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Francis Ford Coppola, Visionary

December 23, 2023
Notes
Transcript
This week I’m joined by Sam Wasson to discuss his new book The Path to Paradise: A Francis Ford Coppola Story, which chronicles the making of Apocalypse Now and the rise and fall of Coppola’s revolutionary studio, American Zoetrope. From technological innovations to the madness of Coppola’s effort to capture America’s first “Rock and Roll War,” the book is a fascinating glimpse into a radically different idea of filmmaking than was pursued by the Hollywood studios. 
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:06

    Hey everybody. This is Sunny. I just wanted to give you a quick intro here. I take this show earlier in the week for Charlie Sykes, sitting in for him. Many thanks again to Charlie for letting me sit in on the flagship show always fun.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:18

    But I I I figured I’d share it here as well. Just in case, you know, they’re we don’t we we don’t have one hundred percent overlap in the audience. If you’re not listening to Charlie Sykes, you should. And, I I hope you enjoy it. I I probably won’t have another episode before the end of the year.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:33

    So enjoy this. We’ll be back in twenty twenty four. With another year of interviews about the business to showbiz. And this is this is a fun one. I I really enjoy talking to Sam.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:44

    About his book, The Path The Paradise Francis Ford Copola’s story. You know, the making of apocalypse now is a fascinating tale, but his his whole career in the sixties seventies was real interesting. The rise and fall of American zoetrope is is a fascinating time period. You should check out his book if you if you have not, already picked it up. And, if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:19

    I love the Spelled night pump in the morning.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:28

    Welcome back to the Bulwark podcast. I’m the Bulwark culture editor, Sunny Bunch. I’m sitting in for Charlie Sykes who’s taking a well deserved break. Some of you may know that I host the Bull Workghost Hollywood podcast. And I thought I’d bring a little taste of that business of showbiz show to y’all today.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:42

    With my guest, Sam Wassen. He is the author of books on Bob Fasi, Audrey Heppern, and breakfast at Tiffany’s, the making of Chinatown and Hollywood the oral history. And he is back on bookshelves, right now with the path to paradise, a Francis Ford Copala story, which is a fascinating and compulsively readable look at the rise and fall and potentially kind of rebirth of Copila’s company Zoa trope. Sam, thanks for being on the show today.
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:08

    Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:11

    Everyone who knows movies knows that Francis Ford Copa is one of the most important filmmakers of the new Hollywood era. Right? So it, like, in one decade alone, he’s the Oscar winning writer of Patton, the writer director of the godfather, the conversation, the godfather part two, and then, wraps up the decade with apocalypse now. Again, this is all in the nineteen seventies. And I think people know a little bit less about the studio he tried to build before and on top of and after all of the success.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:39

    Sam, what was American zoetrope created to be?
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:43

    It was created to be an alternative to Hollywood. I haven for young filmmakers, old filmmakers who couldn’t find work necessarily in the conventional studio system. And not just a means of making movies, but, a new plan for how to live life as filmmakers. Francis wanted to build a community of filmmakers, and he did.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:10

    Well, I mean, it’s fascinating because there’s these moments in the book where we get glimpses of that life, you know, the idea of having David Lynch just kinda hanging out down the hall Yes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:20

    Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:20

    From Jean Kelly. And, you know, this this interesting mix of old and new Hollywood all kind of coming together at the same time, how did that actually work?
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:32

    Well, it depends who you talk to. Some say it didn’t work. I happen to believe even though it doesn’t exist today, the fact that it existed at all proved that it could work. You know, how long does a dream have to last for you to say that it’s a viable dream. Certainly eternity is unrealistic.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:53

    So a second, if it lasted a second, if it lasted a year. Can we say it was a victory? Yes. Definitely. But to answer your question, simply, Francis was coming off the greatest streak in modern Hollywood history.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:08

    Godfather conversation, godfather two apocalypse now. And with his incredible power, influence, resources, connections, he did what others merely talked about. He put his own money and the money of others into an actual new studio down in LA called zoetrope studios and One of the cornerstones of that was that he was going to have directors and residents, artists and residents. People like Lynch, Michael Powell, Jean Kelly, Jean Lukadard, who would be just on the payroll, not just developing their projects, but lending hands to young filmmakers looking over the shoulders of riders and contributing their expertise. One casting person, Azoachrop, called it Zotrope University, and I think that’s what it was.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:58

