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Five tips for aspiring directors from Gia Coppola

What we learned from sitting down with the director and photographer for Persol

Being born into something of a dynasty has got to be hard, especially when that dynasty is in an industry as cut throat as the movies. Gia Coppola has lived that reality, and managed to make her own mark on the history of the Coppola name by writing and directing her first feature film Palo Alto, as well as notable music videos for Dev Hynes’ Blood Orange and work with global fashion brands.

There’s something to be said for the way that Coppola has taken her experiences and allowed them to inform her own career, finding lessons to take from each member of her family who she spent time with as she grew up. Time on set with her grandfather (Francis Ford) and her aunt (Sophia) showed her how there are different ways to be a director, and time spent with her mother who was a costume designer instilled a respect for the way costume can shape the tone of a movie and help to tell the story.

We recently sat down with Gia as part of Persol’s Good Point, Well Made series – inspired by Andy Warhol’s screen tests, where he would interview the most exciting faces of the 60s, only this time we’re asking questions submitted by our readers.

Scroll to see the five tips for aspiring filmmakers we took away.

EVERY EXPERIENCE CAN BE A LEARNING ONE

We all have to do things that we aren’t very keen on from time to time, but what we take away from those experiences could be really useful. Coppola has worked on film sets in many roles, starting off acting, then moving in to the costume departments. Each experience, while perhaps not her favourite, taught her something she was able to use when she did make it to the director’s chair. When talking about working with Stacey Baddat in the costume department for Somewhere, Coppola reflected on the value of what she saw; “There was so much learning about the hours and all the runs you have to do. And just seeing my aunt on set as well, and how she really keeps a tone that’s true to herself and her personality made me feel I could do this too, instead of seeing my grandfather have a very different male presence. He likes to get loud and rowdy.”

USE WHAT YOU HAVE AT YOUR DISPOSAL

During the filming of Palo Alto, Coppola’s debut feature film, the budget was stretched so thin they “had to use (her) own bedroom for Emma Roberts’ character.” When it comes to creating work that you love and that inspires you and the people around you, sometimes you have to just look at what you have and find a way to make it work.

INSPIRATION CAN COME FROM ANYWHERE

Inspiration is a tricky thing to find, but Coppola hardly seems to be short on it. It seems she attributes this to her time studying photography at Bard under Stephen Shore: “He taught me to love learning, to be inspired by books and movies and nature and so many things that can contribute to your art or your ideas.”

FOCUS ON THE PRESENT WHEN YOU’RE JUGGLING LOTS OF PROJECTS

In the age of multi-hyphenate creatives, learning to juggle projects is very key. For someone like Coppola, working on multiple projects at once is simply inevitable, and as such, she has to find ways to cope with that. How does she manage this? “I always try to stay very much in the present moment, it’s not easy, but to not worry about future or be resentful of the past.” So, let’s all try that this week.  

FIND A WAY TO RELAX

“My family has a place in Napa Valley, so that’s always my sanctuary,” Coppola said. “In the summer, we can go swimming in the lake, it’s just so much about being together with the family, cooking and watching movies, reading, just being lazy.” Work life balance is something that most people struggle with, and it’s really important that we all kind of get to grips with it. ASAP. Okay, so you might not have a Californian countryside getaway, but do whatever it is you need to, in order to get that balance right. Take some time to yourself. Get off your phone. Appreciate the people and the world around you. Just find what works for you, and do some relaxing. All work and no play makes the world very, very dull, after all.