Bay Area Native, James Franco, Receives Cinequest’s Maverick Spirit Award


Cinequest kicked off its 26th season with a special “Storytelling Reimagined Conclave” pre-festival event honoring James Franco with their coveted Maverick Spirit Award.


Palo Alto native-Oscar-nominated-multi-talented James Franco joined Marty Cooper “The Father of the Cell Phone” and Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen at the Palo Alto Four Seasons to discuss storytelling through various mediums.


Before the event, Franco met guests and took selfies with his young fans and students from Palo Alto High School, his alma mater. Even with his busy schedule, Franco visits the high school once a month to host a film workshop for students interested in film and filmmaking. His former high school teacher, Esther Wojcicki—with whom he has collaborated with on the film workshop—was also in the audience supporting her former student.

Franco was chosen to receive the award because, not only is he a talented actor, but he also places great importance on education. As such, he has decided to add “teacher” to his long list of career achievements, and has been teaching students who are interested in film from his own first-hand experience in the industry.


When the moderator, Kathleen Powell—Cinequest’s co-founder and president—commented on Franco having three master degrees, he laughingly stated that he has “…more than three.” He is currently working towards completing a Ph.D. at Yale University.

Aside from teaching at Palo Alto High School, Franco also teaches classes at USC, UCLA and NYU.

A self-declared man who never sleeps, Franco explained that “…there is too much to do to sleep.” With such passion, along with professional and educational accolades, Franco was the perfect recipient for this year’s award.

The event ended with Cinequest’s CEO and co-founder, Halfdan Hussey, presenting Franco with the award.




Oscar-winner Rita Moreno and independent film producer Robert Hawk will also receive the award.

For a full line-up of this year’s film premieres and special Cinequest events, please visit:

Review & Photos by Sophia M. Papadopoulos



James Franco is really inspiring. He does so much, yet still has time for his hometown. He brings the big screen to students here at home. GREAT REVIEW ! ! 

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