Some thoughts on HBO's "Project Greenlight"

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Bob McLaughlin, Dec 10, 2001.

  1. Bob McLaughlin

    Bob McLaughlin Screenwriter

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    Interesting episode last night. You can almost feel the pressure that this guy is under, although Kevin Smith had a good point, he shouldn't be disillusioned this early on.

    One question: why didn't they have the line producer (the guy telling them how much money it will cost) approve all the scripts that made it into the top 10? I mean, right off the bat, they are asking for more money, when Mirimax made it clear that the winner was to get $1 million for the movie. So why did they greenlight a movie that supposedly can't be made for a million?

    Of course, I guess the idea is that you can make any movie for that amount if you make enough compromises and are creative enough. But this is Hollywood, so they're going to have to play by the rules. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out!
     
  2. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    I forgot to watch it, will tune in next time it's showing.
    But can't they just call Robert Rodriguez for financial advice? [​IMG]
    /Mike
     
  3. Jon_B

    Jon_B Screenwriter

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    Great insight on how movies are made. It's incredible to see how much work they've already put into this movie and yet they still have nothing to show for it. If I had won the chance to do this, and they were telling me that I would have to cut 500,000 to 1 million to get it into budget range, I would not hesitate to do it. Just get the movie made. This is a chance of a lifetime for Pete Jones. I'm looking forward to future episodes.

    Jon
     
  4. Bob McLaughlin

    Bob McLaughlin Screenwriter

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    Yeah, Mark Borchardt from "American Movie" would make a great movie using that kind of money! If you haven't seen that one yet, it's definitely worth a look. It's a documentary on the life of a low-budget, guerrilla film maker.
     
  5. Jay Gregory

    Jay Gregory Stunt Coordinator

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    My take on "Project Greenlight":

    It's not quite as funny as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but it's just as painful to watch. Jones is coming off as self-absorbed as Larry David's character.
     
  6. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    In the promotional stuff HBO is airing, Harvey Weinstein says something to the effect that Project Greenlight is the best soap opera on television. I think that nails it fairly well (and not in a derogatory sense).

    The first hour of the show was okay. There was a need to show the whole premise of the contest and follow it from inception to the winner. That was a bit dry. The best part, I felt, was seeing how a supposedly simple deliberation session extended on for hours and required further interviews with the finalists before they could come close to deciding whose script to go to.

    The second half-hour, however, really kicked into gear. As much as I devour behind-the-scenes material, I have not seen something like Project Greenlight. They are, so far, doing an excellent job of covering everyone's perspective, from the studio down to Pete Jones. As someone who loves to view things from everyone's side, this is completely fascinating.

    I found it interesting to hear Chris Moore talk about how he thought the winner of the contest would be more timid about stepping up and fighting. I'm surprised he felt that way considering the passion and talent needed to just get to be one of the first 10 finalists. They were not going to find someone who was not passionate and protective of their idea.

    When Sunday's half-hour ended, I was already eager to move on to the next episode. This is going to be rough having to spread this out through the end of January!

    Incidentally, when the final episode of Project Greenlight airs, is this when Miramax plans to release the finished film?
     
  7. David Oliver

    David Oliver Second Unit

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    The interesting thing is how at least at this stage, the movie making process is so un-glamorous and so much like, well like say where I work, where you have to pick and choose your fights and have (seemingly) constant battles over budget. I comletely understand Miramax's stance ont the money issue, first time director with no training, no cast as of yet, and you have to be hard at first because you really need to make them cut as much fat as possible. The key will be when they do get some name actors signed on, then I think they will get more money (not a lot, though). And I wouldn't give Pete too tough a time, mainly because, this is as much about Pete as it is the process. The editing has a lot to do with how we percieve him, they are just showing those aspects of him fighting, naively probably over parts of his script. This is how it they turn it from something mundane into something dramatic, protagonists faces an obstacle, he fails, he overcomes, he learns and grows and that character arc is the basic premise of almost all good stories, including documentaries.
     
  8. Sean Cauley

    Sean Cauley Stunt Coordinator

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    I've decided to withhold judgment of Pete just yet. I think he's really out of his element and trying to stay afloat, but (from what they've shown) he really does need to start listening to the good advice of the professionals. Everybody involved knows he's a first-timer, so he doesn't need to act like he knows everything (just showing confidence in himself should be enough to win their trust).

    The line producer, the casting agent, and the other producer (the one who was advising him about the Emma Thompson situation) all seem to be genuinely looking out for Pete. Chris Moore, while possibly seeming like an obstacle to Pete, is as worried about getting Pete's movie made right as he is about making Project Greenlight a success, so he has to keep everybody happy (Pete, Matt&Ben, Miramax, the HBO producers), and that's got to be stressful. I wouldn't be surprised if he winds up taking it out on Pete at some point.

    Good TV, is all I know.
     
  9. Jason Merrick

    Jason Merrick Supporting Actor

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    I really like this series.

    I disagree with the people who say "If Miramax told me I had to cut $500,000 - $1,000,000 I would do it just to get it made"... for many aspiring screenwriters, their finished script is practically their whole life, and would probably feel like having to cut out major features (the 70's, Chicago, etc.) could ruin their movie, and hence any future in the business.

    I am not saying he shouldn't have to make cuts, just that it's not as easy as "sure, cut whatever you need to".

    Also, I don't think they can blame Pete for his movie costing more than a million. He is a screenwriter thrown into a director's role, what experience does he have to draw on to figure out ahead of time how much his film would cost?
     
