I was a little surprised that Steven Soderbergh came to Comic Con this year, but I’m pretty sure I did a spit take when it was announced that Francis Ford Coppola would also host a panel. The GODFATHER and JACK director brought Hall H a first look at his latest experimental film TWIXT, an original horror tale inspired by one of Coppola’s own dreams. And fittingly for a master filmmaker like himself, Coppola produced one of the most unique and inspiring panels I’ve ever seen at Comic Con.
Turns out the Poe masks were actually super fancy 3D glasses when you put them on, which came in handy as TWIXT is partially a 3D movie. (More on the “partially” later.) Coppola briefly discussed the technology and the film’s genesis and influences, but we were quickly treated to about 5-7 minutes of random footage from throughout the film.
Now that movies are digital, Coppola has the ability to “change the experience to suit the audience” in real time. Using software called Isadora, originally designed to help choreographers coordinate video with dancers, Coppola can actually “perform” TWIXT in front of a live crowd by altering the length or order of the scenes, using alternate takes of dialogue, cutting sequences entirely and more—all with live musical accompaniment by Dan Deacon. Theoretically, Coppola can give you more of what you want. If the audience is reacting well to a scene, he can make it longer. If they clearly hate a character or aren’t into a certain plot point, he can cut some screen time. The experiment is designed so that each performance of the movie will be completely different and a new experience for the audience.
I’d like to say that everything went off without a hitch, but like with most dress rehearsals, especially ones involving new technology, there were definitely some glitches. Coppola couldn’t get the software to respond and had to restart the demonstration a few times. His excitement also led to him to want to try new things (“I’m going to push this and see what happens”) which led to us seeing the same scenes about 5 or 6 times in a row, including a “shuffle” version that made zero sense. But the filmmaker’s enthusiasm was infectious and the idea so novel that Coppola never lost the audience at any point during the panel. He, Deacon and Kilmer also had a very good sense of humor when things went wrong. Deacon would yell “The new age of cinema has begun!” when something didn’t work, Coppola resorted to singing the “Nosferatu song” to kill time and even Kilmer jumped in to do some schtick while the other two tried to fix things. Everyone was clearly having fun with it, including the audience.
Other fun tidbits:
- Coppola says he’s always loved 3D from HOUSE OF WAX on, but hates wearing the glasses. His belief is that movies shouldn’t be entirely 3D, only sequences that make sense and would benefit the most from it. He said watched most of AVATAR without the glasses and only put them on when he thought the movie really used it.
-On his return to the genre after 1992’s DRACULA, Coppola said he’s always loved gothic horror and the tradition of gothic romance from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson. He learned all about it from his mentor Roger Corman (who made FCC wash his car every week) and read 9 year olds Bram Stoker’s Dracula while working as a camp counselor.
-Though his last few films have been low budget “art” films he financed himself, Coppola would like to work with a bigger budget again but would need the same stringent controls he has now. He’s actually working on bigger budget movie right now, claiming he’s getting old and has things he still wants to express with a bigger canvas.
-Bob Stencil asked if Coppola could promise that nobody will ever remake THE GODFATHER, but the director admitted that he doesn’t have control over the rights. He did stress how much he hates remakes because that money could be going to telling new stories. That statement was met by huge applause.
-Music and theater are thousands of years old, while cinema is comparatively still a baby. Coppola believes that the medium still has many more surprises other than 3D in store, stuff our children will invent. 3D is not a magic fix for the industry.