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I was so happy when this young person took from me
February 9, 2011 1:20 PM   Subscribe

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.

You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

Copyfight has an excellent response
posted by Potomac Avenue (21 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
I should include the coolest part here:

"He recently wrapped his latest picture, “Twixt Now and Sunrise,” based on an alcohol-induced dream he had in Turkey."

Like a boss
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:24 PM on February 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


He did all three on One From The Heart.

#3 didn't work out so well.

John Ford told a young Steven Spielberg, "Never put up your own money."
posted by Joe Beese at 1:24 PM on February 9, 2011


I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry.

I quote Wikipedia:

... he purchased the former home and adjoining vineyard of Gustave Niebaum located in Rutherford, California. He purchased the property in 1975 using proceeds from the first movie in the Godfather Trilogy.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:27 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In “The Godfather,” it was succession. In “The Conversation,” it was privacy. In “Apocalypse,” it was morality.

In "Jack" it was "debt."
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:28 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word.

I wonder what the one word for Captain Eo was.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:30 PM on February 9, 2011


self publishing is for loosers!

Am I allowed to agree with both copyfight and coppola?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:32 PM on February 9, 2011


I wonder what the one word for Captain Eo was.

Michael. Or Disney. Take your pick.
posted by hippybear at 1:33 PM on February 9, 2011


Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry.

Hilariously, it is also extraordinarily difficult to make decent money in the wine industry, as well. The startup cost (buying the vineyard) is outlandish, the income is subject to extreme variance in demand (no one "needs" good wine when their finances go south), and nearly every step of the process requires additional capital investment (fertilizer, equipment) and/or professional services.

I was always under the impression that the Coppola vineyards, wineries, and shops were sort of a vanity project trading on the famous director's name. I mean, not that the wine is bad, I'm just saying. I personally would never count on running a vineyard as your backup plan in case outrageous fortune via artistic accomplishment doesn't work out.

Maybe try plumbing, or apprentice as an electrician.
posted by rkent at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I personally would never count on running a vineyard as your backup plan in case outrageous fortune via artistic accomplishment doesn't work out.

Yeah, I was going to try for a comment on Coppola's relative privilege and, man, the backplot is just too complex for me to tease out glibly. Certainly, these days, the man enjoys the financial means to do whatever he damn well pleases, which means his perspective may not be all that useful to folks who don't have that. At the same time, though, he came up in an era where prejudice against Italian-American immigrant families was both common and quite vicious... but he was born into an incredibly talented family with connections at Juillard, 23 Oscar nominations and 9 wins among them, and so on.

He's got a perfect storm of conditions that make it really hard for his experience to inform anyone else's.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:43 PM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


4) don't make Jack.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:16 PM on February 9, 2011


ps debated:

4) don't cast Keanu Reeves in a period piece.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:17 PM on February 9, 2011


(no one "needs" good wine when their finances go south)

Tell that to my current roommate, who thinks nothing of springing for another box of Bota even though uh, Dude, uh, tomorrow's already the tenth.

Let Francis believe whatever he wants. If he made enough from his earlier films to retire from "film making" to concentrate on making art, with a side of vino, then so be it. It's not like there are that many people out there with similar visions as his, and those who do share it with him will be highly unlikely to take serious career advice from the man who tried to cast Caan as Michael.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:25 PM on February 9, 2011


4) don't cast Keanu Reeves in a period piece.

What are you talking about? If I was a casting director, I'd immediately recognize his potential as a particularly good set of Victorian mahogany occasional tables.
posted by panaceanot at 3:06 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a fascinating interview! I started reading it somewhat distracted, but was absolutely riveted by the end. Some thoughts:



"An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk.

You try to go to a producer today and say you want to make a film that hasn’t been made before; they will throw you out because they want the same film that works, that makes money. That tells me that although the cinema in the next 100 years is going to change a lot, it will slow down because they don’t want you to risk anymore. They don’t want you to take chances. So I feel like [I’m] part of the cinema as it was 100 years ago, when you didn't know how to make it. You have to discover how to make it.
"

That right there is so important. An artist (director, writer, painter, whatever) should always be trying to stretch and do something new. But I'd qualify that the target should be something new to you, and not necessarily new to the medium in a historical sense. (Because even retro concepts become "new" with the passage of time.) I think that's what Coppola means when he says that he feels like a cinema pioneer. He can get himself back into that college or film school mindset and try out stuff just because its novel to him.



"So when you get into a habit of not lying when you are writing, directing, or making a film, that will carry your personal conviction into your work. And, in a society where you say you are very free but you’re not entirely free, you have to try. There is something we know that’s connected with beauty and truth. There is something ancient. We know that art is about beauty, and therefore it has to be about truth."


Not entirely sure what he means by "not lying," but it sounds like he's saying that you shouldn't fall back on genre conventions. If you're doing a film with the theme War Is Hell (or Morality, as he put it), then you have to actually show hell on the screen. And not just a conventional representation of hell taken from religion and cartoons, but your own personal hell brought to life in full color and stereo sound. Then you're being honest to yourself and the theme of the work.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:31 PM on February 9, 2011


Bookhouse: "I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry.

I quote Wikipedia:

... he purchased the former home and adjoining vineyard of Gustave Niebaum located in Rutherford, California. He purchased the property in 1975 using proceeds from the first movie in the Godfather Trilogy.
"

Pretty decent inexpensive wines, actually.
posted by Splunge at 3:57 PM on February 9, 2011


There is a bar in my town that has a "Feelin Fancy" meal: one can of Coppola's canned sparking wine and a hotdog for 7 bucks.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:59 PM on February 9, 2011


I really have to disagree with the characterization of the Copyfight response as "excellent." I was very much hoping to read an intelligible response. Instead, I found 3 very unconvincing arguments:

1) "...the ability to make a living doing one's art has enormous advantages. For one thing, it lures people. We all benefit from there being more art..."
2) "[T]here is a great deal of art that cannot be made part time, after hours, outside a work schedule, or under constant interruption."
3) "...my gut feeling tells me that we cannot simply dismiss the idea of artists making money from their art..."

Point 1) is just begging the question.
Point 2) simply ignores Coppola's point: such artistic efforts have been undertaken throughout human history; it's only recently that people have been able to get rich off them. And it also ignores the fact that there are still people sacrificing years on individual projects without pay in pursuit of their creative goals. This is easily seen by looking away from Hollywood and Nashville and towards, say, the graduate student library in a university humanities department.
Point 3) was the best. Can't argue with it.

At least the author didn't demand that I pay him to read his lousy response.
posted by dsword at 5:02 PM on February 9, 2011


Pretty decent inexpensive wines, actually.

That's not the point, though. The point is that it is easy to say artists don't need to get paid after art has made you filthy rich enough to buy a winery. I believe that's called shutting the door after you.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:50 PM on February 9, 2011


If I remember correctly, he wasn't exactly filthy rich when he purchased the winery. It needed to be a going concern not a money pit - and the movie's needed to continue to be profitable for him to remain solvent with both ventures going. As I understand it, the winery has far out earned his movies in the aggregate.
posted by double bubble at 8:58 PM on February 9, 2011


In 'The Godfather,' it was succession. In 'The Conversation,' it was privacy. In 'Apocalypse,' it was morality.

Whoa, I think he's 0-3. In The Godfather, it was family. In The Conversation, it was curiosity. In Apocalypse Now, it was insanity.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:09 PM on February 9, 2011


Whoa, I think he's 0-3.

Well, he directed the movies, and they were all pretty successful. I'll defer to his single word summaries, because he seems to know what he is doing.
posted by hippybear at 10:37 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


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