Linked: Francis Ford Coppola on Risk, Money, and Craft

Francis Ford Coppola on making money in the arts:

We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

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  • Bill

    I happen to think that Francis Ford Coppola is one of the best filmmakers in history, and I’m a little intimidated to refute such a living legend but…..

    Who exactly does he think he is to suggest that art should be free???

    There’ll always be those who believe that it’s okay for doctors, teachers, baseball players, and politicians to be compensated for their work but not artists; never artists.

    But I’m a little galled to see a man who paid others for their services (I doubt Al Pacino, Martin Sheen, or any of his other actors did work for free) and was HANDSOMELY paid for his own work spew such garbage.

  • Eli James

    Well, two things:

    1) He hasn’t made that much money from his movies, to be honest. I can’t remember where I’ve read it, but after his early payoff from the Godfather movies, Coppola hit it hard. Part of it was because he stopped making movies, part of it was because he did a bunch of flops right after the trilogy. So he does have a point in the article above – where he says he’s made most of his money from running vineyards, and now uses that money to finance small, cheap movies.

    We can probably agree that he’s no Spielberg.

    2) There are two ways of looking at his point, I think. The first is that he’s right – historically speaking, being an artist has never been a good way of making money. And a huge problem with the Internet is trying to figure out how to get people to pay for content, where on the other hand it’s cheapening everything it touches.

    But the second thing is: should this be the way things are? You don’t think it should be, but I’m not so sure myself. Maybe the only way to make money as an artist in the 21st century is to have patrons, like before. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even if it isn’t as good a way to make money as before.

  • Bill

    Hi Eli.

    My gripe with the art for free argument is how much of a straw argument it is. Folks take the data that bolsters their own narrow view and skip the rest.

    While the concept of art for sale might be new the idea of the paid artist is not as per Dickens and a certain English playwright whose name escapes me.

    And when we talk of patronage; how is that different from the legions of fanboys who make Star Trek, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings what they are? It’s patronage by the many instead of the few, but it’s patronage all the same.

  • Bill

    No the fact is that just like today where you have bands that perform for nickels then you have the Black Eyed Peas, so too in the past you had SOME artists that were unpaid and some that were paid WELL.

    All I want is for people to stop singling out artists as the ones who are obligated to work for free. When .r. Coppola let’s folks break into his vineyard and steal a few cases of his wine, then I might give weight to his non-sense.

  • Eli James

    I was in the middle of writing out a long reply, and then I went back to the article and read, carefully, what Coppola’s said.

    Now I’m not so sure. It’s 4am in the morning where I am, and I’m woozy, and I realize that I haven’t really thought through this entire ‘should art be free’ argument. (I’ve thought a lot about the ‘art is currently being made free, by forces we can’t control’ argument, but that’s a different thing altogether).

    So … I don’t know. Give me a few days to think about this. I do find that I’m nodding my head to a lot of what you’re saying, though.

  • Bill

    What Coppola “might” have been trying to say is that ‘no one is OBLIGATED to buy your art’. Which is true. Just cause some studio spent $100 million producing some superhero/sci-fi/romantic comedy movie, doesn’t mean I HAVE to spend $12 to see it.

    I further agree that producers of art do have the option of NOT charging for their content.

    But that is THEIR option. You as the consumer have two choices, you can either decide yes, this song, DVD, poem, book, haiku, Flash animation, whatever, is worth the price being charged (price being any value between 0 and infinity) and I will pay; or…no, this art is not worth the price being charged, and choose to not pay; and thus I will not TAKE THE PRODUCT.

    You NEVER have the option to say, yes, I like this product enough to have it, but enough to pay the price for it. That’s called STEALING. And just because the Internet allows thieves to be anonymous doesn’t make them less thieves.

    There are great many products I think are overpriced, and some that I feel should be free. But I sneak into Yankee Stadium to watch a game rather than buying a ticket and try to use the excuse, “Well, they’re just playing a game, and I believe that watching some guys plays a game should be free”, won’t stop me from being arrested.

    Again, why is it that art, suddenly the standards of common sense disappear??