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Matt Damon Gets a 'Greenlight'

By Kate O'Hare

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LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - There's an old axiom that if one thing's working in your life, something else isn't. If your health is good, your bank balance is anemic; you find $20 bucks on the sidewalk, but somebody dings your car door -- that sort of thing.

In a way, that's the story of Matt Damon's life right now. The 34-year-old actor is coming off three successful big-budget films: "The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "Oceans Twelve." Waiting in the wings for release are Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm," Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana," with George Clooney, and "The Good Shepherd," in which Damon plays the younger version of Robert De Niro, who also directs.

Damon is now starting work on "The Departed," for director Martin Scorsese, with co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. Oh, after that there's "The Bourne Ultimatum," due out in 2006.

"It's going well now," Damon says. "I've gotta work when I can."

On the other hand, things haven't been going so well with "Project Greenlight," the reality series that chronicles the low-budget filmmaking efforts of first-time directors and writers chosen through a contest.

Damon is executive producer of "Project Greenlight," along with fellow LivePlanet principals Ben Affleck, Larry Tanz and Chris Moore, and the studio involved has been Bob and Harvey Weinstein's Miramax. The films produced from the first two seasons, 2002's "Stolen Summer" and 2003's "The Battle of Shaker Heights," tanked at the box office.

Things have been shaken up for the show's third season. First, "Project Greenlight" has moved from pay-cable HBO to basic-cablenet Bravo. "We're on Bravo this year," Damon says, "which is really good for us, because it's in much more homes than HBO, and they're doing really good programming over there."

Also, this time the studio is Dimension, a division of Miramax, and the mandate is to do what that studio does best -- produce mass-market horror flicks. Damon and partners also called in veteran horror writer/producer/director Wes Craven ("Scream," "A Nightmare on Elm Street") as a producer on the movie.

The first episode premiered on Tuesday, March 15, when it was revealed that the script is "Feast," a monster tale by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston -- not considered the best script, but the most marketable one -- and the director is talented but inarticulate John Gulager, a 46-year-old Los Angeles cameraman and editor. "We had to do a horror movie this year," Damon says. "We did it with Dimension instead of Miramax, because we lost enough of Miramax's money. They were kind of sick of us, so we did it with Dimension. Bob Weinstein was literally saying, 'How are we going to sell this thing?'

"It's about the marketing. It's about the genre. It's a different world." Both "Summer" and "Shaker" were character-driven, coming-of-age stories, which don't fit easily into a marketing niche. "You're shooting in such a small bull's-eye when you're trying to make a character movie for a low budget," Damon says. "There are the 'Reservoir Dogs' or 'Swingers' even, but those movies are really rare. There's God knows how many little horror movies that you and I have never seen, but were made for a small budget and got their money back and made a little profit."

Fans will have to tune in to the show's remaining eight one-hour episodes on Tuesdays to see if Gulager falls prey to some of the melodramatic hijinks indulged in by the season-two directing tag team of Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle. "It's like the bad second act of the movie," Damon says, "where the guy finds out he's king, like 'King Ralph.' Or like 'Bruce Almighty,' with Jim Carrey as God blowing someone's skirt up. It's that first reaction to having this power that you never thought you'd have. Then you get over that.

"They're suddenly the director, and everybody is listening to them. They're in charge of 60 people. You can [get drunk on it]. Most people I know don't, or didn't, even when they could have, but these guys ... and also, they've got a camera in their face for 24 hours, so if they have one moment of weakness, the director's going to pull that clip and use it, because she's trying to make a TV show."

Damon still feels good about giving talented amateurs a chance, but like the reality of Hollywood, it's all about the bottom line in the end. "If we don't make money this time," he says, "we're f***ing cooked. That's it. No one else is going to give us money for this project. I think, on Bravo, we'll get more viewers, and hopefully they'll go see the f***ing movie, and we can do it again."

