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The film world is a place of dreams and ambitions, where who you know can be as important as what you know. It is little wonder that film legacies can be generational, passed from old to young through talent and family connections. Filmmaking families are quite common in Hollywood, with a few famous groups making up a large portion of the industry.
Perhaps one of the best known filmmaking families is that of visionary director, Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola himself was the son of an accomplished composer, but made a name for himself as one of the world’s greatest directors with his Godfather trilogy. The Coppolas are one of Hollywood’s greatest filmmaking families; Francis’ daughter, Sofia, has acted and directed, as well as winning an Oscar for Best Screenplay in 2003 for Lost In Translation. Francis’ son, Roman, is also a director, and has won acclaim for his work co-writing the 2008 film The Darjeeling Limited. Perhaps the most famous of the family is Academy Award winning actor Nicolas Cage, the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola.
Some filmmaking families have the ability to span continents with their talent, as is the case with the Minghella dynasty. The tragic death of English director Anthony Minghella in 2008 left a huge gap in the film world, but his son and brother carry on the director’s legacy of quality film and television production. Brother Dominic Minghella is a popular British screenwriter, most notably on the critically acclaimed television series, Robin Hood. Anthony Minghella’s son, Max, has taken America by storm with his acting talents. Despite his dedication to completing school at Columbia University, Max has found time to score several critically-acclaimed films, including a lead role in the highly anticipated Agora, co-starring Rachel Weisz.
Sometimes, as in the Coppola tradition, family members branch into many different areas of film, but other filmmaking families have a strong tradition in one section. The Newman family seems to have an uncanny knack for music, with no less than six members involved in film composition and songwriting. The first generation of Newman composers included Alfred Newman, who was nominated for 45 Academy Awards and won nine, and Lionel Newman, who is credited in over 200 films.
The next generation of the family is no less impressive: cousins Randy and Thomas Newman are known for their visionary work with the animated films of Pixar, as well as non-film related compositions. David Newman, son of Alfred and brother to Thomas, also maintains a highly successful career as a film composer, and was nominated for an Oscar for Anastasia. The third generation of this dynasty is also up and coming, Joey Newman, grandson to Alfred, has already made a name for himself for composition and orchestration in both film and television.
It may never be fully understood whether talent, environment or plain connections makes the success of filmmaking families possible. It is unquestionable that the family dynasties that sometimes seem to comprise half of Hollywood are a boon to the industry. Although it can be difficult for filmmakers without famous relatives to succeed, many people still find something pleasant in the idea of a family business.
I think any discussion of film making families needs to include Joel and Ethan Coen. The Coen brothers have been making alternative movies such as "Raising Arizona", "The Hudsucker Proxy", "Fargo" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" for decades.