So I’m Ariana Cohen-Halberstam. I’m the Artistic Director of Boston Jewish Film and the Boston Israeli Film Festival.
00:25 - I am so pleased to have with us today Lior Chefetz who is the director and screenwriter of Sky Raiders, Amir Tessler who is the lead actor, who you just saw in Sky Raiders and Noa Evanor who is my co-interviewer today.
00:42 - Thank you for joining us. Lior: You are very welcome.
00:47 - Noa: The movie is about Yotam and his dream to be a pilot.
00:52 - Do you guys have any dreams or had? Amir: So, actually my dream it’s not to be a pilot.
01:01 - My dream is to keep doing cinema, the art of cinema and movies, behind the camera and in front of the camera, in my life, and that’s it.
01:21 - That’s, that’s my dream, my career dreams. I have many dreams that are less egoistic.
01:29 - [Speaks Hebrew] Less egotistical. Ariana: Same word in English.
01:35 - Not all my dreams are just helping myself. Ariana: Were you drawing – Amir: World peace.
01:41 - I want world peace. Ariana: Were you drawing on your own dreams when you were acting as this character in the film? Were you sort of pulling from your own dreams to take on the character of Yotam? Amir: Yeah, of course, the dream that motivates my character is different from my dream but I thought what people can do for their dream and that’s what connected me to the character.
02:19 - Lior: Yeah, growing up I don’t think I had a dream to be a pilot.
02:24 - My dream as a kid was to be a doctor, but after my army service I changed my dream to be a film director, and it took me some time to achieve that dream.
02:37 - It takes many years to complete a movie but once I finished Sky Raiders I achieved my dream to be a film director.
02:46 - Ariana: How did you come up with the idea for Sky Raiders? Lior: Sky Raiders was born from a gift that my mom gave me for my sixth birthday.
02:56 - She gave me a book, a children’s book. That was many years ago.
02:59 - It was maybe almost 40 years ago, she got me this book, it’s called “Adventure In The Squadron. ” You want to see the book? I have it here.
03:09 - Okay, hold on. Ariana: Amir Did you know this book? Amir: Uh, I have it, I have it in my house.
03:18 - I think Lior gave it so a copy of that. Lior: Yeah so that’s the… I think I need to keep moving it if not it’s gonna be like… so it’s a book about two boys that they have a dream to bring back this historic airplane back to life, the first fighter plane of the Israeli Air Force.
03:38 - And they fixed the engine and they fly it. In the end of the movie, in the Independence Day air show.
03:47 - But there was no bad guys there is no brother or father and so it’s very different.
03:53 - And when I was in film school I went back to my parents’ house for a vacation and I saw this book on my shelf with all my old children’s books and I immediately thought, that could be an amazing movie.
04:07 - and I look up the name of the writer. He was a combat pilot when he was in the army.
04:13 - He was actually one of the commanders of a Squadron 101 and I met with him he lived in the same town as me, Herzliya, and I told him uh yeah I really like this story and I think it could be a fantastic family film and he gave me his blessing and it took me only ten years after that meeting to premier the movie.
04:40 - Ariana: Wow. There’s so many layers to the characters in the film and every character seems to have some barrier that they have to sort of work through, whether it’s talking about his father or Morris sort of dealing with getting older and realizing that he can still have this life with planes.
05:05 - How much of that came from the book and how much of the emotionality did you create in writing the screenplay? Lior: From the book, there was very little.
05:15 - The book was two kids that they want to bring two boys that want to bring the plane back to life and they succeed in doing so without getting caught.
05:26 - The mentor, the old figure guy, he was in the book a children’s doctor.
05:34 - In the book it was different. One of the kids had a cold and they went to the doctor and the doctor was a pilot in the Independence War and he’s like oh you like the plane on the pedestal and I would help you fix it up.
05:50 - So there is no way emotionally except for pursuing the dream and appreciation to the past and the heritage.
05:58 - We, me and the other writers we built it all from scratch so we had to think about why what obstacle, inner obstacle Yotam had and the fear of actually you know getting hurt like his father was the main thing.
