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While video on demand isn’t the release most young filmmakers dream of for their first major project, the 12 directors working on “The Color of Time” had the unusual luxury of working with an A-list cast — James Franco, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain and Zach Braff — pro-bono. The New York University-trained directors were the first graduating students of Franco’s teaching career, and shot the film in Detroit while Franco was working on “Oz, The Great and Powerful.” The movie star professor was able to recruit a few of his “Oz” costars for the class project, which will also be released in select theaters.

“I just asked them all to be in it,” Franco, clad in Gucci, said of the film’s cast at a Tuesday-night screening hosted by The Cinema Society and Montblanc. None of the other stars were present, although fellow artist-buds Klaus Biesenbach and Marina Abramovic made it out for the screening.

Unlike “The Interview,” Franco’s other movie premiering soon, “The Color of Time” is unlikely to be seen by a national audience or stir up much controversy. The movie is an adaptation of the revered but relatively benign poet C.K. Williams’ book “Tar,” and Franco stars in the film as the young poet.

“It just kind of struck me as something that I thought could be made into a film,” said Franco, himself a published, if less acclaimed, poet. “There’s a little tingle or something. I think what that tingle is, is a desire to continue a conversation with that work.” Franco then cracked a smile for the first time during his otherwise dead-serious and lecture-worthy demeanor. “C.K. didn’t have any other offers from Hollywood for the rights.”

So what lucky poet will Franco give voice to next?

“This year they’re actually adapting my book,” he said of his students. The novel, he clarified, “Actors Anonymous,” not the poetry book, “Directing Herbert White.” Well, there’s always next year.

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