Sunday, April 22, 2012

How I Geeked Out with James Franco

Disclaimer: I started this blog over a year ago with an intention of following the "reel" in New York City. My blog often features posts about real-life struggles, inspiring moments, and comical outbursts. This post is a return to the root of the blog, as I returned to the "reel" world tonight with a visit to the Tribeca Film Festival.

                                 I am a filmmaker. (and by filmmaker--I mean media maker)

For a while, I've been going back and forth on what a filmmaker is.  In my opinion, a filmmaker is someone who challenges the norms. It is someone develops an idea or message they'd like to clearly and concisely get across, and then relays that message through a medium--in any which way they can. A filmmaker is someone who doesn't rely on mimicking the past, but rather taking bits and pieces from past filmmakers to produce their own picture. A filmmaker is someone who embraces new technology trends and throws people for a loop with them. A filmmaker is an artist. I am a filmmaker.

And James Franco is a filmmaker. Tonight, I had the wonderful pleasure of attending the North American premiere of Franco and Ian Olds new movie: Francophrenia. Following the film, I had the opportunity to sit through a q and a with both directors, and like a ten year old waiting in line for an ice cream cone, I jumped at the opportunity to ask a question:

"First I want to say that I absolutely loved this film; I think it's brilliant; and the long takes and close-ups were just fantastic. My question is: How did the vision of your film change from the beginning of the process to the end product?" Franco took the mic and explained how the process changed quite a bit. He admitted to first planning on editing it himself--and then feeling better about it if he let someone else manipulate the footage. 

What does he mean by this? Well let's look at the film: Francophrenia is truly an experimental documentary that combines a fictional story--about General Hospital--with an ongoing commentary that we have on celebrities--in this case James Franco himself. Throughout the film, we are treated to long takes of Franco on and off set; close-ups on Franco's face like those we'd have in soap operas; dark endearing music to captivate Franco as a crazy man; voice over whispers of the thoughts going through Franco's head during these fictional takes; shots of fans obsessed with Franco as a celebrity; and of course the fictional General Hospital story. Because Franco had become the center of this film, as he said, he unselfishly gave himself up to director Olds. And in that, the film changed completely from his hands to someone else's. For Franco, this meant removing his ego from the manipulation of the footage. Bonus points.

The Q & A finished immediately after my question and en route out, I took a risk and approached Franco. 

"Excuse me, James...I just wanted to say that the film is brilliant." Slowly I reached out my hand hoping he'd take it. He did.

"Thanks, really thank you," Franco graciously said. 

And then the word vomit began. Star struck, I told him how I believed I was an experimental filmmaker. And as I stumbled through all my words to make clear to him how much experimental film and filmmaking meant to me, he sat there and listened to me intently, and he conversed back, despite a line of people behind me awaiting their few seconds with him. His willingness and his excitement over our conversation about film made clear just how passionate this artist is about his craft. We often put celebrities on this pedestal--Francophrenia displays that pedestal brilliantly-and we forget that they too are just working on their art--their messages. They too are just doing what they love to do. And for a moment it didn't matter that my words were coming out backwards, we were just two industry people having an industry conversation...and it felt quite lovely:

 I mentioned that I lectured at URI and it reminded me of him because he's a teacher, and I asked him if he's still New York teaching. he responded kindly and said "Do you teach, you said you lectured at your university?" This led to the last bit of our conversation in which we discussed iPhone apps, what my favorites are for filmmaking, how he'll check it out, and how he goes to school at RISD now. I then made a quick joke with him about his film, and he laughed (yay). 

After telling him once more how much I enjoyed the film and how it was very nice to meet him, I left the theatre thinking about how much I love this art, how much I love the ability to express myself through my medium of choice, how much I love being able to geek out with filmmakers over latest gadgets, and how much I LOVE this REEL world. And how I am not planning to leave it anytime soon.

I am a filmmaker--or in 2012 terms: a media maker.


  1. What iPhone apps does he use?

    1. he didn't tell me. as we got to this part of the conversation, I pretty much had to stop hogging his time and let other people talk to him. Sigh.