Last night we had a full house yet again at Warner Bros theater 5 for our special guest, director Gary Fleder. Producer Tova Laiter, who moderated the Q&A, brought Gary to the New York Film Academy.
We screened the upcoming film, Homefront, starring Jason Statham, Kate Bosworth, and Winona Ryder. The screenplay was written by Sylvester Stallone, based on a novel Sly optioned a few years ago.
After graduating from film school, Gary’s debut film, Things To Do In Denver When You Are Dead, received polarized reviews from both critics and audiences.”People really loved it or hated it,” Gary admitted. He went on to direct Runaway Jury, Kiss The Girls, Don’t Say A Word and numerous television series, including Vegas and Beauty & The Beast. “TV is great in the sense that every day you direct, you get a lot of practice; hours on TV are like hours in a cockpit,” he said, referring to the speed at which television content is produced.
Asked by a student about the process of preparing a film, Gary said, “You have to find your process; there really is no one formula. You really have to have a vision – see the film in your head – then you can move on to storyboarding and putting the pieces together.”
In regards to screenwriting, Gary’s advice was, “Structure and architecture are more important to me than dialogue.” In fact, he joked that his debut film had virtually no structure and was a cluster of scenes.
He looks at the importance of every phase of moviemaking. “Movies are made 3 times! The writing, the shooting, and the editing.” If you can get a good script and then make several choices while shooting, there is flexibility in what happens in post, which does not apply as much to TV.
Homefront has impressive combat/fighting scenes, and Gary said that giving the audience “a sense of geography was important.” He also admitted that working with people like Jason Statham, who is an athlete and has a lot of combat/fighting scenes on his resume, is helpful. Staging is also very important for credibility purposes, and sometime a single kick or punch would require ten takes.
Gary was asked about directing actors, specifically Jason Statham and the young child actress who plays his daughter in the film, Izabela Vidovic. He said that for the child actress, who had traumas to deal with in this story, “You find that these kids are like adults, talk to them with respect, not condescendingly. Jason, on the other hand, is very opinionated and you tend to discuss scenes and ideas; and some of them end up going through changes. You have to be malleable with someone like him because of his experience and stature.”
“I don’t think a film director is an acting coach. I trust them to work out characters by giving them a good backstory.” He gave an example of how Kate Bosworth developed her character in the film, a spiteful drug addict at the center of the town’s drama. “You hire good actors and trust them to do good work.”
His favorite actor that he has worked with is Dustin Hoffman because, “Dustin was 67 at the time, and he was so engaged and interested. He was curious about every scene…always a student, always learning.”
Finally, he said it takes a combination of talent, tenacity, and love to make it in this business.
Be sure to check out the action film, Homefront, which opens November 27th!