December 31, 2014

Video: Do You Lack Confidence in Screenwriting? So Does Francis Ford Coppola

When we think about which directors really molded and shaped cinema in the 1970s, Francis Ford Coppola's name is one of the first that comes to mind.

Having written and directed such masterpieces as The Godfather, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now, Coppola is certainly a voice in the cinematic community that we should all be listening to, and luckily we have the opportunity to do just that.

Filmmakers Carlo Lavagna and Roberto de Paolis caught up with the legendary director at the Marrakesh Film Festival to produce this short video interview for NOWNESS, in which Coppola explains his writing process -- from what time of day he writes to the different forms his stories take before they finally end up as a screenplay.

Like Coppola says, screenwriting can be learned. You can study all the books, screenplays, and movies, spend hours practicing your craft until you are finally good at putting stories together. However, you'll never get there without a little confidence to fuel all of your effort. That's why I think the greatest thing Coppola shares in the interview is the fact that he, as a filmmaker, at times feels less than confident in his ability to write a screenplay.

The man who wrote one of the greatest films of all time, The Godfather, feels this way. I don't know about you, but that makes me feel good -- not in a schadenfreude kind of way, but in a "Hey! You too?" kind of way. If a master of the craft can struggle with feeling confident in his creative ability, then the real hurdle to jump over in screenwriting is not obtaining talent, but being able to cope with the fear that we don't (or will never) have any.     

Your Comment


Great Lesson from one of the greatest masters!

but... (and this goes to the guys who recorded and edit the interview) REALLY GUYS?! You have FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA and you don't have a decent tripod to record him?! and you do this weird editing and.... THAT QUALITY?!

December 31, 2014 at 12:41PM, Edited December 31, 12:41PM


This is all true about the quality, professionals interviewing professionals makes nothing good. ahah
Like "it doesn't matter, it's not a work stuff".
However it seems it was shot with a smartphone, so improvised.

But the most important is his evidence: work and confidence.
Thanks Coppola.

December 31, 2014 at 12:52PM

Baptiste Jaze
Camera operator / Director -- corporate events

"Ideas are the pasta of life" - Francis Ford Coppola, 2010

I'm gonna frame that.

December 31, 2014 at 1:01PM


People often think of a treatment as a one- to five-page summary you do as part of your "Please give me money" package. But I suspect that, in the good old days, treatments did tend to be longer and to serve a creative purpose as well, fleshing ideas out in your mind and allowing you to communicate more easily with collaborators. Robert McKee mentions somewhere that the treatment for Casablanca was book-length.

That's probably the main thing I took from the interview. I think if you did have Coppola's discipline, to convert your draft screenplay into a short story and back again, that could make a big difference to the quality of your film.

By the way, someone told me once, maybe McKee again, that, for every movie he makes, Spielberg vomits before principal photography starts. Don't know if that's true or not, but wouldn't be surprised.

December 31, 2014 at 3:40PM, Edited December 31, 3:40PM

Adrian Tan

He's probably my all time favorite but I think you must acknowledge that Coppola wrote Godfather WITH Mario Puzo, who wrote the novel.

April 8, 2016 at 11:47PM