9 February 2015

James Franco: 5 Lessons that all film students need to learn

By Danny Kelly | Categorised in Film Festivals, Industry Interviews

James Franco is one of the most famous actors of his generation, having appeared in huge features films (Spiderman, 127 Hours) as well as lesser known art house and independent movies.  Not wholly content on his role as an actor, James is now taking more of an interest in producing and writing for the screen, as shown by his producer credit on newest release ‘I am Michael’ and his lecturing on filmmaking in the USA.

James took time out from promoting his three films (I am MichaelQueen of the Desert and Everything will be Fine) at the Berlin Film Festival to give us his top surviving tips for student filmmakers.

  • Think for the screen

What I’m trying to do, and what any teacher in the creative arts tries to do, is to help the students find their voice and present their ideas on the screen in a clear way. From the concept to the approach… all the way to the script.  After seeing the script, i’ll ask the filmmaker ‘is everything else working? Can you take that page from your head and put it up there on the screen?  Are you thinking about the rest of the product?’  I’ll try and help to strengthen the delivery.

  • Collaborate

Film works best, at least for me, when it is a collaborative medium.  I think film is a Director’s medium but the Directors that I like the most are the ones working with all of the department’s throughout the process.  The real Director is there having conversations with the actors and the heads of department, not play-acting what they think the ‘role’ of the Director is.

  • Take inspiration from those you admire

An example for me is Gus van Saint.  He’ll create a harmony and an atmosphere, allowing all of the creative components to come together in their own way.

  • Work with your actors

Allow actors to do what they came here to do.  I really try to foster that in all filmmaking students that I meet.   Students have to work together. I mean, you have to collaborate on a film, so it’s about setting up a good atmosphere for cast and crew.

  • Enhance the Set environment

I’m not into a competitive atmosphere nor am I into an argumentative atmosphere.  It’s about working together. Its no longer about thinking ‘oh, my sections going to be the best in the class’, it’s about making the whole product right.  You can then take that larger project to the world.


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