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Gia Coppola
Gia Coppola wears dress by Saint Laurent ParisPhotography by Charlotte Wales

The Directors Bureau selects Gia Coppola

The far-out film collective sets their eye on fresh new talent Gia Coppola, who is spearheading a new wave of filmmakers

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day.

Roman Coppola put his thang down, flipped it and reversed it by founding director's collective The Directors Bureau, a who's who of directing superstars like Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola and CANADA. For Dazed, The Directors Bureau chart the changes in indie cinema, and challenge young filmmakers to pick up a camera.

Film family royalty, uncle Roman Coppola: "Last night I was driving along and saw the Palo Alto billboard up on the roadside marquee and it was such a thrill because someone whom I love, my niece, made something so interesting. It’s a wonderful movie – beautifully observed – about a group of teenagers on the verge of transitioning to adulthood. It's really well done and people have been enjoying it."

"I guess there’s a free-ness similar to being a teenager,” says Gia Coppola on her experience of being a first time filmmaker. “You’re experimenting and you don’t really understand all the repercussions of everything. Being a little naïve can work to your advantage.” With a film education as enviable as Gia’s (she is the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola and niece of Sofia Coppola) you’d think naïve wouldn’t be in her vocabulary, but the self-proclaimed “socially awkward and shy” photography graduate maintains that making her directorial debut, Palo Alto, an adaptation of James Franco’s collection of short stories, was still pretty intimidating. “When I met James, I hadn’t thought about making a feature film. I had sent him my photographs and he really liked them, and then he sent me his book. I was talking to him about Freaks and Geeks and how I had just finished college and had enough separation to understand my awkward teen years better, but still feel very close to it. I loved his book and he said it might be crazy but he thought I could direct it.”

“When I met James (Franco) I hadn’t thought about making a feature film. I loved his book and he said it might be crazy but he thought I could direct it” – Gia Coppola

The coming-of-age film follows April (Emma Roberts) and Teddy (Jack Kilmer) as they navigate high school and parties, refusing to admit they have a crush on each other. April gets smitten with her soccer coach, Mr B, portrayed by Franco. Gia surrounded herself with a cast and crew of people she knew. She even went to elementary school with Kilmer. “In the sixth grade you're chosen to mentor a younger class and I was assigned his!" she laughs. "My mom knew his parents and would look out for him." In one scene, Teddy drops by his friend’s house and ends up getting high with his dad (Chris Messina), who then starts hitting on him. Messina didn’t follow the script as intended and Jack wasn’t prepared. She says he got genuinely ‘freaked out.’ “I feel very protective of him,” says Gia, whose voice turns noticeably warmer whenever his name comes up. “We were both going through it together, our first film experience, and I’m so proud that he really opened up and was willing to try.”

Later, Dev Hynes came on board to compose the score as Blood Orange. “He taught me to take the kids's emotions seriously and not belittle them,” recalls Gia, who says there were a number of intense scenes to translate from script to screen. “Those parts were important not to shy away from.”

Speaking of shying away, Gia says she couldn’t watch any other films during the editing process of Palo Alto. “I felt like I had ruined something that I enjoyed so much. I couldn’t see a movie as a whole anymore, it just felt like a bunch of edits.” As time went by, that disappeared. But did those cut up pieces of footage mould into the movie the director set out to make? “I think there’s always this idea in your head but you have to allow the film to take its own course. At first it felt a little odd, then I understood that that’s actually the good and fun thing about making movies.” 

Palo Alto is out in cinemas 3 October