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Toronto: Coppola’s Literary Voyage to ‘Palo Alto’

James Franco’s short stories inspire young helmer’s teen tale

Gia Coppola, the 26-year-old granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, doesn’t lack for ambition with her feature directorial debut “Palo Alto” premiering today in Toronto.

“I definitely want to do another,” she told Variety. “The hardest thing on ‘Palo Alto’ was letting go because I kept working on it, trying to make it better. I’ve been so immersed in it.”

Coppola began working on “Palo Alto” two years ago after reading James Franco’s 2010 collection of intertwined short stories set in his hometown of Palo Alto, Calif., focusing on teens seeking thrills by drinking, using drugs and violence. Franco, Emma Roberts and Zoe Levin star.

“I had just finished college and the book really resonated with me,” she said. “I’m grateful to James for letting me make the film. He was helpful in terms of suggestions as to what dialogue would work but he also wanted to give me the creative freedom to do this.”

Coppola admits that being a Coppola didn’t hurt.

“I really wanted to feel like I could do this on my own but I did turn to my family for help,” she recalls. “I got the people I wanted for the roles. There were a lot of friends and friends of friends and friends of the family.”

The film is produced by Franco’s Rabbit Bandini with Sebastian Pardo, Adriana Rotaru, Miles Levy and Vince Jolivette as producers. It was shot last year over 30 days with the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles doubling for Palo Alto, 350 miles to the north.

“We couldn’t afford to shoot in Palo Alto,” Coppola said.

Coppola has directed fashion videos and the short “Writer’s Block.” She’s the niece of Sofia Coppola and the daughter of Gian-Carlo Coppola, who was killed in a boating accident before she was born.

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