    Again, it’s it’s really interesting and fascinating to look at this this period of time, particularly, again, because Francis Ford Topola is the center of this universe of new Hollywood at the time, not just because of his success, but also because of who he kind of came up with and he was incredibly influential. There’s this really great quote early on in your book from Joseph McBryde. He’s writing in nineteen seventy five. Here’s the line. Copil is influence over people’s minds is much more profound than any American politicians today.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:28

    I find that a a fascinating and probably true statement, and also it makes thinking about how he thought about what he would spend the next four years of his life on apocalypse now, even more interesting. Right? I mean, did he see himself as the shaper of the historical narrative on a war that had really just barely ended. You know, the first how did he describe it? The first rock and roll war.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:50

    It’s a fascinating idea and concept.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:53

    I’m glad you picked up on that McBry quote, Sonny. I mean, it gets to the power of Hollywood to, shape our lives. It’s not something that everybody thinks about all the time. Most of the people in the world think about Hollywood as a diversion or an entertainment industry. But in terms of our cultural unconscious and who we are, it’s hard to imagine a bigger influence.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:17

    And, yes, Francis Ford Copola was one of those people who wielded the most power and influence. Of anyone in his generation at that exact moment. I don’t think he saw it so much as a responsibility that he had. But he was moved by his own inner volition and spirituality to take the reins. It’s who he was even before he had power and money.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:42

    He always was a leader of his generation. It just so happened that When he did hit the big time, he finally had the means to lead on the scale that was worthy of his dream.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:54

    Again, it’s it’s a fascinating collective here at this moment. I mean, you know, again, there’s a thing that I think people kind of know vaguely, but don’t really fully appreciate it. It wasn’t just Copla. It was Copa and also George Lucas and also Stephen Spielberg and also John Milius and all these other guys creating a new way of looking at film and trying to figure out how to make the business of Hollywood work. I mean, that’s that’s the fascinating thing about this book.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:20

    Is this idea of trying to create a new parallel Hollywood like, but not Hollywood, reaction against Hollywood up north in Northern California.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:30

    These guys loved Hollywood, but they wanted to make personal films. The notion of filmmaking as a personal expression was not born with the cinema. Film didn’t know what it was, and it’s only, you know, since the new Hollywood that the American movies machine has been confronted with the idea of filmmaking as personal expression. And these guys grew up with that notion. It wasn’t always welcomed by the previous regime.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:04

    So Zoa Trump was was geared directly towards that ambition.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:10

    There’s also an interesting kind of undercurrent here. These guys, you know, they come up through the film schools, which was not a path to big Hollywood success at the time, you know, in in Hollywood, it was you you came up through the guilds or you knew family member that’s how you got into the business. And the the film schools were where you would go and you’d maybe wind up making technical films or commercials, you know, for somebody. How did that influence how they saw what they did and how they reacted with each other and the industry writ large?
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:40

    Well, at at film school, like you said, it was sort of a dead end. They didn’t really know why they were there. I guess they liked movies. Maybe they thought it was an easy class, but there was no direct path into the movie business. So right away, they had to start thinking of an alternative system.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:00

    And all they really had was each other and technology. And that became a large part of zoetrope, how they could democratize the technology, how they could turn you know, the few resources they had into a studio. And that again was a new possibility in the history of movie making. The fact that camera equipment and ed post production equipment was now available, not widely available the way that it is now, but with a little effort, you could have a movie Ola and you could have a camera and you could go out and shoot documentary like on location. This was pretty much a new idea, certainly in America, and these guys were at the right time for it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:47

    Can we talk a little bit about technology? Because I find I find the relation ship of these directors and a kind of almost counter movement in Hollywood right now or at least in in some respects, kind of interesting. Right? So you have I’m gonna fast forward a lot here. We’re gonna fast forward a lot to what Francis Ford Copla is doing right now, working at his work on Megalopolis, which you write a little bit about in the end of your book, And he is shooting in what is known as the volume.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:11

    Right? He is shooting in this this giant LED covered space that allows the filmmaker almost total control of background, so that sort
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:19

    of thing. That’s right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:20

    But they shoot the mandalorian on for folks who
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:22

    That’s right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:22

    One frame of reference here. And that contrasts very starkly with somebody like Christopher Nolan, right, who’s shooting on IMAX seventy millimeter. He he’s like, I wanna shoot on film. I wanna shoot in real locations, I’m gonna do as much in camera as possible, or, like, Dennis Villeneuve, to a to a certain extent. The embrace of technology and the the lack of sentimentality for certain elements of filmmaking is really striking amongst this generation in particular filmmakers.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:50

