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James Franco stars in, produces NYU grad students’ film

Brooklyn Filmmakers Collaborate in Writing, Directing 'The Color of Time'

December 10, 2014 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
James Franco stars as poet C.K. Williams in “The Color of Time,” a film written and directed by 12 of Franco’s NYU grad students. Image courtesy of Starz Digital Media
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James Franco is a man of many hats. In one of his more unique projects, “The Color of Time,” the famed actor stars in a film written and directed by 12 of his NYU grad students, three of whom hail from Brooklyn. 

The movie, which Starz Digital is releasing in select theaters on Dec. 12, is unique in that it was created by emerging filmmakers but features world-famous actors. Franco portrays Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams, who is haunted by childhood and adolescent memories as he prepares for a reading in New York City. Mila Kunis stars as Williams’ adoring wife, Jessica Chastain plays his mother and Zach Braff acts as his friend.

“It was a total delight to work with James and Mila,” Pamela Romanowsky, one of the Brooklyn-based filmmakers, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “They’re both masters of their craft, and they’re both open and generous and extremely present people. That’s the most potent lesson I learned from them — to be present in a way that allows you to tune in to what’s happening in front of you, not what was on the page or in your head.”

Franco assembled the group  of film students during his first year teaching at NYU, and the film — which is now available on iTunes — was shot in Detroit when Franco and other cast members had down time from shooting “Oz: The Great and Powerful.”  

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The directors offer an intimate window into Williams’ life, weaving the words of his poems into snapshots of the complex relationships that motivated him. While each of the 12 filmmakers worked on particular segments, the movie portrays a cohesive story.

“The idea was that there would be a common ground in the visual style, with different stories that could be closer to our own interests as directors,” Omar Zúñiga Hidalgo, another Brooklyn-based director, told the Eagle. He explained that each director “chose poems that they felt closely engaged to, and then edited rough versions of their own segments, which were all put together in the end by the editors, keeping the flow from scene to scene

“There were also elements that helped with making the style more cohesive…having only one production designer, one costume designer, and two cinematographers for all the segments,” Zúñiga Hidalgo added.

Sarah-Violet Bliss, also from Brooklyn, told the Eagle that putting together a film with 11 other writers was “like an improvised dance. No one knows what it’s going to look like or how it’s going to work, but you’re all going for it — so it just happens.” 

Other filmmakers agreed that the experience of working with several other writers was exciting and rewarding. “In a low budget indie, nothing goes as planned, and this film was an exercise in clarity and flexibility,” Romanowsky said. “If you’re all very clear on and committed to what you want from the scene, and you listen to and trust each other, you can always reroute. You find the scene together and magic happens.”

“Each person brought something to the table that I couldn’t have,” Romanowksy said.

Bliss added that it helped to be working with such well-established actors. “This cast was incredible and they brought their A-game. It didn’t matter that we weren’t big name directors; they wanted to do a good job, and they did. It’s a gift,” Bliss said.

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