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I love watching project greenlight and haven't missed and episode. I also voted on their website for the director they chose for the 3rd season. But I have to admit I've never seen the first 2 movies they made. Guess i'm gonna have to see 'Feast' so I can keep the show on the air. But so far the show seems more interesting than the movies.

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I have also watched the two previous seasons when it was on HBO and I did eventually see the two movies when the came on TV. The process of how both movies were made was a lot more entertaining than the final movies themselves. I did think the first movie (Stolen Summer) was better than the second ( Batttle for Shaker Heights) because it had better actors. However I really don't see any movie becoming a commercial hit since I think a really big star wouldn't want to cheapen their appeal by being on a reality show. If they can get a movie to make at least 20 million dollars than they can say they succeeded. This season I really think they have started with themselves in a hole with that director they selected. I have a feeling this will be its last season so enjoy! I wished though they would have interviewed the past writers and directors on the first episode just to see how their careers are going now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been really getting into this show. Kind of exciting to see all of the hassle that goes on in putting together a film. Plus non of the various sides can ever agree on anything. I've found a few reviews of the film they are doing online. It seems very mixed but they seem to like it better than the previous 2 films to come out of project greenlight.

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Wow they really seem hell bent on making money this season. Very business like this year; in turn making the show a little boring.

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It seems to be a permanent switch for now, which I'm kind of glad cause there was too much to watch on tues at 9, between house and amazing race. I think the show is struggling and not getting many viewers, hopefully this new move will help.

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I thought it was supposed to be on Bravo but I have been noticing that the repeats are now being shown on the SciFi channel where I watch it. Not only are they moving the time I guess you can see it on two different channels. That's definitely a sign it's looking for an audience to watch it.

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The moderator was not quite correct. They will show the repeats on SciFi Channel until the series finishes its run. It will be done every three weeks as a marathon of three episodes. So if you miss it on Bravo as I always do since I rarely watch that channel, you can catch up on Sci-Fi. Great idea I think.

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Wes Craven speaks

From The New York Post and Horrormovies&stuff.com Genre director Wes Craven talks everything from Project Greenlight to what went on with the recently released werewolf pic "Cursed". Read on for the interview.

As executive producer of the third installation of "Project Greenlight," the critically acclaimed director exhibits his chilling craft to a starving filmmaker, who is given the opportunity to create his own movie, titled "Feast."

"I was a big fan of the show," Craven told The Post. "It's great drama and I thought it would be fun to do." While Craven was filming last month's depressingly unsuccessful werewolf movie "Cursed," Miramax's Bob Weinstein approached him about doing the TV show, which also stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as executive producers.

"They had moved it over into a genre film, the horror section, and that's my territory, and the request was made, and I said sure," Craven says. "I love what the show is ... giving someone a chance."

Q:When you directed your first film, "Last House on the Left," it was just luck, right?

A:I was working for Sean Cunningham, who eventually did "Friday the 13th." At that time, he was a guy in a little office in New York and I was just a guy who had just quit teaching and we were the same age, and we became friends. After that, the people who were financing him said, "We'd like something scary now." So Sean said, "Hey, you said you'd like to direct. Why don't you go write something scary and if they like it, you can direct it, too." We figured we could pocket $10,000 between us. As it turned out, they loved the script and they gave us another $40,000.

Q:You made people faint with that movie ...

A:It was scary. We kept hearing reports of people fainting and fistfights and people trying to get into projection booths to confiscate the print. And prints would come back in all sorts of pieces. Certain theater owners would get in there and rip out certain sections.

Q:Why would they do that?

A:I think it deeply upset people, and they thought it had gone too far. There is a reality that is quite shocking and it was quite subversive in that we intentionally went beyond where everyone thought we would stop. The theory is that that's the way real violence is. You don't get to look away.

Q:Then you created the same buzz with "Nightmare on Elm Street."

A:It's getting harder to do. The tone in the country is so much toward severe censorship and connecting blame to it that all the studios are running scared and asking for PG-13, which is a royal pain in the butt, frankly.