    Yep. You’re right. Francis is one is on the cutting edge of that. He was in fact interested in technology before he was even interested in the cinema. He thinks of himself as a boy scientist.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:01

    In fact, he was a boy scientist going all the way back so much so that we can really regard the conversation as one of his most personal movies. That really is a picture of Francis alone playing with his toys. So technology is a means to bring you out of reality into another imaginative space as a means to, like I said, democratize movie making, bring the tools of filmmaking to the world, and also tell stories and new fantastical hyperreal ways. Francis is one of his first favorite movies was the thief of Baghdad, a movie about life in another world. And technology really lends itself to those kinds of storytelling, like, to that kind of storytelling.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:52

    Just like Star Wars, by Francis’s buddy, George. These are guys who were thinking on film and the biggest possible scale and breaking the film making barriers, not always necessarily to the health of the final product. You know, I think we can say George Lucas went too far in that direction. Maybe Francis himself went too far in that direction, and maybe Hollywood has also gone too far in that direction. But the story that I’m telling set in the late seventies and early eighties, the beginning of the digital cinema really was an essential part of Hollywood coming to terms with this new technology, understanding how we’re going to tell stories in the digital era.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:37

    Is that gonna make us sloppier because it’s less expensive or is that gonna make us more productive? Unfortunately, I think it’s made a sloppier, but at the era when Francis was experimenting, the ambition was to be more productive.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:53

    Alright. Let’s go back in time, to a little bit after apocalypse now when Francis Fortopla is shooting one from the heart, which is a really fascinating story. I’d like to say that the sign of a good book is it makes me wanna read other books. One sign that this is a good book about movies is that it makes me wanna C movies I have not seen before. And I have not seen one from the heart.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:13

    For all the reasons that are discussed in this book, I’ve heard it was a business fiasco that it was an artistic, didn’t didn’t work didn’t come together. And now I actually really wanna pick up the new four k set that’s coming out, you know, at the beginning of next year. So I’m
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:26

    Good. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:26

    Excited for that now. But it fascinating to read the story that you tell here about how they were trying to shoot it. The different way in which they were trying to shoot it. They built enormous recreations of Las Vegas, like a forty five minute flight from Las Vegas. So they could shoot all the time and control everything with multiple cameras at once and then they didn’t do it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:47

    Yes. I know. I know. It’s one of the regrets of Francis’s life that he was all set up to test this new concept called live cinema, which was sort of based on live television playhouse ninety. Long takes and live editing.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:08

    But Victoria Storaro, the great cinematographer said Francis, you know, we can’t light it if you wanna shoot these twelve minute takes. We can’t be in total control of the aesthetic. That’s not film. And France is being a great collaborator and, great friend said, alright, Vatorio, if that’s what you want. But, unfortunately, it contradicted the whole concept.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:35

    Who knows what it would have been? In fact, I do know what it would have been. I mean, we know that people were applauding in the dailies when they saw those incredibly long takes There’s some feeling that Francis was headed in the right direction, but we’ll never really know because he changed course midway.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:52

    It’s fascinating. Again, all of the the different technical stuff that he was working on, the, like, portable sound and video system that people called the silverfish They put it in an air stream.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:03

    That’s right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:03

    So they
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:04

    did get it all around. And there’s a very, like, quality to it that you highlight in the book. Him as this kind of man behind the curtain saying, do this, do that. Again, it’s just not what we think of as film making, you know, when we envision it on set. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:21

    We envision the kind of Imperial director on the set, you know, and action and cut and, you know, yelling. I really don’t have a question here. I’m just trying to set the stage for people because It’s fascinating.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:32

    You’re right. No. It’s closer to maybe how we would imagine an animator working, sitting behind the screen, you know, telling the characters what to do. Unfortunately, humans don’t work well that way, and actors don’t work well that way. And actors need a director to be an audience right there with them.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:53

    And when the director is locked away behind the curtain, actors can feel a little lost disconnected from where they should be emotionally. And and that was the case with with one from the heart. Francis was so immersed in the technology that he lost the human aspect of the movie. And that’s That’s why it’s such a mixed experience seeing it because you’re dazzled by what’s going on on screen. You’ll see Sonny when you see the movie.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:21

