It’s a refrain all too familiar to many young, single, Orthodox Jews, recited by concerned family members and newly married friends as a kind of hopeful prophecy. Now, it’s the name of a brand-new web series.
“Soon By You” follows the lives of six single Modern Orthodox Jews as they stumble through their single lives in New York City. The first episode, called “The Setup,” was screened as a short film at the NewFilmmakers New York Film Festival and won Best Short at the Washington Jewish Film Festival.
In “The Setup,” a rabbinical student named David dashes through the city streets after delays on the subway to meet Sarah, an artist who is haphazardly scrubbing off a forgotten smudge of paint. Just as they discover their mutual admiration of Henry David Thoreau, the arrival of Ben, a lawyer, reveals that David is supposed to meet a different Sarah — the one who has been waiting impatiently for him at a neighboring table.
As their respective dates spiral into increasingly cringe-worthy moments (featuring a delightfully disdainful, scene-stealing waiter), David and Sarah look for covert ways to escape and continue talking.
Leah Gottfried, who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in “The Setup” and continues to spearhead the web series, said she found inspiration in “Srugim,” an Israeli television drama chronicling the lives of single 20- and 30-somethings in Religious Zionist circles.
“I binge-watched the whole series on Hulu and I loved it so much, and the more I spoke to people who were also fans of it I realized that there wasn’t really anything comparable in the English speaking world,” she said. “I thought it would be so great to see something like that but set in New York, and whenever I would pitch the idea to a friend, everybody said, ‘Yes, I would watch that! Definitely! Please make that!’”
With her extensive acting and production experience, Gottfried was certainly up to the task. She began acting as a child, produced short films in high school, and founded Dignity Productions while still a student at Stern College. Her production company covers everything from music videos to commercials, but her passion has always been writing and directing her own projects.
“The Setup” is one of these passion projects. She describes the 10-hour overnight shoot (call time was 10 p.m.) as “insane,” but immensely gratifying.
“I was running back and forth in front of the camera, behind the camera, and I didn’t even get to watch all the footage when I was on set,” she recalled. “Looking back, it was incredible. I came out on such a high and felt like that’s exactly what I want to be doing every day.”
Gottfried and her team have partnered with the Jewish Entertainment Network of Los Angeles to look for investors and advertisers for future episodes, and are hoping to release the next one in two months.
What lies in store for Sarah and David, as well as other incoming characters? Gottfried refuses to reveal any spoilers, but promises that awkward dates will not be in short supply.
“After every screening, people come up to me and tell me their horrendous dating stories, so I’ve been collecting them and saving them for future episodes,” she said.
While the horror stories make for good comedy, Gottfried says “Soon By You” is more than just the dating game gone awry.
“There’s so much pressure on us to get to that place of being married and being settled, but the journey is also important,” she said. “With this series we wanted to reflect the lives of young Orthodox singles and what they’re going through.”