International Filmmaker, Gal Yefet, announces his most ambition film project so far.
Currently completing post-production and already in-consideration for festivals across the country, “Rivka?” is a film that tells the story of two old ladies who embark on a journey together after the death of their best friend, to scatter her ashes. “My attempt here was to offer a refreshing take on life, death, friendship, and old age,” says the not-yet-30-year-old film director and actor, “…we have so much pain in our lives, but I believe that laughter and humor can unite us, especially in hard times. In my films, I choose to take this pain and to play with it. The audience is going to witness the characters’ pain, sadness, anxiety, AND their great sense of humor.”
Gal Yefet took his degrees in Theatre Arts and Philosophy from Tel Aviv University in Israel and his camera and has come to California to make a difference cinematically. Currently working as a Creative Writer on a Fortune 100 company project in California, Gal is hoping to pile success on success. His first short film won the grand prize at an international short film festival in Paris in 2016, with several others garnering praise since then. One of them, “The Key” won the AT&T Create-a-thon competition in Los Angeles.
Before he’s too-famous-for-us, Indie-Pictures sat down with Gal about life and the movies.
Tell us about yourself as an artist and filmmaker
I make dark comedies. I take the pain, the dirt, the taboo, and I play with it. What’s great about dark comedies is that it dismisses the fear we have from witnessing a sad or a violent situation. Adding the comedy to it makes the subject more accessible to those who usually avoid these subjects. And that’s what I do. Plus, I like to think of myself as a storyteller of the untold stories. I like putting the spotlight on those who don’t get to tell their stories. For example, if the grandmother is usually a supporting character, in my movie she’s the lead. In my movie she’s strong. As far as being a director, I can say it is very important for me to create and to keep a creative environment on my set and on rehearsal within the crew, and especially with the actors. Keeping it creative and less technical makes everything a lot more progressive. The story grows and develops as we rehearse and as we film. I always allow the actors to speak up and give their opinion and to suggest ideas. To me that’s the way to make it real and natural, and that’s what it’s all about.
What is your criteria? What do you look for in a story, script, actors, ideas…
The first thing I do before writing a script is to think of a theme I want to work with. The theme I choose is usually one that’s considered melancholic, like death, sorrow, poverty, longing, etc. Then I create my first character. Once I have the character and I know her or him very well, the story begins. The tricky part of the process is adding to comedy to the story. What can be funny about death, or about poverty? This is the most enjoyable stage – to find a way to make it humorous. I can tell you that there’s always something funny, hiding in a dark corner. Always. Most of us are just too embarrassed to laugh about it out loud. My father taught me that.
What made you decide to come to the United States?
At a very young age I started to feel like there was more for me. It was clear to me that there’s something different, that I’m not like the others. That I have huge dreams. That I want to be extraordinary. I’d wake up every morning and ask myself how can I be the best Gal today? How can I be the “Galest” Gal there is? This is a question that was accompanying me throughout my childhood and youth. And still I can find myself asking the same question from time to time.
I wasn’t very popular in school as a child, and I’d often find myself thinking of how different I was. But the truth is that I liked being different. It made me feel special and unique and I didn’t want to lose it. And since it was so important for me not to lose it, I’d get scared that other people might bring me down, or would make me doubt myself and about who I am. That I’ll end up being like anyone else. And this fear lasted for years. At 21 I was so afraid of losing my motivation because of other people that I applied for Theatre studies without telling anyone, and later at 26 I applied for Filmmaking studies in New York without telling anyone. In both cases I told my family and friends about it only after I got in. Just in case someone will try to stop me. I wanted to show them I was unstoppable.
And I think this is one of the main reasons why I decided to come here, to the United States. I had a feeling that here I’ll be able to be Gal. Here I wanted to be as true as possible, especially to myself. And I was and I am. I was able to make several successful films that stood out mostly for their truth and honesty. Today I feel a lot more Gal than I did 2 or 3 years ago. Gal as a person, as a creator, as an artist. I also think that creation as a foreigner enables a deeper exposure of the true self. And I guess that’s the secret – to experience situations that I have never experienced in order to know myself better and to develop as an artist.
You act in your features and shorts as well. What’s the pros and cons of that?
When I’m being asked about the pros and cons of acting in my own films I usually struggle with my answer. Because on the one hand, I understand that as a director it is better for me to focus on directing instead of dividing myself to two. On the other hand, I think of Charlie Chaplin for example, who’s a very serious inspiration for me, and he acted in almost every movie he had ever made. Same thing with Woody Allen, or Roman Polanski and Clint Eastwood. This is what I say: we can’t force it. If we do, then it’s not contributing to the truth, and the honesty, so it’s pointless. if it’s right for me to do the part, the process will work. If it isn’t right, it’ll fail. I have to be very attentive in order to recognize the two cases and to make the right decision: to act, or not to act.
What is your goal as a filmmaker?
If you’re asking what is the added value I want to bring to the film industry then my answer is that I want to bring truth. That truth is especially the truth of the characters we don’t usually meet as lead characters. A few months ago, for example, a new Netflix original series called “Special” was released. The lead character is a gay man with cerebral palsy. We don’t meet lead characters like that on the screen. It doesn’t happen. And speaking of acting in my own films? The lead actor, Ryan O’Connell, (who’s gay and has cerebral palsy in real life),is also the creator and the writer of the series (and the character’s name is Ryan as well). I like to think it was the same process that I’m go through in my films – it happens naturally, it’s real, and this is what I want for my audience.
More projects. I am currently writing a pilot for an upcoming TV show that’s scheduled to be shot by the end of the year. I wrote a script for a feature that’s in pre-production, and one of my recent films, “Rivka?” has been receiving positive reviews and is being considered for multiple festivals around the world. The two lead characters of “Rivka?” are two old ladies who are portrayed by two 70 year old women, and hopefully this film will not only provide the audience with a refreshing perspective, but will also be able to change the way older actresses are being featured in films nowadays.