Many people look to Lawrence Kushner, a Reform rabbi and author in San Francisco, for guidance on Judaism, spirituality and Kabbalah. If he gets his wish, they’ll soon also see him in a very different role: as an authority on kosher pornography.

To be clear, it’s not Kushner himself who’s a kosher porn maven, but rather the rabbi he plays in a new feature film he co-produced, “Your Good Friend.” But because the movie in many ways reflects his real life, audiences might be uncertain where Kushner ends and his character begins.

The film, which marks Kushner’s acting debut, tells the story of a recently widowed East Coast rabbi who moves to San Francisco in hopes of returning to the apartment he once happily shared with his late wife. While hanging out at a local coffee shop, he meets the current occupant — a washed-up pornographer. Before long, the two strike up a friendship and concoct a get-rich-quick scheme they hope will allow the pornographer to return to his native England and the rabbi to buy the apartment. The scheme is, rather improbably, a pornography website with a rabbinical seal of approval — deemed kosher, as it were, because it’s intended to jump-start married couples’ sex lives and help strengthen their relationships.

“The notion of kosher porn is absurd, and that’s why it’s funny,” Kushner explained recently at his home, which he’s decorated with many of his own oil paintings. (Rather than nudes, the works tend to show landscapes and street scenes, and are strictly G-rated.) “The question is whether we can persuade you for 10 minutes that it could possibly work.”

Despite the concept’s shock value, kosher porn is to some degree beside the point. Instead, the conceit draws audiences into a surprisingly philosophical, yet humorous, “Odd Couple“-type narrative about two older men — Kushner’s uptight Rabbi Zander Lustig and the down-and-out pornographer Jules Epstein — who bond and betray one another, and ultimately bond again.

For viewers familiar with Kushner and the film‘s setting, it can occasionally be difficult to distinguish falsehood from the truth. The movie stars a cast of non-actors, and is presented as a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a documentary.

“We sell it as a mocku-docu-drama,” said Matthew Jacobs, who directed the film, plays the pornographer and served as Kushner’s co-producer. “So it really is hard to work out what is real and what is fictional.”

Despite the concept’s shock value, kosher porn is to some degree beside the point

In keeping with the mocku-docu-drama genre, the relationship between the characters mirrors the filmmakers’ real-life relationship in several key ways.

Kushner, 69, met the 56-year-old Jacobs, a British-born director-writer-actor, at the coffee shop featured in the movie. “We were both serious writers, and we’d sit there writing for hours at a time. We’d take breaks and talk to one another, and got to be friends,” recounted Kushner, whose books include “The Book of Letters,” “God Was In This Place And I, I Did Not Know It” and “Kabbalah: A Love Story.”

“Our breaks got longer and longer because we started talking about the people who frequented the coffee shop.”

The two started taking notes, and initially thought of writing a sitcom. “But then Matthew said we had enough material here for a feature-length film,” the rabbi said.

“As we got to know one another, we had long debates about sex and religion,” Jacobs recalled. “I’ve been interested in the relationship between sex and God for many years.“

His discussions with Kushner, who has focused much of his writing on love and sex as they pertain to mysticism and spirituality, ended up in the film, which includes a number of semi-autobiographical elements. Jacobs’ character, Jules, derives his name from the real man’s middle name, Julian. And like Jules, Jacobs is the son of a Jewish father (the British actor Anthony Jacobs) and a non-Jewish mother, and practices no religion. Touching scenes in which the rabbi shows Jules a Torah for the first time and humorously attempts to teach him the Hebrew alphabet are true to life — Jacobs himself had never had such experiences until the shoot.

Filming took place over two years, on a shoestring budget. “Actually, it’s what’s called a ‘no budget’ film, because it was made for less than $50,000,” Jacobs explained. Jacobs originally green-lit the project with a budget of $3,000, then watched it grow as several associate producers came onboard.

To minimize costs, the pair employed a non-unionized crew, hiring recent film-production graduates from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, where Jacobs teaches. They filmed guerilla-style on the streets of the Russian Hill and Pacific Heights neighborhoods, using Kushner’s home as Jules’ apartment and an associate producer’s home as the rabbi’s temporary abode. Kushner and Jacobs’ production company, Dovetale Films, has the same name as their characters’ Internet venture.

Save for Jacobs and a few cast members with professional acting credits, everyone onscreen is a non-actor. Kushner praised Jacobs’ ability to direct the amateur performers.

Kushner’s first professional acting gig made him reflect on the daily lives of rabbis, whose own duties — such as keeping the attention of large congregations — can contain theatrical elements of their own

“His genius as a director is to completely remove anxiety,” Kushner said. “He just tells people to find a couple of quirky things in their personality, and turn up the volume on them to create their characters. That’s what takes it beyond a documentary.”

“You can do this with digital cinema now,” Jacobs noted. “You work with these tiny cameras, which are perfect with working with non-actors.”

Kushner was amazed at how inconspicuous the gear was. “We were able to sneak in under the radar, especially when we were filming out in the street. It felt very indigenous and organic.”

Notably, not a word of dialogue was written for “Your Good Friend.” The two deliberately crafted a script that relied heavily on improvisation. “Matthew and I wrote it with enormous care,” Kushner said of the plot. “There were around 65 scenes, and we each knew at the beginning of each one what would happen at its end — but we swore not to tell one another what we intended to do to get us there.”

It turns out that this is not all that unusual, especially in the age of digital filmmaking. “This is in the tradition of Robert Altman, Judd Apatow and Mike Leigh,” Jacobs said. “It’s a living thing. A screenplay is not a finished piece of writing. The only finished piece of writing is, I suppose, when you tell somebody else about the movie you’ve just seen. You’re still rewriting it as you watch it.”

“Your Good Friend” had a couple of test screenings in San Francisco during the post-production phase, and the filmmakers say that it was well-received. The film has been praised by writers and filmmakers including David Mamet, who has studied with Kushner and served as his co-author on “Five Cities of Refuge,” a 2003 book of Torah commentaries.

Despite the successful test screenings, Kushner and Jacobs face a challenge as they search for a distributor. They’re trying to get the movie into festivals, but are “quite realistic that even though this is a professional-looking film, it doesn’t have a distributor, and it doesn’t have stars,” Jacobs said. “It is about two old guys going around talking. It’s not commercial.”

Nonetheless, the two are confident that the film will eventually make it to the screen. “Films like this take years to find their audience. I certainly haven’t given up,” Jacobs said.

As for Kushner, his first professional acting gig made him reflect on the daily lives of rabbis, whose own duties — such as keeping the attention of large congregations — can contain theatrical elements of their own.

“A key part of their success has got to do with their ability to persuade you that they are not acting, when in fact they are,” he said. (In fact, Kushner works with rabbinical students and newly ordained rabbis to establish a balance between their spiritual responsibilities and public personas.)

In the tradition of art imitating life (or is it the other way around?), the relationship between Kushner and Jacobs is much like that of their characters.

“We did indeed become — and still are — close personal friends,” the rabbi said.