YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Jeremy Newberger has a theory about finding one’s path in life.
“There is a chart I have up here in my head,” he said. “It’s like what you want to do and what you are good at: as soon as you find the point where that criss-crosses, it is your career.”
For this Yorktown resident, the intersection came in the form of story-telling and film-making: creative endeavors that he said were his aspirations since junior high school.
In 2003, after stints in television news programming, Newberger decided to join Seth Kramer and Daniel Miller, two longtime friends, at a feature documentary production company called Ironbound Films.
Their first film entitled “The Linguist” received an Emmy nomination, was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on PBS.
“We followed these two Indiana Jones-style social scientists who went to far-off places to find the last speakers of dying languages,” Newberger explained. “The things that are encoded in languages are cultural practices; medicine and knowledge—so when a language dies you are losing a piece of culture—and these two linguists jumped off the screen as great characters.”
The success of the movie kick-started a run of creative projects, including seven more films the team has produced together, covering a diverse range of subjects. From “Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie,” which looks at the outrageous 1980s talk show host, to “The Anthropologist,” a documentary offering a unique perspective on climate change, to name just a few titles—to their latest, “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,” a film that was screened in August at Yorktown Stage.
Newberger said this film came together when he and his partners collaborated with Jonathan Mayo, an old sleepaway camp friend who was a Major League Baseball sportswriter. Their vision took off in directions they had not expected.
“We decided to focus on our roots as Jews who love Israel,” he said. “John had the idea of following a group of Jewish baseball players from Major and Minor league teams on a birthright trip to Israel.”
Various players with Jewish heritage came together to form Team Israel and represent the country at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. They were considered to be the biggest underdogs in the tournament.
“We flew in this jet with people like Ike Davis from the New York Mets and Ryan Lavarnway and Ty Kelly,” Newberger said. “Guys who were either former Major Leaguers or who were retiring, or Minor Leaguers who had been in the majors briefly and we went on a six-day, really intense, touristy VIP trip of Israel.”
The resulting film explores the player’s new connections to their Jewish identities and celebrates the team’s inspiring success in the international baseball competition. After showings at dozens of Jewish film festivals, “Heading Home” will be released this fall for a theatrical run in major cities.
Beyond his film work, Newberger has cultivated a social media presence with his own humorous commentary on the news of the day, via Twitter, that he shares with nearly 22,000 followers.
“I think about the time Trump came down the escalator, I started putting my comedic writing to task on Twitter and for some reason, I was getting retweeted by important people,” he said. “Eventually, they gave me a blue checkmark, which validated me as a Twitter person.”
Newberger says the pull he feels toward comedy is something that has motivated him since childhood.
“I’m a self-described satirist; I had inclinations to write for ‘Saturday Night Live,’” he said. “I did stand-up comedy in New York for two or three years and discovered I was terrible…but I am a good writer and I am a student of politics.”
The father of two middle schoolers said that he and his wife picked the right town for their family when they moved from Riverdale years ago.
“We feel very comfortable up here and I think we will be here for a long time—until the kids graduate or maybe even after,” he said. “I do love Yorktown.”
As for Ironbound Films’ next release, “Color Killer Saved Punk” is the name of a new film, which follows a pint-sized punk rock band on their rise to fame. Currently in post-production, Newberger considers it a golden story that he can add to the list of fascinating topics he has taken on in his film career.
“We went from Jewish ballplayers to 8-year-old punk rockers,” he laughed.