Brad Raider relies on a healthy dose of eating, sleeping, exercising and meditating, the latter being something that has influenced many aspects of his life, including the film Kensho at the Bedfellow.
Raider wrote, directed and starred in the film, which will be available on iTunes March 9. He plays the main character, Dan, a playwright-turned-doorman of The Bedfellow Hotel, who is reeling from the death of his little sister years ago.
But he receives a glimmer of hope when he reunites with his little sister’s childhood friend, Kate, played by Kaley Ronayne, who works for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
“The film is an existential drama about a guy in New York City searching for fulfillment in the wrong places,” Raider added. “Their collective search for meaning ultimately catalyzes for Dan a consciousness-expanding journey of self-discovery.”
He said the film delves into the ideas of fulfillment and life purpose in a “sexy, exciting, New York City odyssey,” filmed in 29 days in about 35 locations.
Raider’s inspiration for the film was generated over several years through his personal meditation practices.
“There really aren’t any aspects of life that aren’t touched by a practice like meditation,” said the Philadelphia native who now lives in L.A.
Aside from resting the body and having an outlet for stress release, Raider said meditation also cultivates creativity, productivity and equanimity, which he teaches. He recently led a meditation seminar in Denver to 30 entrepreneurs.
“That’s been a real joy and a whole new level of my own practice to be able to give it to others,” he said.
That level of consciousness flows into Kensho, a word that means “awakening.”
“‘Ken’ means ‘to see’ and ‘sho’ means ‘one’s truest nature,’” he said, “so the two together means ‘to see one’s truest nature.’”
Along with meditation, a sense of social justice also served as filmic inspiration.
“My mother’s work as an organizational development consultant — in particular a trip that we took to Africa in 2005 — was also very influential for Kate’s storyline and the character’s work in Africa,” Raider said.
The International Rescue Committee was founded 83 years ago in response to displaced people in Germany during World War II, at the request of Albert Einstein.
“There really weren’t any aid agencies to ensure the safety of refugees at that time,” Raider said.
Fast forward to 2016, and more than 26 million people have benefited from the IRC in that year alone.
“Social justice and a sense of social conscience was very much inspired by my family, all of whom are interested in those kinds of things,” he continued. “And certainly my Jewish identity played a big part of that. Growing up, that social conscience really was an important part of our Jewish identity.”
Raider was exposed to the IRC during his writing process.
“Originally, I had placed Kate, our heroine, working for the U.N. It was a close friend at the U.N. who said, ‘What you’re describing and the work that she’s doing in the script helping refugees is more in line with what the IRC does.’”
He changed the script, later filming at the IRC building in New York. They also filmed at places like the Old Broadway Synagogue in Harlem.
“A lot of our locations really gave a depth and a scope to New York as a character in and of itself,” said Raider, who grew up attending Congregation Rodeph Shalom. “The character’s Jewish identity really is something else that we explore, but for Dan — this is a guy who is struggling with identity in general — his take on his Judaism really is more about a tribalistic and separatist identity, which is certainly something that I think all religions struggle a bit with.”
Raider said it shines a light on someone who only practices a religious identity in a superior way, though he believes all religions and communities should be more focused on unifying rather than separating.
Raider has directed theater before, but merging the roles of writer, director and actor were a lot to take on.
“It really came out of necessity because I knew that no one was really going to care as much about telling the story as I was,” he said. “But cornering off those two agendas as director and as actor were very important and necessary because as an actor you don’t want to be thinking technically, you really just want to live truthfully in the moment and in the scene. … The director’s agenda has to have much more of the macrocosm and the bigger picture in mind.”
Kensho at the Bedfellow is now on sale in iTunes and will be streaming March 9.
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