Film & TV

Director Gia Coppola is More Than Her Last Name

Hailing from Hollywood royalty, this member of the storied Coppola clan is doing things her way.
Reading time 5 minutes

Photographs by Daria Kobayashi Rich

Styling by Chris Horan

Coming from a line of cinematic royalty could disillusion some, but for writer, director, and photographer Gia Coppola, her family’s force has spurred her on to create works that distinguish her in her own right.  

She is, of course, the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather) and the niece of Roman and Sofia Coppola—the siblings responsible for Moonrise KingdomThe Darjeeling Limited, and The Virgin Suicides among others. It is Gia’s unique eye, however, that has cemented her as a master of multiple crafts, rendering the family name an interesting fact rather than a route in to the world of film. “I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by such inspiring people,” she tells me. “But I work very hard to also do things because of my own merit.”  

The multidisciplinary artist is perhaps most well known for her 2013 debut feature, Palo Alto, a coming-of-age tale which she both wrote and directed, based on a series of short stories of the same name by James Franco. The film was praised widely for the realism of the performances by Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, and Nat Wolff. The project proved Gia’s skills as a capable director and filmmaker beyond her family’s name; and through a series of wonderfully nostalgic and visually stunning vignettes of high school life, it introduced us to her heart as well as her eye. 

Palo Alto’s emphasis on beautiful cinematography was no doubt helped by Gia’s background in photography—she studied at the prestigious Bard College in New York before her foray into film. “I find that both mediums [moving image and photography] complement each other well. I always learn something when I do photography, or I use it as a test to play around with themes and ideas that interest me." 

Today her medium-format photographs regularly grace the pages of magazines, with a distinctively rich color palette and an intimacy that gives a real sense of her relationship with her subjects (recent models include Florence Welch and Margot Robbie).

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Gia’s fondness for California and bond with the physicality of her home seeps into her images—be they dreamlike shots of girls in ethereal dresses picnicking in Joshua Tree or the more documentary-style snaps of Chateau Marmont during rush hour. “I love the nature and the history behind the city [Los Angeles]. I’ve become very fascinated with the “idea” of Hollywood and what that means.

Just scrolling through Gia’s Instagram, you can tell that the palette of LA’s burnt-out sunsets and palm-tree-lined streets have helped shape the way she sees the world and the art she wants to create. Clear also is her love of fashion. Over the years she’s been recruited by global fashion brands such as Zac Posen, Gucci, and Rodarte to bring her playful outlook to their promotional campaigns. 

“I think the process of fashion is very  similar to making a movie. The amount of research and attention to detail.  I feel very inspired by the way fashion can express a state of mind in a very imaginative way." 

This focus on fantasy and imagination is clear in Gia’s work. She incorporates high-end luxury fashion into images and film with an attitude of sweet innocence that makes the pieces featured feel more like costumes than new-season items a brand is desperately trying to sell.  

Now 31, Gia has watched the industry grow into the influence-driven, content-obsessed world we now find ourselves in. “I’m very interested in the influence social media has on our culture’s taste, education, politics, etc. I worry about it, and I wonder how can we take this new world and make it cinematic and connective again.“ 

But really, that’s exactly what she does with her own work. As we hurtle toward a future where more and more of what we watch is designed to be watched on an iPhone screen, there are certain artists who create things that we feel like we can really dive into, rather than just hold in our hands. Gia Coppola is one of them.  

Makeup: Tamah Krinsky

Hair: Danny Rishoff

Casting: Jen Jalouse

All Jewelry: Tiffany & Co

Photo Assistant: David Lopez

Stylist Assistants: Tyler Cunningham and Alizée Hénot

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