James Franco Discusses His Love For Grad School

David Wangberg - Author

Feb. 20 2017, Updated 10:48 p.m. ET

Back in 2008, Oscar-nominated actor James Franco enrolled in four graduate programs, according to a report from The New York Daily News. Three were for writing, and one was for filmmaking.

Now, Franco is going for his PhD at Yale University, while he is still working on making movies like Palo Alto, This is the End, and Spring Breakers. In an exclusive essay for The New York Daily News, Franco unveiled his thoughts on grad school and offers tips to those who plan on attending. This essay is part of an anthology book called Should I Go to Grad School?

James Franco begins his essay by saying grad schools are “funny.”

“Each one is different, obviously,” Franco writes. “Most of the programs I went to were for MFAs.”

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The whole reason why James went to grad school is because he “had spent years as a professional actor and as a mature student of everything else,” he said.

“I wanted to treat my other interests with as much seriousness as I did my acting,” Franco added.

James Franco mentioned that since he had “worked hard and became a professional [actor],” he wanted to give other fields a try and see if he could “do the same thing.”

Franco’s essay is then divided into different categories for different programs. The first he mentions is the fiction program, which can cost between $20,000 and $40,000 a year for “a profession that isn’t going to pay off soon.” James notes that writing is a “solitary activity” and prospective students “shouldn’t expect much collaboration with your peers.”

“After classes, students go home and write stories so they can bring them to class to be workshopped,” Franco writes.

Even though workshops get “criticized a lot,” James mentions that it does give students an opportunity to have their stories read and discussed, and there is feedback.

“Even if the feedback is worthless, a writer’s work changes if the writer knows that it is going to be read,” Franco added.

When it comes to film programs, those are different from writing programs, Franco said.

“All students work on each other’s films,” he said. “Everyone rotates roles: In one production you’re the director, in another you’re the cinematographer, in another you’re the boom operator.”

James also explores art school, which is “more like film school.”

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“There is more collaboration in art school than in writing programs, though the projects are less structured,” he writes.

And even though Franco offers people plenty of advice for those looking to attend grad school, Elisabeth Donnelly at Flavorwire called the essay “banal.”

“James Franco just really loves learning,” Donnelly writes.

Donnelly notes in the beginning of her article that she thought Franco was “mocking us with his schooling” because he has the money and fame to afford to learn multiple fields at once.

“I was hoping, half ironically, that his maniacal approach to the joy of learning was the greatest performance-art hack of all,” she writes.

Donnelly also mentions how it’s harder for “the average person” to overcome debt than it is for someone like James Franco.

“The average person, who is not James Franco, can win six figures on a game show and still end up with federal loans post-grad school,” she writes.

How do you feel about James Franco’s grad school advice?

[Image credited to Getty Images via Vibe Vixen]


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