Using his fame for good, James Franco premiered his USC student film "Don Quixote: the Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha" at the Palm Springs High School during the Palm Springs International Film Festival on January 7, 2015. James Franco brought together a group of the brightest and best from his advance film production course to bring the Miguel de Cervantes book "Don Quixote" to the silver screen. The film was directed by 10 USC students and all the other aspects of the film including writing, producing, editing and even costume design was a product of Franco's class. Franco served as Executive Producer and the film stars Carmen Argenziano, Horatio Sunz, Reinaldo Zavarce, Anthony Skordi, Steve Bannos along with Franco in a small role.
One of the student directors Mahin Ibrahim, who has already graduated from USC and is now working for Youtube, told what is like to have Franco as instructor, "his story notes were really incredible, they were always on point. He always came up with the best story ideas off the fly. It was a great way to show how to live in the moment, creatively. He really helped to enhance the story."
Ibrahim also pointed out that classes like that of Franco's are exactly the reasons new filmmakers should attend film school, "This gave us access to things that we couldn't get anywhere else. You get to work with really amazing and creative people, that you end up working with again."
Although only limited a few questions on a very busy red carpet, Franco was generous in his answers and showed true and genuine passion for his work as an instructor at USC, "This is my second year teaching at USC and I just love teaching. I feel very fortunate to have the career and the life that I have and teaching is the perfect way to give some opportunities to students."
With ten directors on one movie set, Franco described how he assigned the work, "I've been doing this class for a while now, this is my fifth year teaching graduate film courses. I like to structure the work this way. Multiple directors get to collaborate on a single project, that way all the students are invested in each other's work. They are all working on material that will add up to a unified whole."
He continued, "I guess that idea came about after I went through film school and master programs. I wasn't collaborating with my classmates as much as I wanted to. So, when I chance to teach, I designed it that way. It's about knowing how to split up the work, designing a script that can be divided up, yet then be put back together. Once that is done, multiple directors is manageable. It is similar to the way a TV series is run - having a different director for each episode."
When it came to the subject of Don Quixote itself, Franco the professor showed some of his star quality. He lit up, his brown eyes twinkled and he smiled, "Don Quixote is one of my favorite books. I've liked it for a long time and the other thing I am thinking about when I am putting a class like this together is what source text to use. I have to pick a text that will fit well with this kind of project. Even though Don Quixote has an ongoing narrative it is also broken-up into episodes. That made it easy to split up among the students."
After a few more questions by other members of the press, Franco and his whole gang filled their seats at the Palm Springs High School auditorium for the premiere of their film. It was obvious that the young students on hand were star struck having the Academy Award-nominated actor in their midst as yells and catcalls were heard whenever Franco appeared on screen.
The film itself, was very polished for a student endeavor. Except for one very quick moment that was out of focus in the very beginning, no one would know by seeing the film that is was a project completed by students. It appears Franco may have created another way, besides the short film, for graduate students to gain experience and learn their craft - and that a feature length film is possible on a student level. Overall the film was quite entertaining and very funny.
When the film ended, the students and their master took to the stage and they spoke of their experienced. In order for the direction of the audience not to be solely focused on Franco, he often took to looking at the floor when his students were speaking. This is the mark of not just a great instructor, but a class act.