8 Things I Learned from being James Franco’s Student.

If someone had told me long ago that I would spend the summer of 2016
with James Franco, I would not have believed it. I applied to Studio 4 to be a writer in his Master Class in New York, from that moment on my life has become a series of events worthy of a reality show.

I went into a small theater, where James Franco and his production team
were sitting in the dark looking down toward a chair sat in the middle of the stage illuminated by a spotlight.

After, taking a seat,  I had to answer a complex question: If you were in an
apocalyptic situation, whom would you choose as an ally and what
five things would you take with? I chose Leonardo DiCaprio, because
he has experience in extreme situations, the statistic says that there
is a 90% chance that he will die in an attempt to save me at the end.

 James laughed …

The news arrived: I made it! The Master Class started right away and
that’s how the adventure of giving life to a horror film began.

As of today, many things are being told about Franco, and I might not
be the one to judge if they are all true. He has his unique ways and
working with him is not for the thin-skinned, that being said, I learnt
some valuable lessons I would like to share.

1.Working as a team is possible

Unlike other work environments, it is possible for talented, competitive people with big ego’s to work together. In the end we all  suffered the same but also wished good for the others. Also, we drank a lot.

  2.Do things that scare you. 

While working in advertising I was pretty confident about my
presentations, to clients and my job in general.  It was not until I had to pitch
a movie idea about James Franco looking to join the Illuminati, to Franco
himself with a group of 100 people watching,  in a language that is not mine, that I
met panic. When I went on stage my tongue didn’t move as I wanted.

Thankfully after some jokes James laughed and asked questions. Pff,
finally over… I felt so much adrenaline, pride and so many things.  But it
was also huge, and I feel proud of that. Do things that intimidate you!

3. You´ll sleep when you are dead.


When you are doing what you are passionate about, sometimes you
forget to sleep. You enter a vortex where you lose sense of time and
space. There was a 48 hour lapse in which I had to rewrite my script, act
like a groupie in a movie from 5am to 4pm, and go to a table read at
7pm. We all supported each other to make it through the end. And
actually really enjoyed it.

4. Opportunities just come once.

We had a task that for lack of time we did not deliver with the expected
quality, James said it was a “Fucking telenovela.”  My team and had to
reshoot everything in record time, but James did not even see it. Then I
realized that the opportunity to make a different impression was lost
and it was going to be difficult for that to return.

5. DO not stay silent.

One night James destroyed my script, some things made sense and
others did not. When the class ended I could not keep silent about
what I felt, I ate the fear, and I went to talk to him. We had a
conversation that led James to play some of my characters, HE WAS
ACTING SOMETHING I WROTE … Regardless of making the
revisions he wanted or not, that talk led to one of the most absurd
and unbelievable moments of my life.

6. Asking for help is necessary

I do not like to ask for help, I always think that I can do everything alone but
that summer I´ve learned that life brings people to your life for a
reason and they can help you achieve important things. So yeah, I
had to asked for help to read my script, correct it or even asked for
asylum when I was homeless. Realizing that there´s so little room for
pride and things are easier to bear when you share the weight with
someone else.

7. Each line has to push the story forward

I learned that in a world where every second matters, you can’t  waste
time writing lines that do not move the plot forward. Lately, I apply that
thought in every day life. And try to make sure that every descion I make moves my life forward.

8. Do not wait to smoke 10 joints, get drunk and sleep to torture

Making a horror movie might bring existential metaphors that include
torture.  Someone wrote a scene where they kidnapped a girl and locked her in the closet. Afterwards they smoked some weed,drank beers and went to sleep. The next morning they took her out of the closet and tortured her.

To that James said this, “I don´t get it. Why if they already have her, they
rather get blazed and wasted?  Why  don´t they just torture her right away? Is that what you do with your life? Smoke weed and wait for things to
happen? – Makes you wonder a lot…

“You already have the tools, now go out and do whatever the fuck you
want!”- that’s the last thing he told us.


Marian Trevino is a producer,writer and filmmaker based in New York City.