Earlier this year, costume designer Deborah Landis interviewed writer, filmmaker and artist Eleanor Coppola in Newport Beach, Calif. The conversation highlighted her 2008 book Notes on a Life, which chronicles the extraordinary life she has led.
Coppola shared her creative process in developing the book with the audience. Unlike many life stories, her biography is presented out of chronological order. She points out that we don’t think in a linear fashion — thus the particular organization of her book. She found as she wrote that she was using the objects and things around her as a jumping off point to reflect on her history.
Embracing the unexpected is a clear lesson from Coppola’s creative life. She has experienced tremendous ups and downs, including the loss of her first son, Gio, at age 22 in an accident. This tragedy led to her creation of Circle of Memory, an interactive art installation that commemorates children who are missing or who have died. She describes this project as a “healing thing” for her.
Open about even the more private aspects of her life, Coppola notes the family was in bankruptcy court three times, including after the film Apocalypse Now on which her husband, Francis Ford Coppola, had “bet the farm.” When questioned about how she could live with such extreme insecurity, Coppola offered her perspective. “I felt like he was a creative person and if he lost his house, he’d create another one.”
One of my favorite quotes on creativity comes from her husband, among whose eclectic creative projects today include smaller films, a family winery and the development of resorts, including a newly opened one in Belize. “All creative projects share common structure and methods,” he says. “They hold a big idea with attention to many tiny details.” Similarly, Eleanor Coppola’s creativity is evident in the ease with which she moves from one medium to another.
Have you found that creativity in one area of your life translates well to another?