-- James Franco took a risk in the late 2000's when he enrolled in several grad school programs at a time some would say was the pinnacle of his acting career.
But the gamble has more than paid off as the 37-year-old auteur has ventured into and mastered a plethora of artistic mediums before and since. In recent years, Franco has written books, produced films, taught classes and has taken his directing to a whole new level.
Franco says film school at NYU and Columbia was a big help, especially when it comes to telling master actors what to do!
"Going to school was incredible for me," he told ABC News. "It gave me the confidence to picture myself as a director. I had directed things before film school, but I was pretty insecure about what I was doing. So, film school kind of gave me the confidence to do that."
"Will was great, it does take a little bit of confidence that maybe I didn't have when I stared out," he said. "It'd be scary to work with people that are the best at what they do. I found that a lot of actors that I never dreamed of directing like Ferrell or Robert Duvall and Bryan Cranston, all these people in my other film 'In Dubious Battle,' they all responded to the material, but I think they also responded to the attitude of that we don't have to all wait around for somebody to allow us to do this ... we kind of figured out ways to make these [movies] happen."
Franco has been a successful actor since the mid-90's and said going back to school "just put me in touch with this whole other side of the film business."
"Now that I'm a teacher, I build out projects with my students ... it's an area that I get to just make things for the love of it," he said. "Make the things that i want to make. There are still business responsibilities, even the cheapest movie aren't cheap. There's still business considerations, but when I do these projects ... they lean much more toward the artistic side."
One project in particular, "Yosemite," was actually written and directed by one of Franco's first classmates at NYU, Gabrielle Demeestere.
Franco stars and produced this film through his company Rabbit Bandini Productions, and a special screening is taking place at 8 p.m. on Sunday, presented by Slamdance Cinema Club at ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood, with a panel afterward.
"It's based on some of my short stories," he said about the film. "I knew Gabrielle and she was in my very first class there and we became friends. She just turned out to be one of the best filmmakers I know from my time there and so after I graduated, I really wanted to help some of the fellow students that I knew were really talented."
He continued, "One of the best things that I got out of film school was that I got a group of friends and fellow filmmakers ... I met a whole new group of collaborators."