Friday, May 19, 2017

Eleanor Coppola Makes Her First Movie

Eleanor Coppola Makes Her Directorial Debut at Age 81
by Janet J. Lawler

Eleanor Coppola Directs
Eleanor Coppola has a famous last name, but she's quick to note she doesn't carry the Coppola DNA.

She's only married to Francis Ford Coppola ("The Godfather") for fifty-four years now. Oh, and she's also the mother of Sophia Coppola ("Lost in Translation"), but Eleanor has her own artistic voice.

She'd like you to give it a listen by seeing her new film "Paris Can Wait".  It opens this weekend in select theaters.
Eleanor and Francis
Eleanor Coppola is more known for her documentaries such as "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse", which focused on the insanity surrounding the making of her husband's movie "Apocalypse Now".  She also wrote a book about it ("Notes: The Making of Apocalypse Now").

But her new movie "Paris Can Wait" stars Diane Lane.  It's Eleanor's debut as a narrative feature film director.   She produced and wrote the movie too.  And if that isn't commendable enough, she's also 81 years old and venturing into a new world.

How hard was it to get this small movie made in today's Hollywood?

As Eleanor noted in recent interviews, it wasn't easy getting financing for her original story (loosely based on a road trip she took in France with a business associate of Francis Ford Coppola's while in Cannes).  The "Paris Can Wait" script didn't contain action, violence, sex or explosions.

Instead, it's a breezy, lovely film reminding us to slow down and savor every moment --  to venture off the main road of your life and explore new terrain, neighbors, food, scenery, art, see how others live and, maybe, just maybe, find a moment to breathe.

Boy, can we use a movie like that right now.  I could use a long weekend excursion through France.   And who better to spend a road trip with than Diane Lane?  In the French country side?  Sipping a glass of wine?
 "Paris Can Wait" is out.

Be sure to find it in your town and buy a ticket.   See it on the BIG screen.  Don't wait for it to land on Netflix or iTunes.

Not only because the director's last name is Coppola, but because Eleanor poured her heart and soul into making this film.  She took a chance on us, the mature movie audience, to find it.  It's a cinematic treat.  So, savor it like a French truffle.

These type of original movies won't be around for long.


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Monday, April 03, 2017

by Janet J. Lawler

The Black List recently sponsored the above titled talk by Lindsay Doran at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.  Great audience turn out and an impressive talk.   
Writer/Producer Lindsay Doran
Lindsay Doran, a former film executive and Oscar-nominated writer for "Sense and Sensibility" knows a thing or two about storytelling.  She's been around movie making most of her life, in some form or another, and makes a living these days as a story consultant, as the Script Whisperer, for major studio projects.

Lindsay's talk focused on many things, but mainly on how most dramatic movies win Oscars and Golden Globes, while happy, uplifting movies (like, say, for instance, 2008's Mamma Mia which grossed over $600 million dollars at the global box office) get snubbed or mocked by Hollywood.
Why is that?  Why do depressing dramas win more Oscars than comedies year after year?  Are we conditioned to think sad is better?  More award-worthy?  It's no wonder Moonlight beat La La Land this year.  Maybe it wasn't such a shocker after all.

So, what's a screenwriter to do?  Stay away from the happy ending?  The feel-good movie? Is a good cry valued more on the big screen than a good belly laugh?   It looks that way, according to Lindsay's research.  She probed Hollywood executives, agents and producers about the above questions and found that most favored sad over uplifting stories, pessimism over optimism, and goal-driven flicks over relationship movies.

But how do audiences feel?  What are we craving when we pluck down money at the box office?  With the success of many children's animation movies maybe we are chasing the happy endings.
Lindsay suggests screenwriters consider the psychological benefits of writing more positive stories, heartwarming tales and happy endings for our characters.  To ask the question, what is the human moment in your script?  What are the relationships worth writing about here?  Will a movie about characters still make money?

Yes, Lindsay Doran says.  Most moviegoers remember "the relationship" part of a movie rather than the goal accomplished.  She noted iconic movies like Dirty Dancing (it's not Jennifer Grey flying into Patrick's Swayze's arms at the end of that movie that really mattered, but instead, her father recognizing his daughter's talent and her becoming a young adult); along with Rocky (how we tend to forget that Rocky Balboa actually LOST the fight to Apollo Creed in the original Rocky movie... but it's still uplifting to audiences forty years later because Rocky, instead of beating Creed, found self-worth and true love at the end.)  Adrian!  That's what we remember (and the great training montage).  

So then, when you sit down to write your next script, it doesn't have to be a downer to move people.  It can be a musical, a comedy, a happy fairy tale... just don't expect it to win the Oscar.  But you never know, La La Land came awfully close this year (and even won it for Best Picture for a few brief shining moments!).

Until next time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


It's that glitzy time of year.  The elections are over, the inauguration in the history books, so now it's time to get some much-needed pizzazz in our lives.

Who better to do that for Americans than that little gold man Oscar?

Mark your calendar for the Oscars airing on February 26th, 2017 on ABC.
Make plans to attend an Oscar party to watch or stay home in your pajamas comfy on the sofa.  I'm  more the stay home and watch it on the sofa type (I really want to watch the show and not socialize), but this year we may break tradition, and watch The Oscars at a friend's house.  (Talking only during commercials).  Yeah, that won't last long.  Plus, I'll have to dress up, although no need to be fitted for a designer gown... yet.  A girl has to dream... speaking of... 

My favorite dreamy movie to win the Oscars is La La Land.  It received 14 noms.  Strictly speaking as a self-anointed dreamer, this movie truly lassoed my heart from its odd opening number.  I loved the direction, the cinematography, the acting, the homage to old Hollywood and Los Angeles (being new to California I'm still in awe of this town).  A musical about following your bliss may not be your particular cup of tea, but considering the tense climate we're all living through right now in our beautiful nation (and world), an uplifting song and dance movie sweeping the Oscars may not be such a bad thing. 
A shout out also for Moonlight (a deeply moving story with gripping performances).  I'm letdown that Taraji P. Henson didn't get nominated for Hidden Figures.  She gave an amazing, heartwarming performance and a complete departure from her character Cookie that she's best known for playing on Empire.  Don't miss Hidden Figures.  It's eye opening and will take you to the moon and back.

No nomination for Annette Bening in 20th Century Women?!  Surprising and disappointing.

Before the end of next month,  go see as many great movies and performances that you can fit in.  Read the nominated screenplays and cast your ballot either home alone online or with your friends.  Either way, have a wonderful time and forget the world's troubles at least for one magical night.

Here is the complete list of Oscar nominees.
Read best screenplays for free here