Director and writer Gia Coppola opens up about the age of social media, self-exploration and her new film, Mainstream.
Following her first feature film, Palo Alto, released in 2013, Gia Coppola (@mastergia) makes a greatly anticipated return to the screen with her sophomore film, Mainstream, starring Andrew Garfield and Maya Hawke. With a long line of talented artists in her family, including Francis Ford Coppola and Sofia Coppola, it is safe to say that Gia is no stranger to the camera.
Coppola shines in a multicolored tiered Gucci gown at the 77th Venice Film Festival 2020.
“I would imagine it’s like anyone else’s, really,” Coppola says of her upbringing in the family. “It’s quite bohemian and it’s not really about Hollywood for us.” In regard to forging her own film path, she explains, “I was always resistant to the idea, but I just navigated toward it because I was struggling in school so much and I felt like my only mode of expression was photography. That led me into college and taking photography, and my professor there was so much about art and expanding yourself in a way that I feel really changed my life. From there, it made me want to dive into challenging myself even more, and film feels like an extension of photography where you just have more elements to work with.”
With her first feature film under her belt, Coppola fearlessly shifted gears to create this new, social media-centric world for Mainstream. “I feel like every project you dive into you’re meeting someone new, so it has different kinds of challenges that you’re still trying to get a hold of—which is the fun part, too, because it’s expanding yourself.” She quickly adds, “This one was dealing with a much crazier tone, so that space was an unusual one to live in.”
Gia Coppola works behind the scenes on the set of Mainstream with her two leads, Maya Hawke (Frankie) and Andrew Garfield (Link). When comparing the filming tactics from Mainstream with Palo Alto, her first feature film, Coppola says, “We only shot in 19 days, which is a lot shorter than what I had last time, so it was a mad dash.”
The film tells the coming-of-age story of a young woman who thinks she’s conquered the world of internet stardom by filming a charismatic stranger, only to find herself lost on the darker side of viral celebrity success. On the inspiration for the film, Coppola says, “It was sort of a culmination of social media being so prevalent in our life and how it’s having an effect on young people. But I was really inspired by the film A Face in the Crowd, and I loved how it was dealing with the transition from radio to television, but is more so in the context of this love story. And I felt like we were in a period of where everything’s transitioning to the internet, and also just coming of age in your 20s. It’s kind of every girl’s bad-boy story—in this heightened, surreal place.”
“How do you have self-acceptance and trust your gut with what you know is right rather than what you want to be right?”–GIA COPPOLA
In a world dominated by followers and likes, Coppola managed to shed light on the even bigger story: self-confidence in the midst of chaos. While the film may feature a star-crossed love triangle, an even bigger love story is on the brink with the character development and discovery done by Frankie and Link, played by Hawke and Garfield, respectively. “It’s something you deal with in social media—how do you have self-acceptance and trust your gut with what you know is right rather than what you want to be right? Frankie’s journey was a lot about that, and not seeing the true love that is right in front of you—and kind of liking the narcissist more.” She continues, “Andrew’s transition is how do you stay authentic and not dive into the ego and the fame and the greed and the power, and it’s a very hard thing to do in this space. We’re all kind of victims to it in a way.”
Coppola takes a more humane approach preserving her sanity and jokes. “This movie was a big way for me to kind of vomit my emojis,” she says, referencing a scene in her film where Frankie does exactly that. “I feel a big release, actually, where I have a different kind of relationship with it now, where it doesn’t go into the ‘compare and despair.’” When asked about her favorite scene to shoot, she quickly shares, “The moment when Frankie’s coming from behind the projection screen and she comes around to the theater and it looks like Link’s eating her. That was always something that I had in my mind and could really visualize, and it felt really accurate to what was in my mind, so that was really exciting.”
What’s next for Coppola? A movie adaptation of the novel The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll and a few more projects that are currently under wraps. As for her dream career bucket list, she says, “I’ve always wanted to play with genre. I’ve been very open to steering away from the personal and having a little more fun—maybe try horror or sci fi. She adds, “I think a musical would be really fun. I love choreography so it would be cool to play in that space.”
Photography by: Marechal Aurore/Courtesy of Abaca/Zuma Press; Bedroom photo courtesy of Tess Lafia; Photos courtesy of Beth Dubber