With Director Sofia Coppola, Music Comes First

In her now 21-year profession as a director, Sofia Coppola—the daughter of Hollywood mogul Francis Ford Coppola—has staked her declare as one of many nice visionary filmmakers of our time. Although usually in comparison with the likes of Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson, Coppola has carved out a definite model of her personal. Bringing collectively elegant, minimalist camerawork and understated appearing with vibrant colours and daring musical decisions, Coppola’s movies all have a unique appear and feel but include a constant aesthetic thread.

Essentially the most notable facet of Coppola’s work is well the music. Combining unique scores with in style music from a number of eras, she not solely finds her inspiration in music, however she makes use of music to create atmospheres and dialogue that outline her movies greater than conventional tales or characters. Certainly, for Coppola, music comes first.

Music as Inspiration

It’s been stated that Coppola’s motion pictures perform as very like music movies as they do characteristic movies. This attribute naturally has one thing to do with the director getting her begin with precise music movies, most notably “This Here Giraffe” by The Flaming Lips. Nevertheless it’s actually due to Coppola’s overarching love for music, which has served as inspiration for a lot of her work.

In a 2017 interview with The Huffington Post, Coppola talked about that earlier than writing her first characteristic movie The Virgin Suicides, she hung out on trip listening to the celebrated album “Dreamboat Annie” by Heart, and far of that album influenced the script. There are only a few songs by Coronary heart within the movie, however the album helped create the character performed by Josh Hartnett, whose theme music is fittingly “Magic Man.”

In Lost in Translation, thought of Coppola’s most completed movie, she and her music supervisor Brian Reitzell started collaborating whereas the script was nonetheless being written. As manufacturing was simply getting began, they created quite a few playlists of songs that set the film’s tone and characters.

Coppola demonstrates that music is usually a jumping-off level. She exhibits that in an artwork kind the place sound and picture are so tied collectively, it’s important to convey music into the method as early as potential.

Want some inspiration? Within the means of planning a shoot? Attempt listening to our Experimental Instrumentals, or What’s New playlists to get began. And when you haven’t already, download our iOS app for inspiration on the go.

Music as Temper

Bringing music early into her course of permits Coppola to not simply use it as a option to develop a story however, much more, to develop an environment. It’s not that Coppola doesn’t inform compelling tales or compose fascinating characters, however once you stroll away from her motion pictures, it’s much less about the way you assume and extra about how you are feeling. Coppola is a grasp of making temper, and she or he accomplishes this primarily via music.

Her strategy to temper and music proves adaptable and agile—it seems to be totally different for each single venture. For instance, one in all Coppola’s favourite issues to do is juxtapose ambient scores with bold pop music. However in her 2017 movie The Beguiled, a Southern gothic story set through the Civil Conflict, she solely makes use of a delicate and quiet rating composed by her husband’s band, Phoenix, together with environmental noise, similar to frogs, bugs, gunshots and cannonballs. Regardless of straying from her typical strategy, this mixture creates a bleak and eerie ambiance that doesn’t simply describe the setting — however turns into the essence — of the film.

As soon as she establishes the tone for a specific movie, Coppola then goes to music as the first supply for reaching that tone. Slightly than utilizing music to merely make a transition or add emotion to a scene, using it as yet another instrument in her toolbelt, Coppola’s sound and musical decisions come to bear on way more.

This specific strategy makes a case for filmmakers to start out including music and sounds to temper boards. For any shoot, make what you hear as necessary as what you see, beginning with pre-production. In bringing music in so early, the musical decisions is not going to solely show extra intentional and significant, however they’ll come to outline the work in a method that’s true for Coppola and the ambiance she creates with it.

Whether or not you’re ending up a remedy or writing a script, now’s the time to outline your work’s temper. Attempt listening to one in all our vibe playlists like Summer Love, Psychedelic, or Quirky. Or strive looking our catalogue with a particular temper filter like Eerie or Somber.

Music as Dialogue

In the identical method Coppola considers music on the onset of the filmmaking course of to ascertain ambiance, she thinks about what she needs to speak in a movie. As any fan of hers is aware of, she lets the music do the speaking as a substitute of the characters.

Influenced by actions in movie historical past similar to Italian Neo-Realism and French New Wave, Coppola usually prefers an understated model with lengthy takes and restricted dialogue. (Although The Bling Ring proves to be an exception.) At occasions, a personality says nothing, however the music says all the pieces. Typically it’s the overall really feel of a track. Typically it’s the lyrics. Regardless of the case, Coppola’s use of music acts each as a personality itself whereas additionally representing the entire solid of characters’ phrases and actions inside a film.

For instance, there’s a scene in Somewhere the place Jonny Marco, a well-known actor performed by Stephen Dorff, is at an all-time low. He watches in a elaborate lodge room — and falls asleep — as twin strippers carry out on poles in entrance of him. Coppola contrasts the unhappy but humorous second with the track “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters. There isn’t a dialogue or commentary, however the track tells us precisely how Marco feels, as he experiences the results of misguided selections, buying and selling his tasks as a father for a self-serving lifetime of celeb. Because the music’s lyrics inform us, he considers (possibly for the primary time) how his daughter would consider him.

This instance is one in all dozens from Coppola’s physique of labor, the place she persistently makes use of music as if it have been dialogue, as a tool to maneuver ahead the story. In a 2011 interview with Pitchfork, Sofia famous, “ once you get right into a track and take heed to it again and again? After I’m writing, I get in a sure temper, and the songs I’m listening to often relate to the story or find yourself being within the film.”

Coppola chooses music as her muse with a method that doesn’t depart a lot room for prolonged dialogue. This strategy demonstrates how filmmakers can use music equally: as a option to push forth the plot, to develop a personality, and to speak central concepts and themes.

What may music say that your character can’t? Use our filters to search for lyric-only music, defining an attribute like Playful, or a style like R&B. Or, strive looking a line of lyrics within the Musicbed search bar to find the right observe.


The best way Coppola approaches music for her motion pictures is unparalleled, which amongst different issues, is what makes her stand out as a director. Filmmakers might not really feel the necessity to replicate her model, however they’ll definitely study from her course of. In using music as inspiration, temper, and dialogue, she exhibits simply how necessary it’s to include music into each a part of the filmmaking course of, from the very begin.

For extra examples of administrators who inform a narrative with music, read about Wes Anderson’s most popular scores.