Much as I’d have walked over broken glass to interview Francis Ford Coppola for Bella someone else beat me to it. Film critic Ariston Anderson has done a very fine job indeed for The 99% webzine. If ever a film-maker had words of wisdom worth passing on – and relevant to the imaginations, opportunities and constraints of a new generation of Scottish film-makers – it is Francis Ford Coppola.
I’m posting this absolutely fascinating interview from 2011 partly because interesting developments are taking place in the world of Scottish film and extra resources are being earmarked for Scottish film-makers. But also because Coppola has some pertinent and provocative things to say which are relevant to any creative artist operating in our brave new digital era.
On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration
Over the course of 45 years in the film business, Francis Ford Coppola has refined a singular code of ethics that govern his filmmaking. There are three rules: 1) Write and direct original screenplays, 2) make them with the most modern technology available, and 3) self-finance them.
But Coppola didn’t develop this formula overnight. Though he found Hollywood success at the young age of 30, he admits that the early “Godfather” fame pulled him off course from his dream of writing and directing personal stories. Like Bergman, Coppola wanted to wake up and make movies based on his dreams and nightmares.
Thanks in no small part to his booming wine business, Coppola now does just that. He recently wrapped his latest picture, “Twixt Now and Sunrise,” based on an alcohol-induced dream he had in Turkey. The film even features the latest 3-D technology – but as a brief dramatic segment that serves the story, rather than the typical two-hour, multiplex gimmick.
I sat down with Mr. Coppola at La Mamounia, the legendary Moroccan palace-turned-hotel, during the Marrakech International Film Festival, where he shared insights on the filmmaking craft with local students. Rejecting the popular “master class” format, Coppola preferred a simple “conversation,” where he spoke candidly with students and shared his advice generously. What follows are excerpts from both conversations.
Why did you choose not to teach a master class?
For me in cinema there are few masters. I have met some masters – Kurosawa, Polanski – but I am a student.
I just finished a film a few days ago, and I came home and said I learned so much today. So if I can come home from working on a little film after doing it for 45 years and say, “I learned so much today,” that shows something about the cinema. Because the cinema is very young. It’s only 100 years old.
Even in the early days of the movies, they didn’t know how to make movies. They had an image and it moved and the audience loved it. You saw a train coming into the station, and just to see motion was beautiful.
The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do. But unfortunately, after 15-20 years, it became a commercial industry. People made money in the cinema, and then they began to say to the pioneers, “Don’t experiment. We want to make money. We don’t want to take chances.”