blog, Directing, Film

Francis Ford Coppola’s Keys To A Better Story

Telling a great story is what we all want to do. Several years ago I watched a video with Francis Ford Coppola showing how he breaks down a scene. I quickly scribbled down a bunch of notes. Currently, I can’t find the video anywhere and I looked exhaustively.  

I have used this process as part of pre-production and it’s been a phenomenal help.

Here are my notes:

1. Synopsis
The point of the scene. How does it further the story? No longer than a paragraph.

2. The Times (culturally, style, setting, period piece)
Is there any impact culturally to the scene? Eg. A suffragette stands up to push for voting rights.

3. Imagery and Tone – What stands out?
What do you want the audience to leave with?

4. The Core
1-2 sentences on the scene. This further demonstrates your understanding and what you’re pushing the audience to learn. (I’ve found this is uber helpful with actors.)

5. Pitfalls – what are the things I can do to screw this up, cliche’s, dangerous roads. Knowing what not to do is just as important. It’s strategy.


For further pictures and info on Coppola’s Godfather notebook – Click here

However, I did find this great video of Coppola at Tribeca Film Fest.

Other Story Posts

Stephen King and George R. R. Martin

Joe Swanberg at SXSW




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