First came God. Then came Godot. Then came Woody Allen. Actually, none of them ever showed up -- not in the play "Waiting for Godot" or the newly acclaimed short feature film parodying it, "Waiting for Woody Allen." In the 16-minute feature, two Chasidim -- Mendel and Yossel -- sit in Central Park waiting for the venerable filmmaker to show up and give their lives meaning. In the meantime, against this autumn backdrop of one day, they argue in their Yiddish-tinged accents about whether they should give up religion or they should wait for Woody, nu?
While "The Great One" might never make an appearance in this droll existentialist film, recent events may prove that there is a God: "Waiting for Woody Allen," garnered its director, Michael Rainin, a $1-million budget to direct a film.
Beginning this year, the L.A. International Short Film Festival, which took place Sept. 7-13, chose four directors out of the 500 filmmakers for its Discovering New Artists Award. The winner, Rainin, will direct a feature-length film with talent attached.
"It's my dream come true," the 29-year-old director said about his first film. Rainin decided to make a short film about a year and a half ago, when he moved to Los Angeles, following a six-year stint in New York as a writer and a producer.
"Instead of spending $40,000 to go to film school, I decided to spend the money to make a film," he said.
He scoured Craig's List for a script (hey, those actually get made!) and was struck by Jonathan Brown and Daniel Wechler's "Waiting for Woody Allen."
"I grew up with the Jewish humor of my grandfather and father my whole life," Rainin said of his father's Russian Jewish family. "And he turned me on to Woody Allen's film at a young age."
Now, the production designer's prize is to direct to direct "Learning to Fly," a romantic comedy which has not yet been cast but is set to start filming in March. And then what?
"I want to make films," Rainin said. "I want to make interesting and profound films for the rest of my life -- hopefully this is just the beginning."
From Woody's lips to God's ears.
For more information, visit www.waitingforwoodyallen.com.
Latkes Lose Again
by Sarah Price Brown, Contributing Writer
The Chanukah stamp has a new look for the first time since the United States and Israel jointly issued the stamp in 1996. The U.S. Postal Service dedicated the new design Oct. 15 in New York. It will be available in post offices starting Saturday, Oct. 16.
The stamp, part of a holiday series, has for years featured a menorah of brightly colored candles. The new design displays a dreidel from Jerusalem in front of letters spelling "Hanukkah."
Ethel Kessler, the stamp art director, said using a dreidel was not her first choice.
"A dreidel is playful and fun, but I was looking for something more serious," she said. She visited the Jewish Museum of New York and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles in search of ideas.
Kessler saw a menorah at the Skirball that had candleholders in the shape of the Statue of Liberty. She liked the symbol, which she thought represented religious freedom. But the intricate menorah was not right for the small stamp.
Kessler considered depicting an ancient menorah to show how long Jews have been celebrating the holiday. But she wondered whether the meaning would come across.
Then, the art director had the idea to show an old manuscript. But that would work for Purim, not Chanukah, she decided.
"I kept coming back to the joy of the holiday," Kessler said. It was the dreidel that best captured the playful spirit of the celebration.
The winning dreidel belongs to a rabbi's collection. It has a "quality of craft that's interesting," she said.
Kessler also liked that it depicts Jerusalem.
She added text behind the image to make the stamp "contemporary and understandable to a wide audience."
Sixty million copies have been printed, according to Frances Frazier, a Postal Service official involved in publicizing the stamp.
For more information, visit www.usps.gov.