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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



James Franco at PSIFF 2011 on 'SAL' (2011)


James Franco and Val Lauren in Palm Springs for 'SAL' (2011) by PSIFF press

James Franco’s feature film SAL (2011) held its world premiere at the 68th La Biennale Venice Film Festival. Most recently the film debuted in Palm Springs during the 23rd Palm Springs International Film Festival. After the screening of the film, Franco appeared with lead actor in SAL, Val Lauren, to attend a Q and A to audiences. Read some of Franco’s answers to questions below.


JAMES: I had another film that I shot here a couple of years ago. It was based on a poem and it was about this employee at Brooks Brothers who has this really full and cheerier life but the poem was just about a day in his life at Brooks Brothers and not that much happens but there’s tons of emotion so obviously in drama as opposed to poetry its so hard to show the interior state unless it comes to the surface. You cant depend on lyric. You have to dramatize it. But I found that one way that I could approach it would be to just sit with the actor, just be with them and not in a sense where the close-up would be a punctuation in a scene like I just use it as a way to kind of sit with the actor so you can just be with them and I feel like you get to know Sal in this movie but we don’t do a ton of telling. Its more like you just be with him and I think you get to know him by that kind of close proximity so I think it’s a slightly different way of using a close-up than normal used.

Q: Your film doesn’t have a lot of exposition. Is that the way you want to tell a story?

JAMES: Yeah, I guess… As an actor I’ve worked of all kinds of movies of all different sizes and um, I’m not saying that one way is better than another. I’ve worked on soap operas too and I don’t look down on them. I really believe that there is a form for every kind of thing that you want to do. I guess what I’m attracted to is exploring characters, exploring people and I find that the way I like to go into a character is to be with them, sit with them. I do think that there is a form here. It does kind of have its own arc or at least a design but it’s a design that kind of steps back and puts all the focus back onto the character so that you’re not being pulled through by a super strong plotline, but instead you’re pulled through by different kinds of tension just knowing it’s his last day, knowing that every act he does is that much more important. And the performance of feeling like you’re in the presence of someone that is acting naturally rather than as you might do in another movie where each action adding to the plot. Here, each action is revealing something about the character or just letting you into what he’s like when he’s alone. He has something that is revealing character rather than driving away.


'SAL' (2011) is an experimental feature that presents us with a realistic intimate look into what the last day of actor Sal Mineo’s life might have been like before being stabbed to death on February 12, 1976. Sal Mineo played John "Plato" Crawford next to James Dean in the legendary film 'REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE' (1955). As Franco played actor James Dean in the TV film 'JAMES DEAN' (2011), he was clearly taken with Sal Mineo’s story enough to make this unique film which gives a close up on Sal Mineo’s last day. 'SAL' forces us to focus on the details of just one ordinary day with all its infinities and limitations, the feeling of the eternal and of endless possibilities in a day in the life of a young actor one sunny California day, followed by the heavy ponderous reality of ends and the inevitable mortality of all things. The film is humble yet solid, lyrical and discomforting. If I could use one quote to describe the feeling I had about this film I would leave you with these words from one of my favorite writers, Paul Bowles:

“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don't know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It's that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don't know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

― Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky. 


written by Vanessa McMahon, January 25th, 2011



DIRECTOR: James Franco 
Producer: Caroline Aragon, Vince Jolivette, Miles Levy
Editor: James Franco
Screenwriter: James Franco, Vince Jolivette, Stacey Miller
Cinematographer: Christina Voros
Music: Neil Benezra
Principal Cast: Val Lauren, James Franco, Jim Parrack, Brian Goodman, Stacey Miller
Filmography: The Broken Tower (2011), Good Time Max (2007), The Ape (2005), Fool’s Gold (2005)


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