THE OBENSON REPORT

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RANDOM - Aged Without Age

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You have to love Francis Ford Coppola's seemingly newfound indie spirit! He was absent from cinema's stage for about 10 years, after 1997's The Rainmaker. He returned in 2007 with the critically mixed Youth Without Youth, a film he financed entirely on his own, which certainly didn't set American box office receipts on fire, playing on 18 total screens across the country, but made a much bigger splash overseas - no surprise there, given the stylized nature of the film.


In an interview with Telegraph, accompanying the worldwide release of Youth Without Youth, Coppola stated, "I always wanted to be a personal filmmaker, to be inspired by the European movies we saw when we were 18 or 19 [...] But in a funny way I became an important studio director when I was very young, and I always wondered what happened to the director I wanted to be. Maybe I can go back and be him now."

Indeed... indeed... Of course it's easier to rediscover that indie spirit when one is independently wealthy, thanks to the winery and wine labels he owns, as well as stakes in a business that produces pasta and pasta sauces, plus the 2 cafes he owns in San Francisco, as well as the 4 resorts in Belize and Guatemala... amongst other interests.

He's a business man who made smart business decisions with the money he earned during his earlier profitable Hollywood days, when he gave us the 3 Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now, and several others; and those investments are paying off!

The wealth he created for himself now gives him the freedom to make the kinds of films he wants to make, since he doesn't have to go begging studio execs for funding for each project. He writes his own checks... Must be nice!


We could all learn a thing or two from Mr Coppola. I hope you're listening Tyler Perry! In 30 years when you're Coppola's age, I certainly hope we're not still being exposed to you in a fat suit, dress and wig. Perish the thought...

After briefly dancing with the studio system while living on the west coast, I had a somewhat similar plan, right before moving to New York: work hard at some well-paid corporate job for 10 - 15 years, and invest every single penny not allocated for basic bills. Why not, I thought - I was still in my mid-20s, and understood that I would be around 40 years old when I "retired" from corporate life. The plan was to accumulate as much financial capital as I could, which would then enable me to produce the kinds of films I wanted to, and even distribute them myself, without having to rely on others for any stage of the process.

Obviously that would mean low-budget productions with very limited release schedules; but, enough to create valuable awareness of each film, which I hoped would pay off eventually, and not necessarily immediately. I cherish being self-sufficient, and just can't think of living and working any other way! And while I certainly didn't entirely abandon the plan, 10 years later, I can say that I did not diligently follow through with it either. But as an ex-girlfriend once said to me, it's not too late to start again!

Anyway... Coppola has returned 2 years later, with another self-financed "personal film" titled Tetro, which stars the always enigmatic Vincent Gallo, and is being shot entirely in Argentina.

A site for the film is already online, where you can find brief write-ups about the film and cast, but most importantly and interestingly, a video blog featuring Coppola himself, talking about the film and his process, shot hand-held by Coppola, roaming through his Napa Valley estate. It's unpretentious, unassuming, and dare I say energizing. As a filmmaker myself, I'm inspired by his independent spirit and can-do attitude, and I'm looking forward to seeing what develops. In the video, he promises future video blogs about the project.

It's great to see a filmmaker of his generation (he'll be 70 this year) embrace new technology, and exploit it to his advantage!

Tetro is Francis Ford Coppola's first original screenplay since 1974's The Conversation. I was less than a year old then! The film's site states, "it is his most personal film yet, arising from memories and emotions from his early life, though totally fictional. It is the bittersweet story of two brothers, of family lost and found, and the conflicts and secrets within a highly creative Argentine-Italian family." Creative they most certainly are - recall his daughter Sophia is certainly taking after her father, blazing her own trail; his son Roman is also a filmmaker with one feature currently on his resume.

Check out the site and watch his first of many v-blogs HERE.

4 comments:

  1. The Sujewa said...
     

    Coppola is working in a classic DIY filmmaker style on these small projects - using money from his dayjobs to make & distribute his art/entertainment work. Anyone who has a job can do this - since shooting on video is cheap & there is a lot of people interested in acting in movies, & self-distribution is cheap.

  2. Jeremiah J said...
     

    Tambay, I have to say that this is very inspiring. If nothing else, I must say that when I read your various posts it makes me feel that there is hope for us filmmakers who want make quality work that advance cinema by Black people. Thanks for this awe inspiring article on Mr. Coppola. You inspire me for doing what you do the way you do it.

    Peace, Love and Respect

  3. Jeremiah J said...
     

    I am totally with you on being self-sufficient. For someone like me there is no other way. I dream of the day when I can just make personal movies and not worry about anything else, especially money. I am working on it and will not stop until it happens

  4. The Wendilicious Wonder said...
     

    Coppola is certainly an inspiration and a true artist - even his "studio" stuff is steeped in layered storytelling and acutely observed characterisation.
    And he didn't let it all go to his head. Certainly one to emulate.

    And I struggled to dislike Youth Without Youth for, as much as you say it made "a bigger splash overseas," I can say that, here in the UK at least, it went almost unnoticed... save for a few uncertain reviews. It was only in a few cinemas here and for only about two weeks... But I managed to be one of the 50 people or so actually paid to see it. LOL. OK, slight exaggeration, but you get my drift. It did ramble a bit, but it also left me intrigued and full of questions... not necessarily a bad reaction to a film, methinks.

    Another inspiration, I think, although not quite as successful as Coppola and maybe more erratic in style, is John Casavettes. He took Hollywood jobs (mainly acting) to pay for his own projects, and his style and budgets are certainly on the guerrilla, DIY, end of the filmmaking spectrum, but not without intriguingly engaging results... Of course his wife, Gena Rowlands, certainly was a help in this regard, too.

    So certainly don't give up on the dream of true independent filmmaking. And, as much as I agree that it's never too late, don't leave it too long. Remember that it's more about following your heart than finding/reaching perfection. Perfection, after all, tends to be subjective, but is certainly more objectively approached with practice.

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