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Saturday , March 25 2023

Coppola outlines live cinema plans – ‘Films of the future will be difficult to classify’

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Canadian singer Justin Bieber (left), performs live during a small concert for charity in Toronto on Dec 7. (AP)
Canadian singer Justin Bieber (left), performs live during a small concert for charity in Toronto on Dec 7. (AP)

MARRAKECH, Dec 8 (RTRS):  At a round table interview at the 15th edition Marrakech Film Festival, jury prexy Francis Ford Coppola revealed details of his upcoming “live cinema” project, whose first trial run, “Distant Vision” was tested June 5 in Oklahoma City Community College and live-streamed to private showings in Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and the Coppola family residence in Napa Valley.

The 76-year-old helmer also gave an insight into key moments in his career, his views on the future of the film industry and his general take on the complex international crisis resulting from recent terrorist attacks around the world.

Coppola explained that his interest in live cinema came from the discussion a few years back that 3D was the “future of cinema.” “When ‘Avatar’ came out, everyone said that 3D was the future of the cinema, which I thought couldn’t be the cases. We had 3D back in 1952 with ‘Bwana Devil’ and ‘House of Wax’. Cinema with glasses can’t be the future. Cinema is too interesting and too big for 3D to be anything.”

The director believes that the films of the future will be difficult to classify into a single category: “I was recently looking at the New York Times seeing all the movies and to me they all looked like sausages … And now that I’m old and it doesn’t matter, and I’m sort of independent, I don’t want to make a sausage. I just want to convey what I’m feeling, what I’m thinking about. And maybe, for me, cinema will just be one long project. Maybe I will only make one more film while I’m alive, but it will go on and on over time and it will change into this and that. Am I talking about television? Well there is no more television. Television is cinema, basically. They’re becoming the same thing.”

Coppola is fascinated by the evolution of cinema. “Cinema is still in its infancy,” he claims. “We imagine cinema as it is now. But it will change. Theatre has a history spanning thousands of years, the novel around 400. Cinema was an art form that was just waiting to happen. It needed technology to happen.”

He suggests that an artist such as Goethe — who was a scientist, poet and playwright – would have been a “natural” filmmaker, and that when cinema was invented there was a sudden rush of creativity.

However Coppola believes that the industry is now stagnated — caught between cliché-ridden blockbusters on the one hand and small indie films on the other, with nothing in the middle. He says that today’s filmmakers face tremendous constraints and that their main concern is getting their next job. “Even Spielberg, at the top of the industry, has to wheel and deal.”

Coppola argued that although digital technology has made it easier for young people to start making films, compared to when he got started, it’s much more difficult to make personal films and get them released theatrically.

He foresees changes to how screenplays will be written, citing the example of how novels changed over the last hundred years, through point of view and stream of consciousness, with novelists such as Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

“Even some of the films I’ve seen here at Marrakech have shown how the way that screenplay is organized and the way that it’s written can be a tremendous opportunity for innovation and evolution, similar to what we have seen with the novel.”

Coppola believes that film and television are merging and that the new works of cinematic art will range from a few seconds to hundreds of hours, rather than the traditional 90-minute format.

The helmer predicts that the entire film industry will have new owners in three-to-four years time, because the Internet companies, whose business models are based on advertising, are desperate for new content and they will all become major players in the movie business which will lead to a “change of the guard” in the studios’ upper management and spawn new distribution models.

Coppola believes that current window — with staggered release dates for theatrical, VOD, pay-TV etc — will collapse and the public will have what it wants, anytime, anywhere. He foresees that there will be increasing merging of the cinematic form of fiction and non-fiction, which has always been present in the industry, dating back to Robert Flaherty’s 1922 Eskimo documentary “Nanook of the North.” He cited the example of Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell.”


Coppola originally began defending digital cinema three decades ago, because he felt it would provide easier access to the moving image for new generations of filmmakers.

His own live cinema project is based on telling a story that spans three generations of an Italian-American family. The project will be disseminated to the audience as a live stream, including live sessions in cinemas, taking advantage of Internet-wired digital projectors.

He took a preview of his project to Oklahoma City Community College in June, based on 30 pages of the script that was transformed into a 54-minute transmission. He said that the experience was fascinating.

Recalling how throughout his career he has learned by doing — citing for example how he had to improvise the helicopters scene in “Apocalypse Now,” in which they destroy a village- he revealed that he’s doing the same with his Live Cinema project.

