Researching ‘The Cotton Club’ 1984 + ‘The Outsiders’ 1983
I began to wonder, when were these films actually shot, as opposed to the date on the films, which is when they’re actually released?
When you see a date next to the title of a film, it generally means that the film was shot the previous year or even the one before. It’s rare for a film that requires any production values to start and finish shooting, and editing, and have marketing prepared for a release date, all in one calendar year. It’s not something you’d ever want to assume, but it’s a reasonable rule of thumb that The Outsiders was filmed in 1982/83 and that The Cotton Club started filming in 1983. In actually fact, The Cotton Club had been filming since 1982. Before Coppola even joined the project, the film had already been in production for six months. When the last day of filming occurred on December 23, 1983 the film’s shooting schedule included eighty-seven days over a period of twenty-two months. If this assertion is correct in Gene Phillips’ book, then Coppola joined the project in late 1982.
If you factor in script development, and then pre-production it’s reasonable to assume that any film has a bare minimum three-year period from concept to release. A few exceptions come to mind like Soderbergh’s guerrilla-style movie, Full Frontal (2002), that was a far better film with a commentary track and no dialogue, than with a plot unfolding.