    It’s dazzling. But do you care? Does your heart rise and fall with the lovers? Not really.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:28

    We’ve gotten out twenty minutes into this. We haven’t really talked about apocalypse now at all, which really is the heart of the book. It is the meat of the book. So let’s dive into that. I love the structure of your book, which kind of picks up almost in the middle of the making of apocalypse now, and Francis Ford Copa is in this breakdown mode.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:44

    And it it really reflects the film itself, which is very much a movie about breakdown. And was that a conscious choice on your part were you trying to to model the book after the movie in a way?
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:55

    Yes. Yes. And I and I wanted to give you that sense of the breakdown emotionally right off the bat The core of Francis really as an artist is this notion of living the movie to make the movie. He has to experience the emotions and themes of the characters and the story. In order to understand it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:21

    So if he is making a movie about a breakdown, he needs to break down. If he’s making the godfather, he needs to become the godfather. And it’s an unusual way to Bulwark. I think of it as sort of like method directing. So I wanted to give the reader that sense in apocalypse and also so much apocalypse lore has been lost to this idea of Francis the madman.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:48

    But madness was his method in that movie, and I wanted to re clarify that for readers.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:58

    Let’s talk about the actual making of the movie, and and kind of what happened and how it spiraled a little bit out of control. Because I do think it is a fascinating story, and I think I think folks, you know, know a little bit about it, but would like to to know more. So he gets the script from John Milius. He starts kinda rewriting it. Putting in the heart of darkness stuff, and then goes off to the Philippines.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:17

    And what happens?
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:19

    Well, everything bad happens. They’re typhoons, He doesn’t know his ending. He has to replace his leading actor early in the movie. It was Harvey Kaitel originally, and then it became Marty Sheen. He spent too much money, had to put his own money in the movie.
  • Speaker 3
    0:18:39

    Brando appeared overweight. It was just endless disaster. Very bad luck on Francis’s part, but Francis used all of it. And incorporated it into the breakdown. And there’s no question that the movie would not be what it was, had not all of the calamity befallen him.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:00

    There’s a a quote in here Ron DeSantis Ford Copola that was taken at the time of the movie was being shot. I believe this is part of the footage that Eleanor Copola shot. You can correct me if I’m wrong here. Here’s the quote. It’s a crime, the time I’m taking.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:13

    I’m not making the picture any better. It’s not making anything any better. Just getting me depressed and costing a lot of money. It’s a total waste of money, the time I’m taking. That’s a fascinating quote because it really hammers home the idea that is really kind of key and paramount to understanding how filming in Hollywood works, which is a time really literally does equal money every day you are on set.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:34

    You have people that you’re paying. You have, you know, locations. You’ve gotta pay for food and every everything else. I mean, it’s just time literally equals money. The time that he was spending was all piling up on his own balance sheet.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:49

    I mean, he was he was going deep in the hole on this one.
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:52

    That’s right. That’ll make a person crazy. You know, Francis, mortgaged his house. And who else does that by the way? You know, you gotta be in awe of the guy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:04

    We don’t know Who do we know in our own lives, our friends, and our family who gambles on their own creative endeavors with their own money to this extent. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. We should be in an an endless gratitude and it should be a model for all of us even though we’re not all millionaires we’re certainly thousand heirs and a hundred thousand heirs, and we can afford in our own way to gambled a little bit of that money on our own freedom. What kind of life are we living if we don’t?
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:42

    And the technology has to the point, right, as we were discussing, that Correct. I can theoretically go out and buy a thousand dollar iPhone.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:50

    Exactly right. I mean, people say, you know, how do I get into the movie business? You know, the people who wait for someone else to tap them on the shoulder and say, here’s your movie. Congratulations. They never get anywhere because that does not happen.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:05

    You know, Hollywood has to have a reason to want you. And that reason is the work that you do on your own time and money. Now in Francis’s day, you know, it was very hard to find the means to do that. But like you say, everyone has an iPhone now. And everyone can be making movies with a little bit of expense and a lot of time.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:31

    That was Francis’ vision for the future. The silver fish was for him like being inside an iPhone, and he was trying to create that technology before it even today. He would look at the world now and he would say, I saw this coming. He wanted film to be as ubiquitous as pen and paper. And in fact, it is.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:52

    Look at look at YouTube. That’s the world Frances was trying to create with Zoa Trope studios.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:59

