James Franco is now following in the footsteps of Zach Braff by experimenting with crowdfunding for a new project in which he is involved: a trilogy of movies based on his short story collection, Palo Alto, by a group of young filmmakers. Franco is seeking to raise $500,000, a hefty sum for a group of unknown directors, so it will be interesting to see how successful Franco will be in using his star image to get audiences to back this project.
There are a couple of notable features about Franco’s fundraising campaign. First, unlike Braff, the Veronica Mars team, and a number of other high-profile filmmakers, Franco has opted to use IndieGoGo a crowdfunding service that allows the fundraisers to keep the money they raise, even if they don’t achieve their monetary goals. So, Franco’s students are likely guaranteed to receive significant backing, even if they don’t raise the full half million. As a result, there may be less pressure on people to invest in the project given that they may not view their contribution as directly needed.
Second, Franco has explicitly promised to donate any profits from the films to Art of Elysium, a non-profit organization that encourages entertainers to visit sick children in the hospital, so even if Franco may be using his star image to attract attention to this project, he may not profit directly from the results.
I’m unfamiliar with Franco’s short story collection, so I’m not sure how they’ll work cinematically–an issue that I’m guessing may affect other contributors as well. But it’s interesting to see a star use his image to promote a project in which he is not the primary artistic force.