We were all practically waiting for it now. As soon as Amanda Palmer’s celebrity-crowdfunded-project Patient Zero hit the web, with things like the Veronica Mars movie, Zach Braff’s Garden State follow-up and Zosia Mamet’s very expensive music video, we were waiting for the crowdfunded project from an already-wealthy, artistically-establihed celebrity that would make the Internet all go, "Oh, come on!" in unison. And who better to be that person than resume-padder and Spring Breaker James Franco?
Franco is asking for $500,000 in an IndieGoGo campaign (or at least a handful of MFAs from Tisch) three to make three short films based on his book of semi-autobiographical fiction short stories, Palo Alto, which wasn’t even all that good. The shorts are based on the stories "Memoria," "Killing Animals" and "Yosemite," and deal with stories of angsty teens growing up in California and encountering such hazards as love, drugs, violence and mountain lions.
Franco, who talks about his passion for teaching in the crowdfunding video, has tapped four up-and-coming filmmakers from NYU, Nina Ljeti, Vladimir de Fontenay, Bruce Thierry Chung and Gabrielle Demeestere, for the project. So at least it’s sort of using Kickstarter for its original intention, to give exposure to rising filmmakers. But are the stories in Palo Alto, which were met with generally tepid reviews, stories worth telling and raising capital for?
Franco defends his desire to crowd-fund in the campaign video, explaining that he is putting his own money into these projects, but also needs just "a little more help." A little more help. A half-million dollars’ more.
"I find that this process is very exciting, that it’s the best way to make movies," he tells the camera, practically staring down the viewer under his dark sunglasses. "Because in this way, the movies we want to make get made in the ways we want to make them, where the only consideration is how to make the best movies possible. And I see these projects as an opportunity for all kinds of collaboration."
The other element of this project, about which Franco is very passionate, is that all of the proceeds from the films will go to Art of Elysium, an organization that connects working artists, musicians and actors with children who are hospitalized or battling serious injury or illness. Art of Elysium does a lot of work to inspire creativity and joy in those who need a boost of it, and it’s worth raising awareness about them, for sure.
So basically, James Franco means well, and Art of Elysium is a very cool organization that deserves your support. And maybe he’s on to something, that maybe the already-rich-and-famous can get attention on crowdfunding websites for cool, lesser-known charities and up-and-coming filmmakers, who were the kinds of things that were supposed to get exposure via crowd-funding in the first place. It would be infinitely more insufferable, if, say, Franco was directing the films themselves and there wasn’t a goodwill element.
And people will probably fund it anyway, because they funded Zach Braff and Amanda Palmer and the Veronica Mars movie, and this will further become the new way. We’re not really sure what the best solution is, except, like, create a need-based system for movie crowd-funding, but that comes with its own set of problems. Anyway, brace yourselves for the next round of navel-gazing about this as The New Way, and watch Franco’s crowdfunding video below.