    The whole section on pre visualization when you’re writing about one from the heart is really interesting because that is how, you know, I I have friends who work on the big comic book right? They’re always talking about the previs. We got the previs for this action scene, and then they kinda build everything around that, which is, again, it’s like we we look at it today, and I know I know some folks kinda sneer at it, like, oh, this is, you know, such a terrible way to make movies, but this is the future that Francis Ford Copla not only saw but wanted.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:26

    Get well to a degree. Really, he was doing it as a way to rehearse the script. And rehearse the cinematic ideas. It wasn’t the tail wagging the dog the way it is now with these comic book movies, which are reverse engineered to their own detriment by and large. Francis was using pre visualization as a sandbox to experiment with the movie before he had to commit to it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:00

    I’m glad you brought that up because Right there, you get what could be right with Hollywood and what unfortunately has gone wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:09

    I mentioned very brief. That his wife Eleanor was shooting a documentary while all this is going on and it is, you know, you can you can watch it now. It’s called hearts of darkness, a filmmakers apocalypse. It’s on the last two or three Blu ray four case that have come out for apocalypse now. I think I own it in three different formats.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:25

    It is fascinating to watch as well. But I I do kind of wonder how much the constant presence of cameras and audio recordings on him all the time, which I believe you had access to some of the stuff that has not been seen, right, in the Yes. In the archives.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:40

    Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:40

    I wonder how much that also kind of emphasized the crazy making nature of the film. I mean, just having a constant reminder that you are always on camera cannot possibly help with sanity when you’re in a situation like this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:57

    I think definitely definitely it did. It’s a great point. Also Eleanor’s emotional distance in the time of making the movie when Francis might have needed her more to be wife and she was acting more as filmmaker That was a strain Ron DeSantis, definitely, even though he’s the one who suggested she make the movie in the first place. And also Francis is a deep sense of shame and fear of embarrassment that’s maybe more acute than all the rest of us. So I think you are right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:31

    I think the public embarrassment of apocalypse really did humiliate him. And he went to great effort to keep journalists from the set of the movie. That’s partly why he asked Eleanor to make this promotional movie. He knew he needed to promote the movie, but he didn’t wanna put himself in the hands of a journalist who could embarrass him. Even working with him today, you know, he still regarded me with fear like a journalist.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:01

    I don’t think of myself as a journalist, but Francis did, and it added a little edge to our association. So I think, Sonny, you you put your finger on it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:12

    Let’s talk a little bit about the actual making of this book because you you did have access to some of the archives and also you you had access to Francis Ford Topola What were you looking for? What did you find? And how was he to talk to about the past and also what he’s working on now?
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:27

    He’s so exciting to talk to that I would forget that I actually had questions to ask him. Francis’s mind is so expansive. It’s hard to keep him on track. It’s hard to want to stay on track. And we did a lot of playing in ideas, which I thought was thrilling.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:50

    He has a great memory. Better than most people I’ve interviewed. So that was really useful. It was intimidating to speak to him because he’s He’s Frances Ford Copola, and also he can be, you know, intense. And, I got scared in many instances.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:09

    But he answered every question that I had to ask him. He didn’t shy away from anything, no matter how challenging, and he was honest to the best of his ability. He was a dream a dream subject.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:25

    Again, the name of the book is, the path to paradise you should really check it out if you’re interested in not only apocalypse now and also the filmmakers of that era, but just that whole scene, that whole business scene there’s an interesting element that kind of recurs this idea of Hollywood changing into something that people looked at from the outside almost as a sporting event where you had people breaking down box off numbers that never really cared about this sort of thing before, people who were reporting budgets on movies, that had never really cared about it before. I mean, I can go on Twitter right now and find a hundred people arguing about the box office success of Wanka versus the marbles and why one is being treated one way and why one is being treated the other way and their budgets and and, like, all of that is kind of tertiary from what is actually on the screen. It shouldn’t really interest anyone. But it does. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:19

    This period of time is the first between apocalypse now and one from the heart and Michael Camino’s Heaven Gate. You have this kind of weird moment in history that we’ve never really gotten away from where the business of Hollywood became as interesting to people as the art that came out of Hollywood in a in a very weird and real way. Why? Why did that why did that happen?
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:42

    Wyatt? Well, sunny, it’s a great question and a very important point. And like you say, we’re still suffering by it. It was a combination of things. It was a combination of the David Beagelman scandal in Columbia, which has been written about memorably in David McClintek’s book and decent exposure.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:59