Q:Is that what happened with "Cursed?"

A:I'm very disappointed with "Cursed." The contract called for us to make an R-rated film. We did. It was a very difficult process. Then it was basically taken away from us and cut to PG-13 and ruined. It was two years of very difficult work and almost 100 days of shooting of various versions. Then at the very end, it was chopped up and the studio thought they could make more with a PG-13 movie, and trashed it. We were writing while we were shooting. It wasn't ready to film. We rewrote, recast and had two major reshoots. It went on and on and on.

Q:Maybe it was the name.

A:After a while, I regretted it was called "Cursed" because it was "Cursed." It was just chopped up, and it was awful. I thought it was completely disrespectful, and it hurt them (the studio) too, and it was like they shot themselves in the foot with a shotgun. Not a nice thing.

Q:Was the movie "Feast" in Project Greenlight difficult to pull off?

A:Incredibly. The original script was 21 speaking roles, 14 monsters and special effects, and compared with "Last House on the Left," which was like four people in the woods, it was very difficult. When we walked out of the room, someone said, "I think maybe we've all gotten our revenge on Bob Weinstein."

Q:How was the outcome?

A:It went along pretty smoothly. I think it's a good job. It's the thing the core audience really loves, which is a take-it-to-the-limit blood-and-guts film with a funny style.

Q:Would you have picked a different script than "Feast?"

A:I liked a script in the final running called "Wildcard," which I thought was much more sophisticated. It was one of the submissions, I bought the rights to it and I'm working with the author himself.

Q:You said the "Feast" script required a lot of work.

A:It was just all over the place. It had no real center. It was a series of random events, and the monsters weren't real. When it was the day to shoot any given sequence, the director would have to come up with very difficult solutions to how someone was going to fly around the room. I suppose writers write that way, and they don't have to worry about cost. But certainly [the director] was going to have his plate full.

Q:What was it like working with Ben and Matt?

A:They were a pleasure. They were very funny and extremely smart. Ben would be driving the bus and making jokes and he was up on everything. He did his homework and he was really good. He's an interesting and very gracious guy.

Q:How hands-on were you?

A:Not that. I was there for all the meetings and choosing. I had dinner with [the director], I spoke to him a few times. But I was in the middle of my own war on "Cursed."

Q:So you're still learning, even though you're such a huge icon.

A:It's counting for less and less, I must say. The icon thing doesn't guarantee you any sort of protection. Ultimately, the bottom line is so severe, that they will always go for the bottom line.

Q:Your next movie, "Red-Eye," is a psychological drama about a plane flight that goes awry. What intrigued you about it?

A:It's a script from a young writer named Carl Ellsworth. DreamWorks bought the script. After two years of trying to make a script work, this was a nice thing. It was doable.

Q:Can we expect another big blockbuster from Wes Craven?

A:We screened it two days ago, and everyone loved it. We had tears in our eyes. "Cursed" was so painful, and here was this film that delivered. The performances are great, and it moves along like a bat out of hell and just makes you laugh and cry and jump.

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Entertaining by Falling Upward: The 'Project Greenlight' Method

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN

Published: April 13, 2005

Project Greenlight," which moved from HBO to Bravo this season, may be the first reality show to make a theme of its failure. Neither "The Apprentice" nor "America's Next Top Model" nor "The Bachelor" has ever acknowledged that the garlanded winners of previous seasons - the auspicious businessmen, models, fianc

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have to do my part to keep spreading the word that is a great reality show and more people need to watch it so that it can once again return next season. Unfortunately the ratings are very low and this will most likely be its last year. I just found another statement about the show and *spoiler* it appears the casting director might be fired soon.

Here's the link, plus it posts chris moores blog from bravos site discussing ms. gertz (casting director) and the need for people to watch

http://www.creature-corner.com/?type=news&id=560

also for interesting news behind the scenes read all the blogs by chris moore and the writers at

http://www.bravotv.com/Project_Greenlight/Blogs/

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  • 3 weeks later...

