Roman Coppola: "Everything is Now an App. It's Disappointing"

By Saeed Al-Rubeyi on at

Earlier this year Intel, along with W Hotels, put out a call to all budding screenwriters over the social networks to send in scripts for a set of short films. Each film had to be set in a W Hotel, anywhere in the world, and have an Ultrabook as a central part of the story. At the creative helm they joined with Roman Coppola and The Directors Bureau to sift through the entries and assign directors, actors and producers.

The result is a set of films called Four Stories, which is oddly a quartet of five, after Roman Coppola decided to add a short film of his own to tie up the bundle. Whether you enjoy short films or not, one of the standout pieces was Eugene, which was written by the British student Adam Blampied. Adam's surreal script, about a socially awkward man who receives an Ultrabook that grants wishes, managed to beat out over 1000 other competitors to win a place in the Four Stories set.

Roman Coppola has cut out a place for himself in Hollywood with his work as a music video director for the likes of The Strokes, Daft Punk, and Pheonix, as well as his screenplays for The Darjeeling Ltd. and Moonrise Kingdom. You may think you know Roman's family, or you could probably guess he's related to other Coppola's such as Francis Ford (his father), and Sofia (sister) -- but did you know he counts both Jason Schwartzmann and Nicolas Cage as cousins? Talk about movie genes.

Gizmodo UK met Roman in London's W Hotel in Piccadilly after the world premiere screening of Four Stories to talk social, film and tech:

Giz: Hello Roman, How are you?

RC: I'm very well thanks and yourself?

Giz: Great! Can I ask you some questions for Gizmodo UK?

RC: Yes, I always enjoy checking out Gizmodo UK.

Giz: So you read the site?

RC: Yes, sure, I'm a gadget man.

Giz: Great! We saw the callout for scriptwriters over the Twitter and other social networks -- do you feel that was a good way to provide emerging talent a stepping stone?

RC: Yeah, the proof is in what we were able to do, and you wish that more people had an opportunity to get in this way. There was a thousand entries or more, and only a small percentage were selected, but I saw a lot of interesting scripts that we weren't able to produce. There were some very fine scripts that were rather ambitious or rather difficult on a production level, but we had to work with what we could do. But to answer your question; we used it as an opportunity to allow people to show who they are and make some work that was distinctive.

Giz: Were you impressed by the submissions you received?

RC: Yes. You know, it's all a bit of a blur now, because that was an earlier step in the process, but I was.

Giz: There were rules for the scriptwriters weren't there? All stories had to be set in a W Hotel and feature an Ultrabook -- do you think these limitations boxed or set free writers creativity?

RC: Well, I think that when you have a limitation it helps to focus and bring out things that are possible for a very fast turnaround. There was an immediacy to the whole process and by having these limitations it was a helpful exercise. If we suggested that you could make a story about anything, it could have been very daunting.

Giz: With the market changing so fast do you think featuring technology ages a film instantly?

RC:  It's true. These are very 'of the moment' works, and I hope people will watch them and enjoy them in the future -- but they're meant to be contemporary stories and that's what's happening in life today. I'm sure in several years, like when you watch an 80's film you see the big phone and it's a bit funny, it'll be the same. But the purpose here was to do something that was a reflection of our time.

Giz: Is there more room for short films today, now that people have become accustomed to watching short slices of life on YouTube and similar sites?

RC: From the beginning of movies there's always been a short form -- the single reel film was always a very popular form so there's an actual shape that's accepted and enjoyed. It's true that you tend not to see it now. In the old days, before my time, shorts would precede a feature, and that's less the case now. On Wes' film [Wes Anderson] The Darjeeling Ltd. you started with The Hotel Chevalier, so it's something that I've experienced that was cool and I appreciated. I do think there's a great tradition for short works, and it's true that when you're downloading or streaming something the shorter movie is more appropriate -- it's small and better for the time you may have. It seems like a good time for shorts, and I hope there will be more and more.

Giz: How do you feel about the new immersive technologies such as 3D and the new sound systems, like Dolby Atmos coming into play?

RC: You know, I think there's room for everything. I've enjoyed 3D movies and I think it's a wonderful way to use film. You don't have to be so observant to see that people need a reason to go to the theatres now. To have a 3D experience or immersive sound on a giant screen is great -- people enjoy that, and it's particularly suited towards the spectacle film. We're seeing that more independent, muted films, are succeeding more in a video environment, and that's kind of a pity, but you use whatever is the right way to tell your story.

Giz: Do you think there are any new gadgets that have changed the film making process?

RC: Its a remarkable thing that's happened over the last 5 years with the camera market. Like with the Cannon 5D, which is such fine quality in such a small package… and it's portable too. Of course, there's also post production, using computers makes so much more possible for film.

Giz: Do you think the new tech is creating more or less opportunities for real people to get into the film industry?

RC: It depends who you ask -- film is really changing. If you're the guy who works at a photochemical company you're having a hard time. But if you're computer savvy you can pick up a great job in digital post production. Things fade away and other things rise up, and that's how it's always been. In general, though, technology gives people more opportunities to get into film.

Giz: You said you were a gadget man, do you have any thoughts on the gadget market today?

RC: I read a lot to try and imagine what's coming next, because now everything is so integrated. Like you're using your phone in this interview, I use mine to record sound and take photos. I don't have a lust for gadgets anymore because everything is now an App. It's disappointing, because I remember as a kid going to Tokyo and seeing cameras and radios and all that stuff, but with the iPad and the like, they have everything already.

Four Stories is available to watch online now.