescue is a fictional character who has won millions of hearts, including those of baseball legend Sandy Koufax, sportscaster Bob Costas, mega-TV producer Mark Johnson, film producer Stephen Rale, and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz. His name? Jacob the Baker.

Jacob’s creator is Noah benShea, an author whose books offer simple but profound pearls of wisdom and sustenance. Jacob has now turned into a potential movie star. In the middle of a largely dark film season, (Barbie aside) here is a film no one ever thought it could—though all agreed it should–get made. And now Amazon is streaming it for us all to watch. Let’s go slowly here.

Noah benShea was a young assistant dean at UCLA, and taught a class on Judaism. One of his students, fifty years ago, was Wendy Kout, who went on to write and produce for TV and now has a play called “Survivors,” which was born in New York and is catching a crucial moment on many stages. The two were re-introduced when it was discovered they both live in Santa Barbara. Kout envisioned a film based on the Jacob books, and brought in director Gev Miron, an Israeli who has made a good career in America.

The film, called “Jacob the Baker,” follows a skeptical TV journalist interviewing Jacob about his impact helping people in states of crisis. It tells several stories from different countries, including: a military veteran suffering from PTSD; a woman struggling with the impending death of her father; another dealing with her loss of faith; a hardworking father struggling with debt and despair, and more.

None of this was easy. “The most obvious challenge in the making of the film was to shoot a small independent production in four countries during the pandemic,” says director Miron. “We started shooting in January 2021 and luckily, we were able to find great international crews, who supported us, got the vision, and were able to work with us remotely. It was a complex process that was possible because of the wonderful people we had on the team, and everyone’s commitment to the project.”

The next question was how to get this inspirational, ‘faith-adjacent,’ and timely piece on screens. It turns out that Noah benShea has fans in powerful places, including at mega-agency CAA. Executive Producer Steven Rales, the Oscar nominated producer for Wes Anderson films, introduced “Jacob” to Bryan Lord the Co-Chairman of CAA. Lord brought in Roeg Sutherland and Christine Hsu of the Film Financing Division of CAA.

The agency sponsored a screening one night, which blew away the usually jaded crowd. CAA agreed to find distribution, and the world premiere took place November 9, for a week at a theatre in Los Angeles.

Its supporters are many and heartfelt. Mark Johnson, of “Breaking Bad” fame, says, "In the world in which we are living, ‘Jacob The Baker’ is an essential film. We need it to remind us of so many of the glorious aspects of the human spirit. No matter who you are, if you take the short time and watch this movie, you will be transformed. In the hustle and bustle of my movie and TV life, I often forget why we're here on this planet; ‘Jacob the Baker’ reminds us!"

Adds award-winning Hollywood writer, Lawrence Grobel: “I have watched in awe as Noah benShea has grown in intellect and stature from a young poet burning bright to a deeply reflective, fully developed, unique and profound individual. For those who will get to know him through ‘Jacob,’ how lucky for you.”

No, I have not forgotten about the Koufax and Costas connections. When benShea had his own bakery in Santa Barbara (specializing in bagels) Koufax was a regular customer and become a lifelong fan and close friend. Costas heard the author speak in New York and bonded with him immediately.

The hopes of the filmmakers are not about Oscars or even financial returns. “We want viewers to see that they are not alone,” says Kout. “That they have the capacity to move forward and to forgive.”

Adds benShea, her professor of all those decades ago, “I hope that this film, and the stories within it, will remind people that no matter what they’re going through in their own lives, that there’s always something we can do to make things better.”