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by Bryce J. Renninger
June 18, 2013 10:12 AM
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James Franco Tries Out Crowdfunding for 3 Feature Films Based on the Book He Wrote

James Franco in his campaign video for the "Palo Alto" trilogy

Fresh off his William Faulkner adaptation "As I Lay Dying," which just had its premiere at Cannes (go HERE for our review), James Franco has just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for $500,000 to make a trilogy of feature films based on short stories in his first book (Yes! He wrote a book; there's lots of reminders on the page!).

After Kickstarter celeb successes from "Veronica Mars" and Zach Braff, Shemar Moore and Melissa Joan Hart both launched campaigns that had to be cancelled for lack of support (It should be noted that unlike "Mars" creator Rob Thomas and Braff, Hart and Moore weren't really the creators of their projects.)  Moore shifted his campaign to Indiegogo which allows for "flexible funding," a funding arrangement that doesn't require you meet your fundraising goal but allows Indiegogo to take a larger cutIt's also a feature that is unavailable on Kickstarter, so we could be seeing more of these celebs who could probably find the money elsewhere on the platform that allows for a less embarrassing failure.

READ MORE: With $2 Million Kickstarter Campaign, Zach Braff Modifies Both Old and New Distribution Models

Franco's book, "Palo Alto" is about the California town of the same name that he grew up in.

He'll be working with NYU classmates Nina Ljeti, Vladimir Bourdeau, Bruce Thierry Cheung, and Gabrielle Demeestere to adapt and direct three different feature films: "Memoria," "Killing Animals," and "Yosemite."

Profits from the films will all be donated to a charity, The Art of Elysium, that sends working artists into hospitals.

The synopses for the three films, excerpted from the Indiegogo page:

"Memoria" tells the story of Ivan Cohen, an anti-social, self-conscious boy living in the suburbs of Palo Alto, California. Unlike most kids in Palo Alto, Ivan comes from a working class family. Unable to get along with his mother and his step-father at home, Ivan retreats to a world of military combat in the confines of his bedroom, dreaming of his Russian military father who left him before he was born. Ivan’s friends are part of a very small subculture of punks and skateboarders in Palo Alto.

"Killing Animals" a mischievous, intimate look at teenagers in the 1990s. The world is Palo Alto, a safe and comfortable suburb in California. We follow a group of restless kids that yearn to escape to the night streets to feel powerful, to the outskirts of the city to feel adventurous. The film jumps between their innocent wide-eyed days as 12 year olds and their more alienated and disillusioned times as 16 year olds.

"Yosemite":  It’s the fall of 1985. The intertwining tales of three 4th grade friends, Chris, Joe and Shrimp, unfold in the suburban paradise of Palo Alto, as the threat of a killer mountain lion looms over the community.  Chris encounters a dead body up close on a trip to Yosemite with his Dad.

For the full synopses and more information (like what stories inspired each film), check out the project's Indiegogo page.


  • ED | June 21, 2013 4:28 PMReply

    Paula Deen should also try to get Kickstarter to fund her next apology video. Just saying.

  • Crowdfunding | June 20, 2013 4:13 AMReply

    Excellent post. Please keep up the great work.

  • Aaron Hillis | June 18, 2013 10:50 AMReply

    The Faulkner adaptation was hardly his directorial debut, sir! Franco directed at least four narrative features, two or three docs, several shorts, and co-directed the TriBeCa Film Fest barely-feature-length oddity FRANCOPHRENIA.

  • IW | June 18, 2013 11:14 AM


  • JK | June 18, 2013 10:42 AMReply

    Setting aside my usual criticisms of celebrity crowdfunding campaigns, if all proceeds are actually going to charity, there should be other ways of raising the money to make this project happen, ways that wouldn't be available to a for-profit enterprise. It would require more work and a bit more creativity, but taking that approach would be far less problematic (morally, ethically) than asking money from people who don't live as well.

  • Chris | June 19, 2013 2:31 AM

    James Franco is putting his own money into the project. His is making 3 movies, not one, so the fact that he is only asking for $500,000 means he clearly has most of the money sorted out already.

    And if he had gone to a big studio to get the funds, instead of crowdsourcing, you can bet your ass the profits wouldn't be going to charity.

  • Mason | June 18, 2013 2:48 PM

    Crowdfunding wasn't made for just starving indie filmmakers.

  • Felix | June 18, 2013 10:29 AMReply

    This is great. Crowdfunding is perfect for young, unknown artists like this Mr. Franco, who has no connections whatsoever to the industry. We should all help out and pay for this project that is no way narcissistic, self-indulgent and obviously steers away from those awful stereotypes of indie movies about white people with daddy issues. I'm sure about is going to be a mordant critic about life in the suburbs... Edgy. We have never seen that! I'm giving all my money to this project; I'm sure Mr. Franco has no money - it's not like has starred in some pretty big movies or something.

  • Pip Nosher | June 18, 2013 7:19 PM

    Not "proceeds," my friend. "Profits" will be donated to charity, at least according to this article. Even if we're not talking about studio accounting, there is still a world of difference.

  • Boo | June 18, 2013 10:41 AM

    I felt the same, but at least the proceeds are donated to charity.