Pulling Plug on "Project Greenlight"?

By Charlie Amter

Project Greenlight may have hit a red light. Chris Moore, who masterminded the Bravo reality show with pals Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, said Friday that the movie-making documentary series has likely aired its final episode.

The synergistic Greenlight finds neophyte directors and screenwriters via an Internet contest and shoots them as they try to make a movie for a TV reality show. The film is then released theatrically once the season ends.

Damon and Affleck conceived Greenlight as a way to discover would-be Spielbergs and give them a chance to make a movie. They cited their own Oscar-winning success with Good Will Hunting as the prototype.

The first two seasons of Project Greenlight aired on HBO, but the premium cable net axed the series in 2003. Bravo quickly snapped up broadcast rights and expanded the show from a half-hour to an hour. The nine-part third season wrapped Thursday.

However, Greenlight's ratings dwindled over the course of the season, jeopardizing the future of the show. "Last night was probably the last new episode of Project Greenlight ever," Moore writes in his blog at Bravotv.com. "I am sorry to be reporting this here, but anyone reading this blog is a devoted and loyal Project Greenlight fan. You have been loyal and vocal and true fans of what we have tried to do, so I want you all to know the truth first."

Further, Moore has left Live Planet, the multimedia company that coproduced Project Greenlight, to form his own company.

Another factor hurting the series' long-term viability is the split between Disney and Miramax bosses Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Miramax released the first two Project Greenlight films and its horror subsidiary, Dimension, will release the third season flick, Feast, later this year. Without Disney's deep pockets at their disposal, the Weinsteins are presumably reluctant to gamble on unproven talents.

While the filmmaking contest series drew a rabid, if small, following, the first two releases--season one's Stolen Summer and 2003's The Battle of Shaker Heights--both bombed at the box office.

This past season, Greenlight eschewed the coming-of-age plots of its first two seasons' films in favor of a more commercial horror flick called Feast. Feast has no official release date, although producers say it will likely be out during the holiday season.

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I posted in an early thread that I had a funny feeling this would be the last season. I know they're trying to blame the Miramax -Disney divorce.. but the fact is this was the worst of all three season. Chris Moore was hardly on the show..where was Jeff Balis? And they hardly showed the writers and the director was stripped of all power unlike the previous two seasons. It was a really boring and uneventful season especially if you were a fan of the first two seasons. RIP!!!!

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I didn't see the frist two seasons of Project Greenlight but, intermintently caught about the 1/3 of this season.

I also wondered where the Project Greenlight people were in this show. It seemed to me that they did some "creepy" promo's for it (which got me interested in watching this year) but, then nothing until the end.

It seemed very staged to have Matt Damon come in at the end and give John (the director) a pep talk about how he knew (and Don Chitole knew) that John was the best that has come from PG. Who knows maybe that's all they could salvage from this project was one good Director and so they decided to make sure they at least patted themselves on the back for finding him?!

The only thing I learned from this show is that the Hollywood Business is every bit as conniving, backstabbing, arrogant, greedy, and egotistical that they're potrayed to be... even if there are a few exceptions. :D

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Chris Moore says "there is little chance of Project Greenlight continuing." CLICK HERE BRAVO Article

Although Project Greenlight 3 concluded on a high note -- Feast was well-received by the studio, which plans a wide release this fall after some additional shooting this summer -- the series itself is probably over.

That's according to Chris Moore, who writes on his Bravo blog that "It is possible that Dimension will do the movie again, which could mean there is a contest again next year. However, my gut is telling me that without the whole three-headed monster of the TV show, contest and film, there is little chance of Project Greenlight continuing." Moore, who just left LivePlanet to form his own company, notes that he is "sad that this avenue into Hollywood, however flawed, is going to close" and "that I, and my partners, could not figure out the right balance to keep this thing going."

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