Francis Ford Coppola’s Three Rules of Filmmaking

By  · Published on February 5th, 2011

In a recent, must-read interview, Francis Ford Coppola reveals at least two things that might come as a surprise to fans. The first is that his success with The Godfather actually derailed him from a plan to make intimate, personal stories that he was passionate about.

The second is that he believes artists aren’t meant to be wealthy.

Coppola points back to the beginnings of art and the benefactor model. He also points to the concept of having another source of income so that filmmaking can remain an arduous hobby and an outlet for taking risks. He’s absolutely, idealistically correct (even if he does question why art has to cost money (which is a little like asking why cameras have to cost money)), and amidst the radical concept that maybe people should be able to view art of all kinds for free, he offers his three rules for filmmaking.

They are:

  1. Write and direct original screenplays.
  2. Make them with the most modern technology available.
  3. Self-finance them.

It’s that last one that trips most people up.

It’s a bold statement that lands with perfect timing. Between the spectre of Kevin Smith making his second truly independent film and releasing it on his own, to Ted Hope’s statements about indie filmmakers having to have day jobs in order to stay in the game, it might seem like Coppola is sitting on a soft, wine-financed pedestal to proclaim his vision. That’s also because it’s clearly a fairly new rule for the veteran filmmaker – a rule that most likely got instated just before Youth Without Youth.

Before that 2007 movie, his last movie (The Rainmaker) had come out a decade before and wasn’t self-financed. Now his American Zoetrope outfit handles production on his movies, but he’s also in a far different position than most moviemakers. He’s an institution, and his day job is running a major winery (as opposed to, say, pouring that wine into glasses during the lunch rush).

Still, Coppola’s words can and should be taken to heart. He has some great advice throughout the interview, and I for one look forward to the day when he starts sharing his movies for free.

What do you think?

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