The Paly Voice

Franco film workshop plans release of finished product

Adrienne Kwok

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james franco

James Franco helped lead a film workshop at Palo Alto High School that started last fall. “It was a really long and thorough process that taught us a lot more about professional film making,” said Paly senior Leah Benque, one of the producers. “We only saw the non-edited part so far, so I’m excited.” Photo: Adrienne Kwok.

After a year’s worth of work, the students and collaborators involved in the James Franco Film Workshop are looking to premiere their film before February after delaying its scheduled release dates.

Journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki and actor and alumnus James Franco helped lead an eight-part film workshop in the Palo Alto High School Media Arts Center that began in September 2015. Over 40 students from more than four high schools collaborated to complete various aspects of the film, including writing scripts, directing, filming and editing.

The film is based on Betsy Franco’s novel, “Metamorphosis: Junior Year,” and the plot revolves around a fictional Palo Alto teenager and the changes he experiences in high school. It is scheduled to be screened at the Cinequest Film Festival in February and the team also hopes to showcase the final product in smaller venues in the Bay Area beforehand.

james franco film workshop

Students listen to James Franco as they work to complete the film’s script on a Sunday morning. “I think the workshop was very successful,” said Paly senior Jordan Schilling, a producer. “It taught me a lot of skills that I wouldn’t have been able to learn until my third year in college. It was a great experience.” Photo: Adrienne Kwok.

The original release goal had been May 2016 when the workshop began, according to Wojcicki, though the date was later postponed to August. An increase in the post-production time frame pushed the release date to later this year, according to senior Paly Alec Cohen-Schisler, co-director, co-editor and head of animation.

“We’re done filming but still working on editing, color correcting, any added visuals, animation and so forth,” Cohen-Schisler said. “There was never a hard schedule, but we were shooting for the beginning of school, mid-August, so graduates could see it before going off to college. We ended up adding an animation scene and stretching out the post-production process to really get the movie right where we wanted it.”

Former Paly student and director Christina Polanen considers the workshop a learning opportunity.

“Overall I’d say it was a great experience,” Polanen said. “I know I personally learned quite a bit about all the different aspects of the film making process, such as learning about lighting, camera angles, etcetera.

Junior Ashley Zhang, whose classmates took part in the workshop, is looking forward to seeing the outcome.

“Some of my classmates participated in the film workshop last year, and they said that it was a really great experience and they learned a lot,” junior Ashley Zhang said. “I’m not sure exactly what they did, but I would really like to see the results because they seemed to work really hard on it, and I’m sure it’ll be very professional-looking because they had James Franco’s help.”

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