Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most prestigious and critically acclaimed directors in cinematographic history. He directed, among others, the Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now, and has won so many awards it’s hard to keep track. In an interview with 99%, he touched on the subject of art and making money, and his musings are fascinating, and yet another indication that the times are changing in the content industry. “Who says artists have to make money?” Coppola wonders.
While you might think Coppola made most of his fortune through his filmography, you’d be wrong. He finances his film career through his wine business, which is running quite well. As 99% details, Coppola works according to his code of ethics: one, write and direct original screenplays; two, make them with the most modern technology available; and three, self-finance them.
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.
This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?
In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.
And he’s right. This construct that artists have to somehow make more money than ‘normal’ people do is a recent idea, one first pushed by the booksellers in London during the aftermath of the enactment of the Statute of Anne. The big content providers we know today ran with this idea early last century, and have been trying to cement it in the collective consciousness ever since.
I’d hazard a guess that over 99% of the world’s artists – no matter the discipline – get by on a limited income, forcing them to work hard to earn their money, just like everybody else. I’ve been saying it for years, and it seems Coppola agrees with me: why do we need to ever keep extending copyright law just to protect the fabulously rich few in the entertainment industry?
Then there’s the issue nobody ever talks about because most people are never confronted by it, and that’s the devastating effects copyright law has on the world of science. Basically all of our science is locked up by a number of large scientific publishers, meaning most of the world has no access to it. The end result is that even my own university simply doesn’t have the funds available to buy access to all our learning – and I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, so you can imagine the effect this has on universities in less wealthy countries. They simply don’t have an honest chance to compete with us, holding science as a whole back.
As someone on Gizmodo said, “At first I didn’t know what to think of this. Then I remembered he made the f—–g GODFATHER so his opinion holds more weight than anyone else’s on the planet.”