In a Word

Cross-posted on

I’m revamping the DVD menu for the fundraising sample of A Life’s Work, and as I look at that canvas, I keep thinking about a snippet from a wonderful interview with Francis Ford Coppola that’s been floating around the Internet. In it the interviewer asks, “What is the one thing to keep in mind when making a film?” Coppola’s response:

When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In “The Godfather,” it was succession. In “The Conversation,” it was privacy. In “Apocalypse,” it was morality.

The reason it’s important to have this is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair? Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme is always helps you.

I remember in “The Conversation,” they brought all these coats to me, and they said: Do you want him to look like a detective, Humphrey Bogart? Do you want him to look like a blah blah blah. I didn’t know, and said the theme is ‘privacy’ and chose the plastic coat you could see through. So knowing the theme helps you make a decision when you’re not sure which way to go.

That see through raincoat Hackman wears was an unassailably brilliant choice.

A Life’s Work in a word: legacy

7 Replies to “In a Word”

  1. Hi Josephine and Becky!

    Your comments resulted in a “duh” moment. Of course if we all look at the same thing and are then asked to sum it up in one word, people are going to use different words. And they’re all valid. Well, maybe not all, but certainly “conviction” and “illuminating” are.

    Thanks to you all for the comments. I love comments. Hope to see you all here again soon.


  2. But then, I guess a “legacy” is what we ALL want to leave. That’s why grave markers are made from marble or stone (if we can afford it). That’s why some people have children (although it is a shaky reason — if you try to live or re-live through your child, you have a chance to screw up two lives!). And that’s why some people write books or make films. It’s a legacy. Something to show that we were here for a time. That something we did mattered, if even for a moment. To that end, I found this great quote in a book on black sacred music and women:

    “The old songs are in our collective consciousness, perhaps even in our genes. They are our spiritual chromosomes. They make us who we are as a people.” – Gloria Scott

    If future generations ignore that legacy, that part of their DNA, then something is irretrievably lost.

  3. Amen to that, Robert. We all want to leave something behind before we leave this mortal coil.

    “Spiritual chromosomes.” I like that. And it’s your fine work that’s helping to preserve and pass down to future generations those spiritual chromosomes. Thank you for that. And thank you participating in the film and your continuous support, here and elsewhere. You’re the best.

    Hope this finds you well.


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