Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 15, 2014

'Palo Alto' promising debut for Gia Coppola

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It took a dark tale of teens and a pedophile in a Northern California suburb for Gia Coppola, the granddaughter of Francis and niece of Sofia, to also become a filmmaker.

"Outsiders were always asking me if I was going into film," says the soft-spoken 27-year-old writer-director, whose first movie, "Palo Alto," debuted in New York and Los Angeles last weekend. "It deterred me. It felt intimidating to have that kind of attention."

But she agreed to adapt James Franco's book "Palo Alto" after her mother, Jacqui de la Fontaine, introduced the two. Coppola had recently graduated from Bard College in New York, where she studied photography. Franco was impressed with her eye.

"There was this intense focus in a lot of the detail that added up to this dreamy feeling," says Franco of Coppola's photos. "I thought that would be good for this material."

Franco became Coppola's partner in the making of the film as well as her mentor, helping her push beyond the fear of helming a feature.

"He let me know that he trusted me . I didn't feel judged in any way," says Coppola, who shot short online videos for fashion companies before "Palo Alto."

Nearly five years after her initial chat with Franco, the film is finally in theaters. "I thought we were making something so small," says Coppola over coffee at a Hollywood cafe. "I thought we would just release it on the Internet."

But Tribeca Film had other ideas. In December of last year, the independent distribution company nabbed the North American rights to the film.

Starring Franco, Emma Roberts, Val Kilmer and his 18-year-old son, Jack Kilmer (making his acting debut), "Palo Alto" will expand to 15-20 screens this weekend.

Not a bad start for a low-budget film that initially struggled to gain financial backing. "No one wanted to invest in a first-time director with dark material and real teenagers," says Coppola.

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