A Film Legend Thrives: Francis Ford Coppola

At this point in his life, Francis Ford Coppola approaches film making the way a veteran traveler plans a great trip: it must be original (why follow the tourist crowds?), it must have a personal element (the best travel experiences mean we learn something about ourselves),  and it must be self financed (you choose where you want to go and what you want to do, not what someone else wants because they are paying for it).

These days, when Mr. Coppola makes a film, the self financing gives him creative control, the personal focus means he also seeks to learn something about himself, and being original challenges him to chart a new direction without the short cut of adapting someone else’s work.

I met Mr. Coppola by chance in Placencia, a small fishing village in Belize, several years ago, where he also has a small eco-resort. “Of course, doing something original is daunting,” he says, adding that his three self-imposed requirements for film making often take him to distant countries, where he can interact with a cultural tradition different from his own.

In fact, the idea for his newest film, Twixt, a Gothic tale about a writer with a declining career who arrives in a small town as part of a book tour and gets caught up in a murder mystery, came to him in a dream during a scouting trip he took to Istanbul.

“I went out to dinner with some locals and had a great time with them involving the consumption of ‘raki,’ the traditional liquor,” he explains. “That night, under its influence, I had a particularly vivid dream — and during the dream, I kept thinking: ‘This is a gift. I am being given a story in this dream.’ Suddenly, the call to prayer poured in from a nearby mosque, nearly knocking me out of bed, and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’ve got to sleep. I need to get to the end of my dream.’ Of course, I never was able to get back to that dream, but it was the seed of the story that became Twixt.

As I write this, I am traveling from my home in Maine west to San Francisco, where Mr. Coppola will personally be on hand to talk about his new film during the opening night — tonight, Friday, August 10 — at the very hip Sundance Kabuki Cinema, where the audience will also be able to enjoy some Coppola wines while they enjoy the show.

This is a rare chance to join one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers and a veteran global traveler during the screening of his newest creative work. “I continued to search for a story ending,” Mr. Coppola says. “I realized that we are all haunted by the little ghost that was in my dream that night in Istanbul. Is she what we lose in our lives? Is she beauty, is she truth, or fragile youth itself…?”

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Maybe I should start paying more attention to my own dreams when I travel.

See Twixt at the Kabuki from August 10-16.

Costas Christ is Editor at Large at National Geographic Traveler, where his column, “Tales From The Frontier” appears regularly. 

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