06:21 - Noa: Is directing since this movie, the lead was two kids. is directing a movie with kids any harder or different than directing a movie with adults? Lior: I think there was one a director in Hollywood many years ago he said the most important rule for making a movie is never write a script with kids or animals, dogs or cats, because it’s impossible to direct those, and I think it’s not true.
06:52 - Working with Yotam, Amir and Hila, the lead actress was fantastic.
06:58 - And I think the secret is in the casting, not in the directing, because we worked really hard we saw hundreds of kids when we looked for our lead kids and it took us so long to find the right actors but once you find the right actor then it’s very easy to direct.
07:18 - The performance is fantastic because you have the right person for the job and then for me, it was exactly the same directing adult or kid.
07:26 - Ariana: What was the audition process like for you? Amir: For me the audition process was, at first I did not get the role and then – Lior: But why? Why, why you didn’t get the role? Amir: You tell it.
07:43 - Lior: No, it’s your story. Amir: Ah because I was too because I was too little and for… Lior: How old were you? Amir: For me they waited.
07:49 - Too young, for me they waited the No, that not for me… Lior: It’s a good story.
07:57 - Amir: But–I think I’m really I’m ruining the story so that you, with my bad English.
08:03 - I’m ruining this good story so maybe but Lior: We saw Amir when he was 11 years old, and he walked in, he was short.
08:13 - You had the long hair, you remember? And you were super cute but you were too young because the role of the kids are your age.
08:21 - You’re in, Noa, you’re in seventh grade yeah? Noa: Yeah.
08:25 - Lior: So the characters are eighth grade more or less the same.
08:29 - So – Amir was too young. He was 11, he was I think maybe fifth or sixth grade and we cast a different kid and then something that happens in a lot of movie production, it’s called our financing fell apart.
08:47 - We thought that we were going to do some a co-production with Germany, eventually the money wasn’t there and we had to postpone our movie one year, and the kid that got the role of Yotam, he was so disappointed that we postponed the filming for a year, he decided not to act and to quit acting altogether.
09:09 - Ariana: Wow! Lior: Just left the field of acting and… Ariana: (laughing) You ruined his career! Lior: But maybe, you know, you find something that was more passionate.
09:19 - Ariana: He’ll be the doctor that you were meant to be.
09:22 - Lior: Yeah, yeah, and then we did the casting again and we invited Amir to come back because we were really impressed by him, and in that year you grew up, maybe you know like six inches more, and you had a short hair and you were full of confidence and we did something called matching.
09:42 - Matching is that you audition the two actors together to see how Hila and Amir work together and it was amazing chemistry.
09:50 - You remember that? Amir: Yeah I remember where it was in Tel Aviv, but I don’t remember what was there.
10:01 - Uh actually Lior: He’s so he’s so young Amir: I did not have a moustache then.
10:15 - Now I’m 16 years old, then I was 12, I think.
10:21 - Ariana: Oh wow. Lior: You were three months before your Bar mitzvah Amir: Ah, yeah so I was twelve to fourteen something like that. Noa: There were so many scenes in the movie Amir which one was your favorite scene to do? Amir: I love the scene when we sit to the table with Noa’s family because I like Nathan Ravitz he is a great actor and Lior: He plays Noa’s father Amir: I liked to work with him.
11:04 - I did not have so much scenes with him but I did have that scene and it was fun to shoot the scene because it was after a long week when we when we ran and drove bicycles and then and then it was it was switch because we just sat at the table and ate and I don’t know how to say it in English sorry for my bad English, but it was fun to film this scene and I think- she - it was (Amir speaking Hebrew). Lior: It came out really funny, that scene.
12:02 - Noa: Lior, which one was your favorite scene to direct? Lior: I really like the scene let the in the final movie I think my favorite scene is that Yotam finds the old plane and he walks around it and you hear the the tail of the plane creaks and you hold it and it stops moving and then you sit in the cockpit you hold the stick and you imagine that you fly and I was like “what the hell are you doing?” so I and this I really like this scene because it’s very emotional and I think the music is fantastic it’s it’s really special so it’s a spiritual scene, it has a lot of inner realm to it.