    David Beagelman was ahead of Columbia, and he was stealing embezzling from the studio. It was that combination of a post watergate hangover, distrust of institutions, the beginnings of the, yuppie obsession with with money, the countries turn to the right under Reagan. And just the normal process of inflation in Hollywood. And budgets getting bigger. The trend towards little movies that characterize much of the seventies moving towards the blockbuster phenomenon of the eighties.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:36

    So all of these things coming together at once around this period are really, really unfair to filmmakers and unfair studios. It’s nobody’s business. Accept the person writing the check. How many zeros are on that bottom line? You know, you don’t walk into an artist studio in New York and say, wow.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:01

    How much did this canvas cost? How much did this paint cost? It’s a general hostility that the culture has towards Hollywood, a jealousy combination with, animosity towards any entity that would spend that much money on art or entertainment that violates our our puritanical instincts as work labor toiling Americans. We think, hey, that’s wasteful. But we don’t know what wasteful is.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:35

    We’ll never know what wasteful is. Was one from the heart a waste of money? Here we are talking about it now. So these things are really just ways for journalists to sell stories and flagellate the movie business.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:50

    It’s interesting too, though. Because again, like, as I mentioned before, I knew two things about one from the heart, and one that is that it is regarded as a as a artistic, not quite hit, but also that it was a business fiasco. I mean, those are, like, the two things I knew about it without without having actually watched it. And again, this is why one reason why I love your book is because it creates a more interesting context and gave me a real desire to finally get get out there and watch
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:15

    Thanks, Sunny.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:16

    Let us shift slightly because there are still interesting business aspects of Hollywood to think about. And one thing that comes up time and again in your book is Coppola’s relationship with the unions Oh. Which is a really fascinating story. You know, early on when he’s making the rain people, he’s rushing around trying to avoid having to deal with teamsters, doesn’t wanna he doesn’t wanna settle in any one place for too long to to have to incur those expenses. There’s some talk about how staying away from the unions allowed editors to do more interesting things with apocalypse now because if you’re working under the strictures of the union and it, like, Only certain people can cut certain things, and it it creates problems.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:56

    But at the same time, it seemed like he actually ends up having pretty good relationships with the unions or at least the people in the unions. Right? By the time one from the heart is being made, you know, he’s negotiating deals with them to kind of defer payments for a little bit to, you know, keep things going, which is basically unheard of, you don’t get a lot of stories like that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:15

    Yeah. No. That was a Capra esque moment in the history of Hollywood. But it’s sunny. First of all, thank you so much for reading this book so carefully.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:25

    You know, it’s such a pleasure to speak to someone who really gets it down to the nitty gritty of the unions. It’s an important part of this because Francis on the one hand, of course, wants to protect his collaborators, and that’s what a union theoretically is there for. On the other hand, the unions in requiring, you know, the financial entity to pay minimums and keeping workers in their creative lane doesn’t allow for a certain low budget of filmmaker to proceed comfortably at the level that Francis wanted to nor does it allow filmmakers to say, well, I’m not in the writers’ guild. Can I write a movie and get it made? In the context of a union sanctified movie, it becomes very tricky to work at a certain level of independence.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:17

    You can’t afford it. And so it becomes anti creativity in some ways, the unions. But that moment at one from the heart when Francis literally couldn’t afford to pay his crew is a controversial and beautiful moment because they did volunteer to work for free. They understood that it was worth the creative undertaking to forgo their allegiance to the union in favor of their allegiance to Francis. Controversial, like I say, but given that it was pretty much unanimous, a very moving episode.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:57

    I’ve always been fascinated by the tension in Hollywood between unions protecting people from being abused, but also, like, you know, you hear the stories about directors who can’t even handle the cameras because the cinematographers are
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:10

    Exactly. Exactly. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:13

    One thing you touch on a little bit that, again, I’ve always been very interested in is the relationship between Copa and Lucas and, you know, that kind of both business and personal and artistic relationship that they had. And one thing that kind of keeps coming up is Francis Portopla being annoyed that his friend George will not help keep his various projects afloat financially, but also understanding that that’s just not part of his nature. And Lucas, in turn, learning from the experiences of making THX Eleven thirty eight and also American graffiti that ownership is the key. You have to own the things. You learn from Frances Ford Coplet that, like, if you don’t own what you make, then you are apt to lose control of it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:55

