I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go. This happens to me a lot. I put much weight on some outings and not enough on other. Ultimately, it comes down to making more efficient choices with my time. The event in this case was a screening of James Franco’s project, My Own Private River, which consisted of Footage from My Own Private Idaho re-contextualized as James Franco’s tribute to River Phoenix, creating both a portrait of the actor and the character he portrays. According to Franco, “It was overwhelming to be able to cut the raw material of my favorite film, a film that had moved me, that had helped shape me as a teenager.” So basically, he was dealing a dead actor/fictional character and the emotional response he felt connecting with said figure while growing up; boiled down…a theme I have been studying with my own work for years. There would be a reception before the screening, and a Q&A after with Franco.
It’s exhilarating to find other artists seriously working with the themes in your own work. It’s even more exhilarating when one of these artists is directly embedded in the system you studio (Hollywood, media, stardom), and also is a professional academic with a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips. I owed it to myself, and my own work to at least try to strike up a conversation with James Franco that night. I wanted to pick his brain, and given the more lowkey setting, I could possibly do so without having to succumb to being part of an aggressive attacked fan crowd. I needed to pick this man’s brain.
My last attendance at a FSLC event was in honor of Old Hollywood actress Jane Powell, with a Q & A with TCM’s Robert Osborne. Every time I found another young person in the crowd at the reception, I would soon realize they were working the event. Let’s just say the “My Own Private Idaho” screening was a very different crowd. I went with a friend unphased by James Franco, but also would give me shit if I wimped out. We ate, we drank, and suddenly there was a swarm around a singular person. Clearly, James Franco had entered the room.
We eventually squeezed our way near him until we were right at his side patiently awaiting his attention. We waited, while not passive we refrained from being pushy. One by one…his attention would be demanded in different direction; literally from the front, from behind, from every possible angle. There people either thought they had the most important thing to say to him, or that their need to interact with him, that autograph, that minute and a half of connectivity was clearly stronger than anyone else’s. I have people in my life of various levels of fame, but I have never seen as much as a shitshow as when you put James Franco in a room with a crowd of expectant people. It was non-stop, and time was running out and Franco was looking progressively more drained.
Each person was demanding a piece from a person that barely looked present. I cannot say I was all that much better. While I was not demanding something from him, I was seeking. The crowded raved about James the actor, but ignored James the director and artist. If your James Franco, I guess you get used to have a crowd around you raving about your acting career and ignore the art project you poured your heart and soul into that that this crowd is supposedly here to support….because of course, James Franco the director and James Franco the artist and James Franco the actor are all still just James Franco. Being James Franco, you have to be all of the Franco’s, even if you’re trying to just be James Franco the artist for that evening. Why? You’re James Franco. You think about taking out your tiny violin, but then you remember…hey…he’s James Franco, and that somewhat squashes the imaginary pity instrument.
Finally, in a way that was somewhat apologetic for all of this chaos, he extended his arm to me, across a fan that recently attacked him, and said “Hi, I am James”. Before me stood James, waiting to see the which demand of him or which James lead me to patiently wait by his side.
to be continued….