The Conversation

Just read this wonderful interview with Francis Ford Coppola by Ariston Anderson. It's funny, and inspiring, to think of someone like Coppola needing and actually having a day job. He's in the wine business. In an interview I saw with Erykah Badu ages ago, she was saying the same thing – never give up the day job. It's hard work, but it keeps you free. The kind of freedom they both demonstrate is as much in the mind as it is in reality. It's the freedom to keep doing what you do, and finding ways to do it, no matter what else happens. This morning we were talking about Guns 'n Roses's Chinese Democracy, an album which actually cost a fortune to produce – Geffen gave Rose $1m to finish the album, promising to double that if he did so within a certain time frame... $2m for a product that would then go on to sell millions. And then I read this quote from Coppola's interview on Kottke. I'm going to post it again, for its sheer force and relevance. And the only reason he can actually credibly say this is that it is one of his three rules for film-making to always self-finance his projects. He has figured it out, time and time again. And still now, after 45 years of figuring it out, says the single biggest hurdle to making art is self-confidence. Not a lack of resources, but a struggle with self – with the belief that your idea is valid and that your work is worth doing.

How does an aspiring artist bridge the gap between distribution and commerce?
We have to be very clever about those things. 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.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.

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