12:49 - My favorite scene to direct – I really like the dinner scene too because you have all the actors sitting together and you have a lot of back and forth and ping pong and nagging each other yeah so that was, I enjoy directing it a lot. Noa: There were a lot of like emotional scenes and the really funny ones did you guys prefer like directing or doing the funnier ones or did you like doing the emotional ones better? Lior: what do you guys like better funny scenes or emotional scenes? Amir: I think, I think, the emotional scenes was, it was more challenging for me in that age, so the funny it was like when you have a a (Amir asking question to Lior in Hebrew) Lior: comical pause Amir: a comical pause so if you when you have l pause in the in this in the movie we feel it when we shoot it and then it’s more it’s more fun.
14:09 - So the emotional was more challenging and the funny scenes were more fun to shoot.
14:18 - I did enjoy from the emotional scenes but it took me always energies that, no I love, I love both of them. I can’t decide sorry.
14:35 - Lior: Yeah it’s interesting I like scenes that have conflict for example when Yotam and Noa have falling out and they are fighting and always walking out of the hangar and there are no not in talking condition anymore so that for me it’s great to to direct those, to see explosion on the screen uh but I think the most emotional scene in the movie is when Amir’s character Yotam is falling apart emotionally in the in his bedroom after he breaks all the planes and directing it was amazing because I told Amir “You know you know what’s happening here? you know you know the script? So we’re just putting the camera and action when you’re ready.
” And we hit the record button and that was the first take and that’s it.
15:30 - Ariana: Wow. Lior: So directing is a lot of casting you put the right actor and you don’t interfere with this internal work and the results you see on the screen so thank you so much Amir.
15:42 - Amir: Thank you! This is one of the most fun experiences I remember for the shooting from the shooting of the movie – so I remember that this person went out, this person and I thought I know and I felt bad that the people are going out because of me I felt – I just said no no you can stay you can stay. people asking (asks question in Hebrew to Lior) Lior translates: the lighting guy. Amir: He says “Amir can I stay” and I said “Stay!” and it was a really good experience for me, that’s it.
16:42 - Ariana: Just he wanted to create this environment that would be similar to the one in which you’d be having that reaction. Amir: Yes, yes and I appreciate it it just was it was funny he asked me.
16:55 - Ariana: Wait so you just told him did you give him any instruction of what to do or you said just go around the room and destroy things or were you, was he choreographed in that room? Lior: breaking the room was choreographed we did it in three sections so we’ll start with the left wall and he knew that he’s destroying everything up to a third of the room and then we cut so we did that and then we did that the the the next third of the room and then the last third of the room.
and that’s how we do it. And we had all the posters, we had three sets we had three sets. Ariana: I was going to ask. Lior: so the production designer had a room next door in the house where you can see all like three same of the three same model and – we didn’t use any of them so all kind of team members for example the assistant cameraman he took posters and model for his kid room.
17:53 - So it looks like the room in the movie before getting destroyed Ariana: That’s so funny! I was wondering what would happen if they had to retake that several times it’s a good thing you were working with such a talented actor Noa: That seemed like a pretty challenging scene what was like the most challenging thing to do and the most Amir: This is the most challenging scene I think, the breakdown and because it it it was the most emotional scene for my character.
Am I right Lior? Lior: Yeah yeah this is the height of your of your emotion definitely. For me the most challenging scene to film it’s – maybe it’s weird but when Amir arrives at the hangar and he meets Hila for the first time and she’s washing the plane and then the father and the brother comes and they kick her out. I don’t know why but I kind of I ran out of time there.
18:59 - it was super hard for me and I did too many takes, too many angles, and we ran out of time and I had to cut from the scene we shot after it just was it was hard Amir: I remember yeah Lior: The cinematographer took the camera out of the dolly tracks where you push it to put it on the shoulder and he said that’s the only way we can get out of here on time Ariana: Wow. Were you shooting, were you shooting according to script, was that one of the earlier scenes that you shot? Lior: Yes, yes it was in the first week yeah, yeah.
