Francis Ford Coppola’s Advice to Young Filmmakers (2008)

“I think my best advice is really contained in the story of what happened to me when I wrote the screenplay of the film, Patton. One of the reasons they explained that they didn’t like it was the opening. I had this unusual opening where the character Patton comes right up on front of a big flag and makes a speech. And he’s a four-star general and he has medals and awards and pistols, and he’s making the speech. And they said to me, ‘It’s very confusing, this speech. First of all, to start a movie not only with a speech like that, but then in the scene right after it, he only has two stars and he doesn’t have the medals. It’ll be very confusing and we don’t like the beginning.’ Well, eventually, they did find an actor who liked it, George C. Scott, and a director who that opening appealed to, and who shot it wonderfully. And that is considered one of the most effective openings in the movie canon, which means – young people – that the things you get fired for when you’re young are the same things you win awards for when you’re old. So you have to be very courageous about your ideas because it’s not their fault. It’s just that when you come up with something really good, it means it’s different, and it’s different from what they expect. They’re likely to fire you or discredit you, but years later, if you survive, they’ll bring it out as one of the great things you did.”

(Excerpted from Hollywood’s Best Film Directors)

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