Jane drops her daughter off at sleepaway camp and drives away from her mundane life into an exciting odyssey on the road. Jane’s obstacles, connections and moments were created playing an exquisite corpse; seven filmmakers guiding each chapter of Jane's journey without knowledge of what the others were doing.
The literary game of exquisite corpse can be creatively stimulating and liberating, bringing forth your imagination to the page without any hesitation. To take it a step further and producing a feature length film from this very concept, is a whole other ball game - and producer Roman Coppola's creative team went all in.
I had the great honor in speaking with Gia Coppola, one of the seven directors behind The Seven Faces of Jane, about her segment “Jane2”, and how she initially got involved with the project, how her story was the first undertaking establishing Gillian Jacobs' character Jane, and much more.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Sadie Dean: I really enjoyed your section “Jane2” – there’s a lot of twists and turns in Jane’s emotional journey right from the beginning. How did you initially get involved in choosing which story to take on or were you selected and given this specific storyline assignment?
Gia Coppola: Yeah, I was hearing about it circulating at my uncle's office and I was like, 'Can I be a part of it? It sounds super cool.' I had no idea how in the world are you going to achieve this – it’s such a great concept, but like from a production standpoint, it sounds impossible to wrap my head around, but they did it. Part of the way they did that was Roman had this game where it's a little bit of a raffle of certain themes and tones and character challenges. And it's been a while so I can't remember exactly what mine was, but I know it had to take place in a coffee shop. So there was just a few little guidelines of what you knew as your parameters. And then I didn't want to go first, but it was scheduled and it sort of ended up that way. But in knowing that I was like, ‘OK, how can we, with my friend who's the writer, come up with an idea that will maybe linger into the next spot of you don't know which Jane you actually end up with?’ So, because of the format, I was trying to think of ways of how to be inventive within that parameter.
Sadie: In terms of approaching the material were you approaching it as a standalone short film?
Gia: For me, I wanted to try to approach it as much as like having a little bit of impact on the other stories. By just playing with who her character might be, but also how to tell a story in a short amount of time. I wanted it to be fun and engaging. As a director, there's things that I've never gotten to experience and that was like playing with doubles and learning how to do those sorts of visual effects and never gotten to use stunts in that capacity. So that for me, in a technical way, it was really fun and exciting, and I got to learn a lot.
Sadie: There’s a sense of creative freedom in all of these sections. Were you all using the same DP on this as well?
Gia: Yeah, same DP and the same production designer. Gillian and the producers knew kind of how it was all going to unfold. But all of us as individual directors, know each other, so every once in a while you're trying to get like little hints, ‘Oh, that person's doing this, I shouldn't do that. Or maybe I should do this.’ Without trying to cheat. And then this sort of unveiling felt a little bit like - I keep referring to it as Christmas, eagerly waiting for that present, ‘What's in this box?’
Sadie: Were there any additional filmmaking constraints during this process?
Gia: Yeah, I mean, there's always your budget limitations and all those sorts of normal production things that you have. Different day-to-day circumstances come into play, and then the edit comes into play. So it all sort of keeps developing but It's always growing and evolving as you go. Roman was really wanting to provide a space where the limitations that we're having are only to be creative. It's also very daunting to just have an empty slate and just run totally free. So, to have boxes of like, ‘You have to use this location and after use this,’ sort of hurdle felt like a fun film school exercise.
Sadie: Yeah, I’m sure it was. And then working with Gillian whose taken on so much in this role both physically and emotionally. Was there much collaboration there between the two of you in terms of establishing her character?
Gia: She had to do so much like, she’s kind of like Superwoman. The fact that she's dancing and then the next day she's doing stunts, and then the next day she's having an emotional, heavy journey - it's a real tour de force, in my opinion. In some ways, she directed a lot of it because she had to hold all of this information on her own and know what her character was without a director in the same way that you normally work, so it's very impressive what she's done.
Sadie: Do you think you guys will ever do something like that again?
Gia: Yeah, it's funny, like after every film I've worked on I feel like by the end of it, you finally got your hands wrapped around it and understand it and you're like 'Oh, now I'm ready to do it again.' But then each project has a new set of challenges. You think you're prepared, but there's never a way to fully prepare, but I would love to do this format again, having just learned how it flowed. It's so different.