Francis Ford Coppola on the need for risk

Chasing Francis Ford Coppola down for an interview, even with an appointment can be complicated. We were due to chat about his new film "Tetro" which opens in Minneapolis tomorrow.

After talking to someone in Romania who had various other contact numbers I eventually found him coming out of a meeting which had run long. We talked at length about the film, but also where, after a decades long illustrious career, he sees himself fitting into the film world.

He confessed he feels free to explore his own projects. "Tetro" is largely self-financed he said.

"I've concluded that the great joy is to learn something," he told me. "Whether it be learning about yourself, your own feelings, or whether it be to learn about some interesting field or learn about life or how to behave in situations."

"So for me, I make films to learn, most of all to learn about the cinema which is you know really a young art form , not even, it's a hundred years old, and amazingly there have been a tremendous number of masterpieces made in such a long time, but it still is such a young art and much of the language we use in the cinema was invented in the first 30 years of the silent period, because the film makers were very much encouraged to experiment in those days because no-one knew what film was, and they invented it."

"Now things are much more rigid and financiers don't want experimentation, and it's only out of experimentation that you can learn. You have to risk failure in order to have a big success."

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I remember once, years ago when an important man asked me 'How do you make a film like the Godfather that is both a commercial success, and plays all around the country, and is also an artistic success?'

I looked at him and I said 'Risk! You have to risk.' There is no such thing as risk free art."

"Nowadays we are obsessed with the best seller and novels follow formulas and films tend to follow formulas. But to have the big success and also to make a contribution to the film you have to go out into the wilderness without any assurances and use your heart and you knowledge and your skills to do something. That doesn't go well with a business that requires hundreds of millions of dollars to pursue."

We will air parts of the interview tomorrow on "All Things Considered."