“It’s very different from live TV,” he explained. “This is not theatre, this is not movies. This is not TV. It’s something different.” He explained how live-transmission techniques are currently focused on event coverage, such as a sporting event or a stage play (including NBC’s 2014 broadcast “Peter Pan Live!”), but that these techniques can be applied to filmmaking.


“Imagine a storyboard from a Pixar film, but the actors are running around poking in the storyboard and doing it as the film is being shot and creating everything that we’re used to seeing in a film. But at the end it’s a performance. A live performance. That’s sort of what we did. It was so exhilarating when I realized that this is possible because the technology that has been invented for covering sports, and is only used in sports, can also be used in storytelling and it creates a very magical experience.”

He doesn’t believe that all cinema will be live cinema but sees this is an important new development.

He recalled the elaborate productions of eighteenth century Operas which were performed live had to be seen to be believed and considers that live cinema will achieve a similar unforgettable impact.

“The horizon is very big” he smiled, “Only our prejudices about what a film shouldn’t be can hold us back.”

At Marrakech, the helmer is accompanied by his daughter, Sofia Coppola, who handed Bill Murrary his career trib on Opening Night. During the interview he also discussed the joys of bringing up his own children – Gian-Carlo, Sofia and Roman.

“We were like a circus family,” he joked — since he and his wife always took their kids with them on shoots, including a year and a half stint in the Philippines while shooting “Apocalypse Now” that was originally intended to be a four-month endeavor. He admitted that this may have interfered with their academic development, but gave them many other experiences, and that the crew members, many of whom remained the same from one film to the next, became like uncles and aunts for them.

Talking about the countless tales associated to lensing “Apocalypse Now,” Coppola revealed that there are many misconceptions about the film.

He revealed that he hurt Marlon Brando ‘s feelings by talking about the fact that he had arrived on the set overweight, but that this did present a logistical problem at the time, since there were no Green Beret military outfits in his size. He spoke fondly of the late Brando, as an affectionate, sweet genius and explained how he integrated Brando’s dinner-time conversations — ranging from termites to the meaning of life — into the film’s dialogue.

He also recalled the tense atmosphere created by the imminent creative and financial fiasco that he faced due to “Apocalypse”, with interest rates at 29%, sharing his moments of deep despair, given the negative audience reaction to both “Apocalypse” and “The Conversation.”

“I like to cook,” he said. “So if I make a dinner for all of you…and afterwards you say that was terrible, I will feel awful.”  He said that he is now surprised how depressed he was when these films were released, saying that he never realized they would later be considered classics. “As an elderly person I now think that it’s strange that I was so suicidal over that, or I was so miserable at the time. You never know what will happen later.”

He suggested that this is typical of all art forms, joking “the avant garde art of today is the wallpaper of tomorrow” and remembered how the Belle Epoque painters, such as Monet and Manet, couldn’t sell their paintings, even on a street corner, quipping “They couldn’t get arrested”. Inevitably, the helmer was also asked to talk about politics since at the Fest’s jury press conference, he had already expressed his distraught at the current state of the world and the violation of the basic teachings of Islam.

Questioned about the violence propagated in the majority of Hollywood movies, he agreed that there is now excessive focus on violence, albeit admitting that his own films, especially his early films in the 1970s, also explored and showed violence, such as that associated to organized crime and military conflict. “That’s why they were so successful. But I was just a hireling. Godfather was a book and they hired this 27 year old guy who was an Italian American, and who would take the heat if the Italians felt they were insulted by it. “

“Producers will say what the public wants is violence, but I don’t agree with that. There’s a beautiful Japanese film made after the war, ‘The Burmese Harp’ which is a real pacifist film.” Coppola said that he has been studying the historical sources of the current terrorist movements, which he believes dates back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration towards the end of World War I.

He admits that he spends an increasing amount of his time reading, but that he has a golden rule only to read works that he knows beforehand he won’t want to adapt into a film. Recent books that he’s read include Dan Ephron’s “Killing the King”, about the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, George Orwell’s “Burmese Nights” and Cervantes early 17th century classic “Don Quixote.”

Coppola believes that you can only understand the modern world through researching the underlying roots of current events and that the media at present doesn’t understand such phenomena and distorts the facts.

He recalled how his own project about utopia — “Megalopis” — had to be abandoned, because of the 9/11 attacks. “All of a sudden the city was in flames — so I didn’t know how to write my way out of that one.”

Finally, questioned about a reported recent tweet by thesp Val Kilmer that Coppola would be directing “Top Gun 2” he concluded by saying “The Internet is like that. So many things are not true. But you kind of chuckle.”