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Actor James Franco Skypes with Emerson students

Actor James Franco’s video appearance led to a packed house at Emerson.Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/File

Anna Feder was pleased that students from Emerson College didn’t ask Hollywood heartthrob James Franco any “breathy” questions during a Skype interview with the actor this week.

“There’s nothing more nerve-racking than opening up a discussion for audience questions that haven’t been vetted,” said Feder, director of programming in the visual and media arts department at Emerson. “But Emerson students have been very good.”

Appearing on a giant screen while wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt, leaning back on a pillow in a hotel room, Franco fielded inquiries from students about his latest film, “I Am Michael.” The film was shown during a screening at the Bright Screening Room at the school’s Paramount Center Tuesday night.


The event was part of the ongoing “Bright Lights Series” that Feder has organized for the past eight semesters.

The film, which came out this year and was featured at the Sundance Film Festival, was directed by Justin Kelly. The film’s storyline is based on the 2011 New York Times magazine article “My Ex-Gay Friend,” written by Benoit Denizet-Lewis.

Denizet-Lewis is an assistant professor for Emerson’s department of writing, literature, and publishing. Denizet-Lewis was on stage Tuesday night following the screening alongside the film’s director.

Feder said it’s common to have directors and writers come to the school each week to be part of the open discussions after viewing the films, but having a star like Franco chime in via Skype was an “added bonus.”

Feder said she didn’t find out that Franco would be there until a day before the screening.

“I think that close to doubled our audience,” she said.

Franco’s video appearance led to a packed house. Wanting to be sure every student attending had a chance to be part of the event, Feder sacrificed her own seat.

“We had to turn some folks away,” she said.


With Franco on the big screen, students asked about his experience working on the film. Feder said some key questions were about Franco’s creative process, and what aspects of the film’s characters he identified with.

“They were all pretty good questions and all relevant to the film,” she said.

Feder said it was almost better having Franco dial in from Skype, because it made the interaction “feel more intimate.”

“Skype has been really great for these types of events, especially for people whose schedules you just cannot predict,” Feder said.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.