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James Franco just survived the apocalypse in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This Is The End - or did he? – and to accompany the plethora of projects he has in the pipeline, he started up an Indiegogo campaign to fund a series of movies based off of his 2011 short story collection Palo Alto, which is filled with stories inspired by growing up in the titular city. But hold back your initial judgments, because this isn’t quite as seemingly nerfarious as people initially assumed Zach Braff’s campaign was.
He’s aiming to raise $500,000 to fund three films, all directed by up-and-coming filmmakers. Beyond giving directors somewhat high-profile projects to make, Franco will be donating all proceeds from the sales of the three films to Art of Elysium, a non-profit that encourages actors, artists and musicians to spend time with children suffering from serious medical conditions. The program Elysium Industry was recently created and it in turn supports first-time filmmakers who have volunteered to spend their time with the children. Franco has spent the last seven years or so working with the program, so this goes farther than just making new movies for the hell of it for him. And yet some people will probably still antagonize him for it.
It will probably depend on how good the films are, of course. The first film will be called Memoria, based on the short stories Memoria, Ivan and The Deer, and will be the first feature directed by Nina Ljeti and Vladimir de Fontenary. It tells the story of Ivan, an anti-social suburban kid whose friend base consists of punks and skateboarders. He’s in love with a girl who isn’t aware of him, and one of his best friends is destructive and probably won’t be a good influence on him. It’s not the most original concept, but it could easily be delivered in an effective manner. The below picture was presented as a “character mood board.”
Killing Animals is based on same-named story, Halloween, Lockedhead and Camp, and will be directed by Bruce Thierry Cheung, who co-directed Franco in a segment of the offbeat biopic Tar. Killing Animals follows a group of adventurous teens led by Ryan Rivers as they grow from innocent danger to something more violent. It will jump back and forth between the characters at age 12 and age 16, focusing on behavioral changes. Check the mood board below.
Finally, Yosemite is based on the stories Peter Parker, Grand Illusion and, of course, Yosemite, and will be directed by Gabrielle Demeestere, who also directed a segment of Tar. The story tells the intertwining tales of three 4th graders in 1985 as a killer mountain lion threatens the community. One boy finds a dead body on a trip to Yosemite with his dad. His friend Joe is introduced to comic books by a lonely drifter. And another boy finds his cat the victim of the mountain lion and recruits the other two boys on a trek for vengeance. The mood board is below.
Franco hopes for production for all three films to take place in August and September, in time for film festival submissions. In one day, the project has raised almost $30,000, so it seems likely that with more promotion, we could be watching these movies by next year, and a lot of sick kids might get a few surprises. (I mean, it’s no Veronica Mars or anything.)To hear Franco tell you everything I just did, but in different locations and with different lengths of facial hair, watch the campaign video below.