Franco & Raimi Follow the Yellow Brick Road (minus the red slippers)

“Oz The Great and Powerful Movie Poster ” by MacGuffinPodcast via flickr Creative Commons

James Franco and Sam Raimi are two of the most eclectic filmmakers working in Hollywood today. Need proof? Just check out their IMDB pages and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a common thread in any of their work.

Franco is the heartthrob-turned-renaissance man, whose film roles range from lovable stoner (“Pineapple Express”) to thrill-seeking arm amputee (“127 Hours”) and Beat generation icon Allen Ginsburg (“Howl”).

Raimi is the master of art house gore (“Evil Dead,” “Drag Me to Hell”), whose “Spider-Man” trilogy reignited the superhero genre, and for better or worse brought new scrutiny to a film’s opening weekend box office gross.

They have collaborated once again for Disney’s $200 million gamble, “Oz: the Great and Powerful,” proving once again that there’s no telling what they’ll do next.

Franco and Raimi recently participated in a conference call with college publications from all over the country in promotion for the prequel. The Q&A understandably covered the usual territory.

For example, both of them were attracted to the project as fans of the original L. Frank Baum books. They’re great collaborators and have wanted to work with each other since their Spidey days. Franco prepared for his role as Oscar Diggs (aka the Wizard of Oz) by training with a magician. In a nutshell, they really want you to see this movie.

Borrowing a chapter from the Book of Kunis, as in Mila Kunis (aka the Wicked Witch of the West), let’s just get to the good stuff.

By now most everyone knows that whenever Franco isn’t out shooting some high-profile movie, he’s just another college student trying to stay awake during his morning class. He’s no different than you and I, minus his James Dean looks and multi-million dollar paychecks. Still, you’ve got to admire a guy who works hard toward his academic pursuits despite having a pretty secure day job.

“I got a little addicted to school… It’s in a lot of ways saved my life and made me a much happier person.” Franco said. “I insist that I have this balance of an academic career and a film career.”

Franco has shifted gears once again and is now teaching film at USC after having previously taught at NYU. Care to crash his class? Here are his Rate My Professor reviews. Is that a chili pepper?

Raimi, on the other hand, left his college years behind him long ago when he dropped out of Michigan State after only three semesters in order to make the cult-classic, “Evil Dead.”. However, all things considered, his two-sense is probably still of value to all those aspiring filmmakers pursuing an academic degree. His advice is simple.

“I would say, be directing now, not after college,” Raimi said.

Raimi’s breakdown is easy: Every weekend write a scene. On Saturday shoot the scene. On Sunday edit the scene. On Monday show it to your classmates. Take in their feedback; the good, the bad and the ugly. On Friday rewrite the scene and you get the picture.

“Just keep shooting and you’ll be a filmmaker,” Raimi said.  Now just wait a minute. Don’t drop all your film classes thinking you’ll make the next genre-defining classic like Raimi did. His point is to start chipping your way at it now while you’re still in school as opposed to waiting until after you’ve worn the cap and gown. He warns that waiting will just turn into even more waiting.

“You just do it now and you will always be a director. So get to work you lazy bums,” Raimi said.

“Oz: the Great and Powerful” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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