I think we shot the film for four weeks I think by the after a week or two I was more skilled, more experienced Ariana: I’m curious there are all those scenes on the planes.
19:52 - How did you shoot those? Was it cgi or? Lior: So in order to shoot the the the plane there there is one plane- you’re talking about flying, yeah? Ariana: Yeah all the planes I mean even the opening scene where he’s where he’s dreaming but it looks like he’s up in the air? Lior: Yeah so what we did is – there is one real Messerschmitt this historic plane there is one that one airplane that survived and it’s in the Israeli Air Force Museum and we thought about asking them, can we borrow the plane? They said it’s so old and so rare if you just try to move it it’s going to fall apart so what we did we built an exact - Ariana: he broke up… Lior: replica that looked really real and what we did when we shot the aviation scenes is we put the we put the excuse me we put the, the actors inside the cockpit behind them we put something called a green screen and then in the in the computer we were able to replace the background with sky and cloud whatever you see through the window but when you see the planes flying on the outside we did something called the CGI, computer generated images it’s the same software that used to do all the Pixar movies and all the Marvel movies that you see special effects, visual effects and we are able to take those planes the Messerschmitt that doesn’t fly anymore because it’s too old and put it back in the sky and fly it up.
21:39 - Ariana: How much research did you have to do about these planes going into shooting? Did you, did you know them or you know were you aware from your books about the Black Spit and the Messerschmitt or was that a big was there a big research department? Lior: I’m I’m a big fan of I love airplanes and I love aviation history and every place I go I immediately go and look for the aviation museums and I drag my wife any country we travel to- to- to see those she’s tired of that and so I’m a big fan of this world.
But we had to do more research for the movie, for example we had to build a replica of the of of the Messerschmitt.
22:27 - So we had to give them workshop that built that new plane I had to look in online and I found original plans, blueprints of the German air force from world war ii from the 30s and they used those original Nazi blueprints to build to the plane. Ariana: So the film screened in theaters in Israel is that right? Lior: Yeah we were lucky it was summer 2019 so it was uh about half year before the pandemic so we had the wide theatrical release we were screening in every theater it was very successful and now we are in theatrical just in a worldwide distribution the film was dubbed to French so we have the version that actors are speaking French and it was sold to to the Netherlands and now we are continuing our worldwide distribution.
Ariana: Great, are you working on another film, is your next project also going to be a family film? – Lior: Actually now I was a team of a part of a team of screenwriters for a TV show now playing in Israel it’s called the “The Cops” (says title in Hebrew) it’s a drama with a lot of cops and thieves and guns so it’s not for family at all.
24:00 - And my next feature film is for adults too it’s about a war drama, Israeli war drama so hopefully in the future I will come back to content for kids and youth.
24:12 - Ariana: Yeah, we hope so too. Lior: Amir what’s your next project you’re filming something now “Those Days?” Amir: Yeah, I’m filming I’m now in my free day so it went it went good just in perfect timing.
24:29 - But in the in this three months I’m filming, I’m doing a main role in a new drama for (asks Lior in Hebrew for name) Lior: Channel 11 the national Yes broadcast about – we we do it we also have the crime and the cops and the guns and - and drugs so it’s not it’s not for the it’s not for kids also. Ariana: We we showed a “Tale of Love and Darkness” here many years ago so we’ve seen you on screen here in Boston before so Amir: So now you’re seeing me from a from a childhood to – it’s like in levels yeah every time every time every time I’m here I’m growing up a little bit.
25:37 - Ariana: Well we’re looking forward to seeing all of your work here in Boston and I’m really glad that we’re able to bring this film to Boston I I saw it you know again as I said close to a year ago now and and i’ve been eager to bring it here, and Noa thank you for joining and being a part of this conversation too. Lior: Thanks so much for having us. Ariana: Ok toda, thank you thank you. Nice to meet you. Noa: Thank you. Amir: It was a pleasure. .