Always the influential pioneer when it comes to moviemaking–Francis Ford Coppola came back from the ardors of filming Apocalypse Now and said, “there has to be a better way of doing this”–Coppola returned to Comic-Con for the first time since Dracula with another horror flick, Twixt. But this one was a self-financed indie project, digitally shot and edited on locations near his Napa Valley winery. And while the veteran director won a standing ovation in Hall H, by the end of his presentation there were far more empty seats than at the beginning.
UPDATED: Video of panel is below.
Professor Coppola gave the fans a history lesson about the wonders of live music and theater before the advent of recordings, and suggested that perhaps a little live theater at the movies would be a good thing in this canned, pre-marketed age. After showing one 3-D promo (with all of Hall H wearing Edgar Allen Poe 3-D paper mask/programs) for Twixt— in which Val Kilmer, playing a seedy B-horror writer, is invited by the sheriff (Bruce Dern) of a small town to help him solve some serial vampire killings– Coppola showed the footage again, controlled by his iPad, with different versions of the scenes, and live narration by him and music mixed by composer/musician Dan Deacon. At one point he and Kilmer sang along with the Tom Waits’ song “Nosferatu.”
At a later interview, Coppola explained how he wants to take this movie on the road and conduct a live band in the orchestra pit of seven or so theaters in key cities around the country–ideally with three screens, a la Abel Gance’s Napoleon, which he helped to rerelease in this country. “I was an early proponent that the cinema had to be electronic, 40 years ago,” he said. “The cinema utimately became electronic and digital.” The road show would be used as a marketing tool, he said, “one of the problems today is no one knows your films exist.”
Ideally the tour would take place a month before the film opens. He had hoped for a Halloween opening after a world premiere in Toronto (which has invited the film), but there aren’t any available screens, he said. “Maybe we’ll do it in the spring,” he said. The film is not interactive, in the sense that there are different plots to choose, but rather “more malleable,” he said, with different lengths and versions of scenes to choose on any given night. “Cinema should become more like theater, with the live element. I feel everything is too canned nowadays,” he said.
Coppola will cut a promo to post on the internet as early as next week, and will be ready to show the film to distributors after he locks the final print on August 15. “It’s an unusual film, a little wacky,” he admitted, so he wanted buyers to see it in its final form. He might conduct the live film experiment with Twixt, if he can line up his ducks, at Telluride, but not Toronto, where he will just show the film in 3-D. Only one sequence in the middle and at the end are actually 3-D; moviegoers can take their glasses on and off as they see fit. Ben Chaplin stars as Edgar Allen Poe, who appears to Kilmer in dreams, and Elle Fanning, star of Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, plays a winsome vampire with buck teeth and braces. Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro) co-stars.
Coppola has a “day job,” he said, and makes personal movies knowing he won’t make his money back necessarily. “I do it for the fun of it.” He always learns something from his films. “Working on a film tells you something you never understood about your life.” And this one? “It’s about loss.”
He’s happily working on another screenplay on a bigger canvas that would require more outside financing–“but who knows? I’m getting old,” he said.