Francis Ford Coppola has launched an ambitious “Distant Vision” project as a “live cinema” experiment at his alma mater, the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
Coppola unveiled details of the multi-year project at a news conference Saturday, following his month-long collaboration with 75 UCLA students and faculty on “Distant Vision,” the story of three generations of an Italian-American family whose history spans the development of television.
The collaboration culminated Friday with a 27-minute live broadcast of the “Distant Vision” script from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s Freud Playhouse to a limited audience. The tasks for the students and faculty included operating over 40 cameras, acting and working on sound, set design and construction, costume, props, editing, stage management and producing.
UCLA co-sponsored the workshop with American Zoetrope, Coppola’s production company. Coppola was the writer and director.
Coppola’s “live cinema” concept is based on using feeds from a multitude of cameras, instant replay servers, and other sources — all of which the director can switch live — so that the performances are acted live and viewed by an audience in real time. The goal is for a “look and feel” that’s more cinematic in nature than what is typically employed for live dramatic and musical broadcasts, and has the in-the-moment energy of a live event.
“I felt the need to experiment in order to learn the actual methodology of live cinema, which is a hybrid of theater, film and television,” Coppola said. “The ‘shot’ is the basic element, as in film; the live ‘performance’ is from theater; and the advanced television ‘technology’ to enable it is borrowed from TV sports. It is very exciting to work in.”
Coppola received an M.F.A. in Theater Arts from UCLA in 1967 and launched his San Francisco-based studio-production company as American Zoetrope in 1969. It’s produced over 50 films, including the Godfather trilogy, “Apocalypse Now,” “American Graffiti,” “The Conversation,” “Rumble Fish,” “The Cotton Club,” “Lost in Translation,” “The Bling Ring,” “On the Road” and “Life After Beth.”
His films have won 16 Oscars, including five for Coppola. He also won the Irving Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“It is our greatest honor to warmly welcome our most treasured alumnus Francis Ford Coppola back to his alma mater,” said Teri Schwartz, dean of the school.
“We are thrilled to have UCLA TFT serve as the workshop home for “Distant Vision,’ Francis’ groundbreaking new creative project,” Schwartz added. “Francis has amazed and enthralled all of us — students, faculty and staff — with his fearless and bold mastery of visual storytelling at its deepest and most transformational state. We thank Francis for this magnificent opportunity for our students to work alongside him as he takes cinema into a very exciting and inspiring future.”