Zoe Lister-Jones

Two young women — one an Orthodox Jew, the other Muslim — meet and become friends as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. Over the course of the year they learn they share much in common, not least of which is that they are both going through arranged marriages.


Project History

ARRANGED is based loosely on the experiences of Yuta Silverman, an Orthodox Jewish woman from Borough Park, Brooklyn. Seeing the Israeli film USHPIZIN, produced by Orthodox filmmakers, gave her the courage and inspiration to try and tell one of her many stories.

With no connections or experiences in the film world, and working from a directory on the Independent Feature Project's website, she began making random calls to New York-based production companies. She reached Cicala Filmworks in November, 2005. During a series of meetings — in which she used a pseudonym — she told Stefan Schaefer about her experiences of going through an arranged marriage process and also about her friendship with a Pakistani Muslim woman. Stefan, although he found the story elements very promising, would often remind Yuta that he was a man and non-Jew. He offered to write the treatment and then pass it along to his good friend, the director Jessica Sharzer (SPEAK). Yuta responded: "If she's not Orthodox, it makes no difference to me, you may as well direct it."

As the months past, Yuta convinced Stefan to write the screenplay on spec. He did and, at a certain point, discussed the possibility of producing it through his company Cicala Filmworks, with his partner Diane Crespo as a co-director. Yuta said she could bring some financing to the project and, together with the HD camera package and production services Cicala could provide, the three began to consider shooting the film over the summer. Yuta showed the screenplay to her rabbi and, though he wouldn't bless it, he did say he was not going to forbid her from moving forward.

When casting directors Kathleen Backel and Antonia Dauphin said they loved the script and had several weeks to cast between SOPRANOS episodes, the production schedule began to come into focus. The film was shot in 17 days on location in Brooklyn and New Jersey. In true indie fashion, the primary locations where Yuta's house in Borough Park, Stefan's in Park Slope and Diane's apartment in Brooklyn Heights. The school location was shot at the Jewish Education Center in Elizabeth, NJ, where Yuta's father is an administrator.