A primer in filmmaking courtesy of a contest run by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore and Miramax, “Project Greenlight” follows tyro Pete Jones as he naively winds his way though development, budgeting, casting and every other step involved in the making of his “Stolen Summer” film for $1 million. It’s fly-on-the-wall moviemaking, a must-see for anyone hoping to break into the creative side of the film business: The education begins with the comments of Miramax execs and the “Good Will Hunting” creative team that finds decisions made without consensus and illustrates how “compromise” becomes every artist’s mantra.
Episode one chronicles the selection process, the whittling down to 10 from the thousands of screenplays submitted via the Internet. From there, scenes from the scripts are shot to give a sense of each individual’s directing abilities, and the three finalists get to pitch their films to Miramax execs.
The 10 finalists are introduced via personal videotapes that display what most folks assume are typical screenplay contest entrants — they’re all between 23 and 32 years old, and all work in nonindustry oddball jobs like selling hair while trying to break into the biz. The winner, a Chicago native living in Southern California, has been attempting to make a career of screenwriting for 3½ years and, judging by the cluelessness he exhibits in meetings, it’s clear he has yet to get a foot in the door.
That’s alternately appealing and embarrassing. The pros can be highly complimentary when discussing the work of newcomers, but when it comes to working with this inexperienced helmer-scribe, the attitude occasionally changes to “look at us major stars take on this oaf.”
Once “Greenlight” gets past the competition — the judges don’t want anybody to lose, the contestants see this as a dream come true — reality sets in and immediately a line producer informs Jones that he has written a movie that will cost $2.5 million to produce. However, Miramax has set the budget at $1 million. As suggestions are made regarding the location, era and rewrites, Jones bristles at nearly every one. The advice he gets, especially from Moore, is consistently on the mark.
Twelve-parter will follow evolution and creation of “Stolen Summer,” which Miramax is scheduled to release theatrically in late February. Pic stars Aidan Quinn, Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Pollak and Brian Dennehy.
“Project Greenlight” launches Sunday with two half-hour episodes back-to-back. Subsequent December episodes debut at 10 on Sundays; on Jan. 6, the series moves to 9:30 p.m., following new episodes of “Sex and the City.”