Surviving the tests of an ‘Apocalypse’

A friend of mine recently had the opportunity to meet the filmmaker and father of “The Godfather”: trilogy, “Francis Ford Coppola”: The occasion was an event at one of “Coppola’s newest California wineries”:, this one called “Rosso & Bianco”:, in Sonomoa County. For those of you who don’t know, back when Coppola was just 36, and fresh off the critical and boxoffice success of 1974’s “The Godfather II”: (it won 6 Oscars), he began investing his film fortune in California wine properties. Overtime, Coppola famously united the historic Niebaum and Inglenook wine estates in Napa Valley, which he recently re-named “Rubicon Estate”:, after one of his best labels. (It was formerly called Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery).

Anyway, Coppola, now 68, so impressed my friend with his almost geeky passion for winemaking — it is, after all, the man’s “2nd award-winning career”: — that we decided we’d try to pluck some of the fruit of Coppola’s crafts for the benefit of *Found|READ*ers.

It turns out that there is much to learn from Coppola’s life as a creator, in particular, from the young director’s seminal experience making his Vietnam War epic, “Apocalypse Now”: (1979; two more Oscars). Trolling around for some of Coppola’s own writings on his career, I stumbled upon this fantastic “1999 profile”: In it, author “Michael Sragow”: reviews a 1991 documentary of the making of Apocalypse Now called “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse”: The documentary showcases many challenges that faced Coppola on location: natural disasters in the Philippines; political upheaval; the heart attack of his lead actor Martin Sheen, etc. As Sragow’s piece reveals, by overcoming these and other hurdles, *Coppola honed the qualities that cemented him as a creative force and a leader* whose “zeal and riskiness are as elating as they are dismaying …*in the gambling tradition of American entrepreneurs.”*

Read Sragow’s piece for yourself, but below are our highlights — a few of the reasons why we think *Francis Ford Coppola* is someone worth modeling.

*The Qualities of Young Coppola*

*1)* Whether you view him as a tortured poet, an ostentatious showman, a martyr or an ogre, it’s impossible _not_ to get caught up in his drive to overcome. *_(Passion)_*

*2)* The child-wizard flirtatiousness that continues to draw creative people to Coppola…He is going all out for art and persuading hundreds of people to take the plunge with him. *_(Charisma)_*

*3)* The excitement comes from watching him go out on a limb [and] seeing him saw it off behind him. *_(Committment)_*

*4)* He has a knack for making himself larger rather than smaller by revealing his insecurities. *_(Strength through vulnerability)_*

*5)* He is totally disarming when he pinpoints the biggest fear of any audacious moviemaker; that his work won’t live up to the subject matter, that it will be merely ‘pretentious.’ _(Sragow dubs this Coppola’s *’Heroic frankness’*)_
_Substitute ‘moviemaker’ for ‘founder’, and ‘work’ for ‘startup’ = YOU_

*6)* There isn’t a single corporate-like censor in his consciousness. *_(Rebel)_*

*7)* His consiousness of publicity and damage control, especially when he tries to maintain stability after Sheen’s heart attack [shows] his astounding capacity for leadership, not just when he’s dynamic and eloquent, but when he’s bewidered. *_(Focus and Discipline)_*

*8)* He was also readier than any of his peers to pay his dues…Coppola hocked his own assets to keep Apocalypse Now in production. *_(Integrity)_*

*9)* “I don’t know how brilliant we were,” Coppola told Sragow, “but we were very enthusiastic about movies and the chance to make them.” *_(Humility)_*

*10)* Through it all, Coppola [believes] that the film’s meanings will come into focus partly from the experiences he has making it. *_(Wisdom)_*

BTW: up until 2001 “”: produced a series of terrific pieces called “Brilliant Careers”:, which we recommend, especially for the profiles of non-business characters, like the one on basketball coach “Phil Jackson”: