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Toronto: 'Palo Alto's' Gia Coppola on Adapting James Franco and Getting Advice From Her Famous Relatives (Q&A)

Palo Alto Venice Film Festival Still - H 2013
James Franco in "Palo Alto"

The 26-year-old talks to THR about her directing debut, finding her own voice and heeding her famous grandfather's words of wisdom.

How did you adapt James Franco's short stories into a screenplay?

James said, "Pick the stories you like." I underlined everything I liked, divided it between characters and mood and tone and dialogue. James said, "Just make it really simple." We also did a test version of the movie with some friends and an EV camera I borrowed.

Did Sofia and Francis give you advice?

If it wasn't for Sofia I don't think I would've been inspired to think I could be a female director, too. My grandfather said, "Always give your crew good, 45-minute lunches, because an army marches on its stomach." Sofia is always very adamant about working with people you like and making a safe environment.

PHOTOS: Toronto 2013: The Films

So no riding crop or megaphone for Sofia?

Yeah, she says, "Action," but she says it in her own way.

Softly?

Yeah, but she does it — she's a real director. I'm not so vocal. I try to get loud, but my voice will just crack or something. She's like a big sister to me. But it's for me to find my voice on my own, not with the help of my family. It was everyone on the crew's first movie, and the cast was all friends of friends and family. I wanted this experience to feel as intimate as possible.

Did the teen actors give you notes on the script?

In the script there was a certain word — I forget which — and the kids said, "That's lame, that isn't cool anymore." They wanted to say something else. They told me the new slang. They all thought I was outdated as a 26-year-old.