    And you just look at the two ways their careers have gone with George Lucas making Lucas film and selling it to Disney for four billion dollars. And Frances Ford Copa creating a winery, and that’s how he kind of, you know, makes his living. The question here, I guess, is what did the two learn from each other and how has their relationship maintained and evolved over the years?
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:17

    They certainly complimented each other, but you don’t really see evidence of Lucas in Francis, and you don’t really see evidence of Francis and Lucas. Francis is a risk taker and a kamikaze and a visionary, and Lucas is shrewd and deliberate and conservative. One could imagine what beautiful things they would do together if they could offset each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They really are perfect yin and yang. And I would love to see what would have happened if they joined forces in later iterations of zoetrope.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:01

    It’s just unfortunate that Lucas’ fear took over the rest of his career and we see his artistic ambition narrowing as he becomes more successful financially, whereas the opposite is true of Francis. France never stops experimenting, even at his greatest point of financial success selling the winery, which he just did for apparently around a billion dollars. Now here he goes and makes megalopolis with a hundred and forty some millions of his own dollars. Do we see George doing that? I don’t think so.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:40

    So I really believe that Lucas led us down And Frances didn’t.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:46

    I’m just curious. You don’t you don’t mention it in the books, so maybe it didn’t come up. But does Copa have any thoughts on what Lucas has been doing over the last five, ten years. Again, he sells Lucasfilm for four billion dollars, and, you know, he he has his various philanthropical projects, but there is not this great explosion of experimental George Lucas Cinema that was, you know, kind of theorized might happen after that sale.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:10

    Yeah. Not not even experimental, but heartfelt. Francis and I did not speak much about it. I felt I could read between the lines. And, of course, they’re friends and they always will be friends and they see this differently.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:27

    And look, Lucas isn’t wrong. We live in the world he created, not the world Francis created. So it must be said that even though Lucas dropped the zoetrope vision, the Lucas film vision, like you said, four billion dollars. That’s our world. And you gotta admire that even if you don’t like it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:48

    I will say that as a rabid consumer of various Copala wines, I feel at partly responsible for the, creation of Megalopolis. I’ll take I’ll take my kudos now. You’re a producer. Was everything I I wanted to ask. I always like to close these interviews by asking if there’s anything I should have asked.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:05

    If there’s anything you think folks should know about your book, the world of cinema in general, Francis Ford Copa in particular, just anything.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:12

    We talked about so many great things, but the utopian aspect of making movies as Francis envisions it is essential to who he is and his vision of the future. The way that we can collaborate as filmmakers. Each film production is a rehearsal for a new city. Think of all the people it takes to make a movie. There are cities that are smaller than film crews.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:41

    So we can learn not just how to make movies, but how to collaborate, how to live together as creative people with all different kinds of creative strengths. Unlike the other arts, filmmaking requires creative individuals with all different strengths, visual, verbal, financial, political, making a movie folds all of these things into one. So virtually anyone who’s good at anything can find a place if they want in the little trial city that is a film production. And that’s part of what this book is about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:19

    As you mentioned, the utopian nature of Yes. American zoetrope and and you know, there there are stories in the book about him bringing high school kids just, like, whisking them away. Like, the pied piper over to the studio to, you know, find something to do. Find find something that interests you. Just fascinating.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:37

    It’s a fascinating little period of time. And unfortunate, it did not maybe work out as well as everyone would have hoped, but Nice to have for that that moment.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:47

    Nice to have. That’s right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:48

    Sam, thank you for being on the show. I really appreciate it. The name of the book, is path to paradise, a Francis Ford Copillist story. Everyone should check it out if you’re interested. You can walk on over to the Barnes and Noble now and pick it up.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:00

    That’s what I did. A couple days ago when I was getting ready for this. So you don’t have to rely on Amazon shipping right before Christmas. Well, it’s close. Close.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:08

    I don’t know. Just go buy a copy and in hand, throw it in somebody’s stock and you won’t be distressed. Sam, thanks for being on
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:16

    Thank you, sunny. It was a pleasure. Thank you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:19

    Thank you to Charlie for letting me sit in. Always always a pleasure to be on the flagship podcast. We’ll be back tomorrow with another episode. We’ll see you guys then.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:27

    This is the beautiful friend. This is the my only friend No, say do not surprise the end. I’ll never look into your Okay. Can you friendly, and many of some strangers have been up. Desperate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:26

    Law stint of Roman. Willingness and pain. And all the