James Franco, Latest in Growing List of Celebrity Crowdfund Campaigners

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

Do you have a few bucks you can spare? If so, James Franco would really like to talk with you.

James Franco has become the latest celebrity to experiment in crowdfunding. On Monday, the "This Is The End" and "Oz: The Great and Powerful" star posted a page on the fundraising site Indiegogo, seeking to raise $500,000 for a new film project.

In this case, Franco plans to produce three feature-length films based on short stories from his 2010 book "Palo Alto," with four promising students from New York University's film program writing and directing -- Bruce Thierry Cheung, Gabriel Demeestere, Vladimir de Fontenay, and Nina Ljeti. The stories touch on experiences of coming of age in Franco's hometown of Palo Alto, California, where the films will be shot.

On his page, Franco says that while he's investing in the project, the plan to shoot three independent feature films back is more than he can support on his own.

"We just need a little bit more help, I'm just asking for a little more help," Franco said in a video posted on his Indiegogo page. "I'm putting money into these projects because I believe in them, I believe in these filmmakers, and these stories are very important to me, very personal."

As is usually the case with crowdfunded projects, Franco is sweetening the pot by offering goodies for those who contribute. Among other bonuses, $20 gets you recordings of Franco reading his short stories, $75 gets you a reproduction of one of Franco's paintings and a copy of his high school graduation portrait, for $450 he'll record a cell phone greeting for you, and a donation $5,000 means you can play a small role in one of the films.

And if you're wondering what Franco will do with the money made from the films after you invested in them, the producer had already pledged all profits from the three movies will be donated to the Art of Elysium, a group that provides mentoring from artists and musicians for children living with serious medical conditions.

"Not only are we supporting these great young filmmakers with these amazing projects, but all of the money will be going to help these children," Franco said. "So essentially, you'll be supporting charity, too."

By Tuesday morning, Franco's Indiegogo campaign had raised close to $22,000 (and counting) – not exactly a slam dunk like Rob Thomas's Kickstarter campaign to fund a "Veronica Mars" movie, which generated $1 million within its first four hours, or Zach Braff's efforts to fund his film "Wish I Were Here" on Kickstarter, which raked in $3.1 million.

But it looks like Franco is likely to fare better than "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" star Melissa Joan Hart, whose attempts to raise $2 million to produce a romantic comedy generated a mere $51,000 in pledges before Hart opted to pull the plug. And Franco has already far outstripped "Girls" star Zosia Mamet, who started a Kickstarter campaign to come up with $32,000 to make a music video for her group The Cabin Sisters, and generated less than $2,800 in pledges.

Unlike Kickstarter, in which no one is charged for their pledges if the funding goal is not reached, the Indiegogo pledges will go to Franco's project even if it doesn't amount to $500,000. Hopefully he's already asked a few of his well paid co-stars to pony up.