By David Katz
The directorial legend behind the Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Ford Coppola, dropped in at the San Diego Comic-Con last Saturday to shill his latest venture: a 3D gothic horror with a very unusual screening strategy. Coppola plans to embark on a 30-city US tour alongside composer Dan Deacon, editing and tweaking the film in real-time at each showing to the audience’s liking. This is a development credited to the rise of digital technology which gives filmmakers the ability to add scenes, play with the running order and alter the soundtrack with ease. The director even prefaced his panel with a live demonstration on his iPad with the geek vanguard present in Hall H ooh-ing and aah-ing away.
What’s perhaps most fascinating about Twixt (2011) is the potential for audience participation, an instant feedback opportunity similar to how test screenings are conducted. ‘When we made Twixt, I knew it was kind of a Halloween story and I thought, gee, what I’d like do is go on tour and actually perform the film, a different version for each audience,’ Coppola said. ‘In the old days, when the audience was loving what was happening, the conductor would [signal the orchestra] and they would do it again. Because cinema is now digital, no longer a long strip, they’re digital files. So if the director were there, they could essentially change what was happening. I could give you more of something you like.’
One of the joys of cinema is the element of sacrifice, putting your tastes and expectations aside and completely submitting to the director’s vision. Projects like Twixt offer an exciting opposition to this where the relationship between filmmaker and audience becomes interactive rather than didactic, emphasising the viewer’s immediate pleasure above anything else. As Coppola says, ‘[Sometimes] the audience is not so into it, so you go, “Oh, I wish the good part would come sooner, I wish the good part would come sooner.” With this, you can do that.’
The influx of digital filmmaking has widened the scope and possibilities for exhibiting films and Twixt is likely to become one of many new films exploiting the technology to its fullest. It’s also interesting to see Coppola following a similar track to his fellow 70s movie-brat Martin Scorsese, who’s 3D debut Hugo (2011) is out this December. The days of Taxi Driver (1976) and The Godfather (1971) may be long gone, but it’s encouraging to see that these innovators are still fully engaged with the changing tides of the film world.