The costume design students raised a question on what inspired Coppola to make the Bram Stoker’s Dracula a costume-driven film.
‘My idea was crazy: to make the costumes to be the set. I didn’t want to have sets for the film, only space. I decided to make the whole film on the stage. All of the Dracula was shot in a studio.’ One reason to that, according to the film director, was that the financiers were worried the film wouldn’t be finalized, or it would cost too much.
‘I had this concept to make the film in the style of the early motion pictures. It was made in the style the movies were made those times, when the Dracula story was written, in a studio. So, the costumes must be made very interesting: they were the sets’, reveals Coppola.
Production designer needs an ability to ‘translate’
The students were also inquiring what Coppola shares and talks with the production designer; how he gets them to create what he expects and needs.
The filmmaker tells a story from back in times, about him hiring a production designer for the film Godfather, who had experience in theatre. But then, however, he felt it was wrong, and he chose another person who had never done theatre, but who had all new, fresh ideas. That opened his eyes.
‘I realized his ideas were really good, and understood I need to get my own ideas off my head and see that the others have good ideas. See, my job is to be responsible of everything, but I don’t have to decide on every single detail.’
He says he’s happy to give the credits to the ones whose ideas the good choices have been.
What will be needed from the future producers, then? What should the students focus on to be good producers?
‘It’s much about money: what is needed and can be had to create the film the way the filmmaker wants to make it. You’ve got to translate the idea, the wish into several individual details. A good producer will and has to limit the high expectations’, says Coppola.
Sound design is poetic
Francis Ford Coppola likes to talk about sound design. He tells about the time when he started working with film in San Fransisco, having not much money, him and his assistant George Lucas and others.
‘We knew that, in the movie, picture and sound had equal importance for the audience, but the sound was cheaper to make. We decided to have our own studio for making the sound. So, movies that we made had great soundtracks’, Coppola rejoices.
He underlines the sound does not have to be that literal, but it could be more poetic approach to sound. ‘The beauty in that is to try catch the emotion. Things don’t have to be what they are, they can be what you want them to be.’
The cinematographer students asked how Coppola gets everyone in his crew to go to the same direction. He reveals his method is to always involve the people from the beginning. He wants to do some pre-visualization first, to see to what extent to sketch the scenes.
‘My rule is to have the person, the actor, for three weeks but I might get them only for one or two weeks, just to sit in a room together and we read the script together, and then we start learning from each other. We play theater games, improvisation, to get to know each other and to find the idea for the character. Then we make the scene.’
He says it’s important to find and create the joint ‘memories’ for the characters, those that bind them together.
‘Remember: the emotion is in the people, the audience, not in the film. It just blocks it.’