  10. JoelH

    JoelH Stunt Coordinator

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    This is a great show that has me waiting all week for the next installment...

    Pete is doing exactly what should be expected of him. He knows that HBO has made an investment in this documentary, he knows that there are a number of people working to get this thing made, and he knows that if it didn't, a lot of people would have to explain to their bosses why this experiment failed. He probably figured that his attempts to get his "vision" on the screen would play well with those who watched the show, whereas Miramax's obstinence with the budget would look creatively stifling.

    He really is in a good position, and I am looking forward to how this gets resolved. In a way, I agree that Miramax said they would spend $1 million and that should be the full committment, but I know that if I were Pete, I would be fighting just as hard to get my movie made.

    ----

    Joel
     
  11. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Yeah, but this guy's script is horrible. How the heck did it get selected? When I watched the scene in which he had characters saying basically "why don't you call Jesus "sam" instead" because the Jewish character apparently had problem with the name Jesus? I wasn't the only one stuck; someone from Mirimax kept saying "what are you talking about?" I was wondering the same thing.
    Please, I was listening to this and laughing out loud; when he worried why he didn't get immediate call backs from celebrities I about died. And then when he made the statement about Harvey F. "I don't know how you run a business this way" LOL! It's always good to see some potser questioning the head honcho's business accumen in the first few days of work.. when he has no experience in the field.
    This show is entertaining in one way: it's a hell of a lot like watching a train wreck. I fear for the people who are going to star in this POC film [​IMG]
     
  12. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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  13. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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  14. Jason Merrick

    Jason Merrick Supporting Actor

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    I understand this is a documentary and all, but why do they make the whole drama of tonight's episode whether or not they will get Aidan Quinn to sign on, leave you thinking he passed, then show him signed up and working in the previews for next week?

    No drama.
     
  15. Jodee

    Jodee Screenwriter

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    I think the concern in the "call him Danny" line was justified. It seemed to imply that Jewish people just didn't believe in the *WORD* Jesus as opposed to the actual being. The producer who who took offense at it was right on the money. It seems very insulting. I mean, why not just pray to "God"?

    This show is so addictive to watch, if only to laugh at this Pete Jones guy.

    Every week he says something that makes me laugh in disbelief at the cojones of this guy.

    This past episode when he was talking about about Aidan Quinn and he said something like "If he don't like it, he can go f**k himself."

    Or when they can't reach reach Harvey who is in Rome, he snottily asks, "Oh, they don't have phones in Rome, now?"

    What a jerk! If this was a "regular" job I think he would have gotten fired with his attitude a long time ago.

    Oh and boy was Ben Affleck tanked in this last episode. No wonder he went to rehab. I couldn't get over how smashed he was acting, and in the middle of the day.
     
  16. JoelH

    JoelH Stunt Coordinator

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    Jodee:

    I agree with you about Affleck. Knowing what we do now, it is easy to identify these problems. Seeing him almost constantly with a cigarrette and alcohol is almost sad.

    Jason:

    I was extremely upset that they built up the drama with Aidan, left a good cliff-hanger for next week, then totally ruined it with previews. As soon as I heard "25-days" in the preview, I knew Aidan was in. Showing him in person just removed all excitement for next week.

    Okay, not all excitement, but they shouldn't have tried to make it a cliff-hanger when they were just going to ruin it.

    ----

    Joel
     
  17. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    Joel,

    I had the exact same reaction as you... when they put the comment about the 25 day schedule in the promo for next week, I knew they had gotten what they wanted.

    However, I wouldn't blame the people behind the show, I'd blame HBO, since they almost definitely cut together their own promos.

    As for everyone's anti-Pete feelings... I'm not turning on him yet, but two things in this week's show struck me. First was what Jodee said about the "phones in Rome" thing... and the other was something subtle - he said they should take the Sean Penn letter and use it for Aidan Quinn rather than write a new (and thus more honest, IMHO) one.
     
  18. Jon_B

    Jon_B Screenwriter

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    Pete Jones is really starting to rubb me the wrong way. The way he treats people(staff, producers, etc), the way he says "I don't mean to be coming across like a jerk, but......

    Anyhoo. What did you guys think about about the swimming pool deal. Pete and Ben immediately laughed at the idea of using a swimming pool instead of Lake Michigan. I thought of two films off the bat that used a swimming pool and made it work. Sphere and The Perfect Storm both used a swimming pool, and if you had not watched the dvd extras you probably would not have never known it. Pete seems so dead set on shooting in Chicago that he's automatically killing alternative ideas before he can see how it would work out.

    Jon
     
  19. BrandonM

    BrandonM Stunt Coordinator

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    Jon_B,

    The studio wanted them to filn the lake scene in a swimming pool, but unlike The Perfect Storm and Sphere they wanted the scene to be changed to a pool scene. So instead of the danger of swimming in a lake, it would only be a swimming pool. That's why Pete Jones and Ben Affleck were laughing about the idea.
     
  20. David Oliver

    David Oliver Second Unit

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    Brandon,

    That was how I understood it as well.

    I am starting to fall into the "Pete is getting on my nerves" camp. Hard to believe, but they are acually making Jon the studio guy look somewhat reasonable. His whole "What is with this guy?" thing when talking about Pete is great.

    Isn't that one guy, the one who was listening to the voice message from Aidan Quinn's agent, wasn't he in Good Will Hunting as one of Will's friends?
     

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