• “Homeland” Executive Producer Gideon Raff Visits NYFA

    Gideon Raff

    Gideon Raff

    On Wednesday, May 14th students gathered in New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles Theater to view the pilot for the recently released TV series Dig followed by a Q&A with Gideon Raff, the show’s co-creator. Gideon “Gidi” Raff is a film and television director, screenwriter, and executive producer. He is best known for the award-winning 2010 Israeli television drama series Prisoners of War (which he created, wrote and directed) and its acclaimed US adaptation, Homeland (for which he won two Primetime Emmy Awards in 2012). Raff executive produced and co-created the highly-anticipated series Tyrant in 2014. Gideon directed the award-winning film The Babysitter, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2003, and he is also a bestselling fiction author in Israel. His latest TV project, Dig, a ten-episode archaeological thriller about an American FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem, aired recently on the USA Network. The Q&A was moderated by NYFA’s screenwriting instructor Eric Nelson.

    Despite having three shows currently on the the air, Gideon Raff admits that he’s still plagued by the same frustrations and insecurities in writing that he had in film school. Starring at a blank page still intimidates him. He starts to doubt his greatness. Maybe the fact that he’s made a number of hit TV shows is just a fluke… But Mr. Raff does not believe in divine inspiration when it comes to screenwriting; he believes in hard work and perseverance. Gideon pushes those doubts away and ignores the constant stream of excuses his mind makes up to avoid the writing process: “I should go to the gym,” or “I really need to get groceries at Whole Foods.” It’s refreshing to hear that Gideon Raff grapples with the same issues that every writer does and that achieving his level of success is just a matter of… well, hard work and perseverance.

    gideon raff

    Eric Nelson and Gideon Raff

    Gideon starts out with an idea and let’s the story dictate the genre and format. By being sensitive to the needs of the story he’ll know soon if he has a drama or comedy, feature film or TV series on his hands. He often writes alone however on Dig Gideon worked with a co-creator because he was busy also creating his most recent show Tyrant at the same time. Gideon compared the process of writing in a TV show “writer’s room” to group therapy. It’s a very “intimate” process, which can make for an incredible experience or a horrible one. You may spend the day hammering out themes for the season or hearing about a writer’s childhood. Either way it all works to generate ideas.

    A very important element of a good story, according to Gideon, is “delicious characters.” When a student asked Gideon how she too could make her characters “delicious” he said to make them HUMAN. By “human” he further explained that they should be complex and flawed. As an example of this, Gideon referenced Claire Danes’s character in Homeland who has bipolar disorder. What makes her interesting is that she’s an unreliable narrator. We never know which version of her is speaking or if that same version will appear again when it’s time to follow through with what she said before.

    The students were thrilled to gain such valuable knowledge from an entertainment industry heavyweight. We sincerely thank Gideon Raff for visiting NYFA and wish him the best of luck on future projects!


    May 15, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 6613

  • Homefront Director Speaks at NYFA


    Gary Fleder with Tova Laiter

    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.

    FlederAsked 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!


    November 20, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4599