June 24, 2013
Won’t you help James Franco turn his book into a film trilogy?
by Nick Davies
Having gotten a taste for literary adaptation with his take on As I Lay Dying, James Franco is looking to adapt another literary masterpiece for the big screen—his own! Jenny Hendrix writes for the Los Angeles Times that Franco is appealing to the public to fund a trilogy of movies based on his 2011 short story collection Palo Alto.
Franco is jumping on the recent trend of celebrities using sites such as Kickstarter to fund projects via donations from the public, like the wildly successful effort to fund the Veronica Mars movie, and the disastrous campaign by Zosia and Clara Mamet to film a music video (which was so similar to a Portlandia sketch that it almost seemed like an elaborate prank). Franco is using Indiegogo rather than Kickstarter, but the basic principle is largely the same: people can donate money in whatever increments they please, claiming better and better swag the more they give, and if the project gets the support it’s aiming for—in this case, $500,000—it will go ahead.
Franco’s goal is to turn his collection into three films, titled Memoria, Killing Animals, and Yosemite, after stories in the book, with each film based on three or four different stories. It strikes me as risky to combine several stories into something the length of a feature film; I have to imagine that their impact would be diffused as a result. Not having read Palo Alto, I can’t say whether the characters from the various stories overlap in the book, but Franco describes his vision for each movie on the project page, and Yosemite in particular sounds like three separate ideas rolled together (not to mention somewhat derivative of Stand by Me).
As easy and, often, entertaining as it is to rag on Franco, he has pledged to donate any profits that these films make to The Art of Elysium, a charity whose mission is to “encourage working actors, artists and musicians to dedicate their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions.” It’s a legitimately worthwhile cause, which sets it apart from being strictly a vanity project, so it’s tough to fault him on that. And his incentives to donate big bucks are more likely to motivate people than, say, Zosia Mamet’s were; for example, donating $1,000 to the Palo Alto movies will get you an associate producer credit and access to a VIP screening—which could be fun if you enjoy that kind of thing and have money to blow—as opposed to a handwritten lyric sheet, t-shirt, and vinyl record, which…I’m sorry, Mamets, who’s coughing up a grand for that?
The deadline for Franco’s Indiegogo project is July 17 at 11:59pm; as of this writing, it’s raised $55,996 of the $500,000 goal.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.