James Franco can tick off a couple more items on his list of accomplishments with the debut of an online film for Samsung from Cheil USA, promoting the Galaxy Note 10.1, which dropped in the U.S. last week.
Mr. Franco not only stars in the film, he also directed it. In front of the camera, he appears as the ultimate multi-tasker, simultaneously directing and acting in the spot, while he cooks a perfect egg, diagnoses a throat ailment, solves a complex mathematical equation, and sends himself a multimedia birthday gift reminder, among many, many other things. What helps make this possible is the equally capable and diverse Samsung tablet and stylus he carries throughout.
For the non-Francophiles out there, the actor is famous for his polymathic skillset. While he's best known as a film celebrity, he's also starred in a soap opera ("General Hospital"), written a book of short stories and simultaneously attended grad school at two New York universities (NYU and Columbia), among other things. Naturally, he figured early on in the agency's concepts for the campaign.
"We wrote the script specifically for James Franco," explained Cheil USA Chief Creative Officer Lars Bastholm. "We began by thinking about multi-tasking in general because the ability to do several things at once with multi-screen is a key feature of the Note 10.1. Once he came up, it seemed obvious he was the perfect person to illustrate this feature, due to his incredible range of simultaneous activity. He really is the ultimate multi-tasker."
Mr. Bastholm said that once Franco agreed to star and direct the video, "we worked closely with him and his team to fine-tune the script," although for the most part, everything was pretty much on the page from the get-go. Outside of that , "there were a few funny beats that happened during the shoot itself," he said. For example, "the extended "Bueller-like" ending was James riffing," said Cheil USA Group Creative Director Adam Wohl. Also, "we wanted to surprise James during the shoot with something he wasn't expecting, so on one take, the group of posing girls responded, 'Yes, James,' with perfect synchronicity. That made the final cut."
Talent schedule, not surprisingly, turned out to be the biggest challenge of the project. "We only had one shooting day with him," said Mr. Bastholm. "So we had to be very well-prepared. Any day-of glitches could have thrown a spanner in the works and forced us to postpone. Luckily, the tiger, skateboarders and pillow-fighting girls were all very well-behaved and performed great that day. And, you know, the benefit of working with someone like James Franco is that his acting skills aren't too shabby!"
Also part of Samsung's launch campaign was the brand's first-ever launch event geared toward consumers, held at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center last week. Filmmaker Baz Luhrman and fashion designer Zac Posen hosted a demo of the tablet, while a crowd of other creative types -- artists, photographers, writers -- participated in various "experience zones" that showed off the tablet's diverse capabilities for the creative set.
"Our charge was getting people in front of and interacting with Samsung's devices, to ignite their passion for the brand," said Mr. Wohl. Mr. Bastholm added that more consumer product events are scheduled for other regions across the globe.
In the coming months, Samsung and Cheil will be launching other celebrity-driven web videos, but talent names are under wraps. Mr. Bastholm said they will be pop-culture icons from "various creative fields," and the videos will continue to "inspire, entertain and provide functional value to people's lives."