Project Greenlight began as an idea of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck inspired by their own story. Tired of roles that did nothing for their careers, they wrote their own script – anybody remember Good Will Hunting? – and went on to not only box office success but Oscar gold. This is the breading ground for Project Greenlight.
“A lot of people asked how we can do that?” Ben Affleck explains.
The first Project Greenlight began in the fall of 2000. More than 7000 entries came pouring in and managed to get that number down to 10 wannabe directors who had the chance to shoot one scene from their script. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore then spent three days interviewing the final three to pick the big winner: Stolen Summer by Pete Jones who starred Bonnie Hunt and Aidan Quinn.
While the first season focused on director’s who wrote their own screenplay, the second season attempted to pair together a screenwriter and a director. Erica Beeney and Kyle Rankin won for their screenplay, The Battle of Shaker Heights with directing to be done by Efram Potelle.
For the third installment, however, Affleck and Damon have brought in Wes Craven to produce a horror film from an up-and-coming director and screenwriter.
“Making a first movie is so hard,” Chris Moore smiles.
“Feast” begins with the final screening meeting. They decided to do a genre film with Dimension. It’s a separate division of Miramax, producing high quality genre films, such as horror movies which this contest is focusing on. “We’re continuing this tradition with Project Greenlight,” Nick Phillips, Vice President of Dimension.
The contest begins with screening contestants for screenwriting and director through video submissions. Scripts were all posted on the Project Greenlight team. Three of each needed to be chosen, so Wes Craven was brought in to help out. “This year is really about making a movie that people are going to go and see,” Chris Moore laughs. He doesn’t think the show will get funded again if they don’t make a profit.
The first script to be looked at is Wildcard . However, only Affleck thinks it’s worthwhile.
Feast, another film which many agree on. “You read it and you think, ‘Is this just dog crap?'” Affleck asks. Craven doesn’t think they can make this movie without a lot of studio backing. Phillps doesn’t think it should be scrapped because Dimension would be willing to back it. Joel Soisson, a producer for the show, says the writer of Hanz Guberstein is a genius and it fits into all categories.
They decide to put together Wildcard, Feast and Hanz Guberstein as the final three.
The ten director finalists were all given a simple script that they have to produce on their own with a vision, creativity and other aspects that make them a unique director.
James Ryan and John Gulager are on everyone’s lists. There videos are creative, appealing and approach their scenes very well. Gulager is a point of debate, because some believe he’s not worth it while others think he needs to be tested in person.
They call the screenwriter’s to let them know as well as the director’s candidates. Ben Affleck jokes to Gulager that he should shoot his wedding, as the would-be director moonlights as a wedding video director.
Marshall Moesley, who wrote Wildcard works for a computer company. Rick Carr, the screenwriter behind Hanz Guberstein, is a customer service representative and brings his mom with him to the final screening. Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton wrote “Feast” together and came out to “take their chances,” as Dunstan says. Overall, they have a good plethora of stories to tell.
Next comes the individual interviews with all producers and big shots on the project. Moesley is the first one to be interviewed. “It’s an adult thriller,” Moore adds. Craven says he was impressed by the writing. “It’s the most different with the adultness of it,” he says. The producers explain that they believe Wildcard needs more than Project Greenlight to make it. “I really appreciate what you’ve done,” he says at the end of the process.
Next, Rick Carr, writer of Hanz Guberstein. Affleck says it’s the most “creative and unique” of all the scripts they received. The idea came from being able to rewrite one’s own existence; it was inspired by Stephen Hawkings A Brief History of Time. Affleck says it looks like it was written for Star Trek than for the project. He doesn’t understand how he made it comedy, when the guy clearly is very intelligent and interesting. Moore was amazed he wasn’t that funny in real life.
Finally, “Feast” screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton come in for their interview. Craven believes the script takes on way too much and didn’t think it was that great because it took on way too much too soon. These guys are clearly funny, laughing at their own jokes and trying to lighten the mood. Phillips notes these guys know what they are talking about as they are a byproduct of the generation of “velocity and ferocity,” as Dunstan puts it. They even came together with a package, something Dimension would love; the studio wanted to take them on, even though the budget was of concern.
Craven believes Wildcard is the top of the crop whereas Moore points out that they need to make a profit. Soisson does point out that this isn’t about picking the best script, but picking the best overall film from start to finish. Affleck really still loves Hanz Guberstein but Dimension is brought up that Feast is the one that they want. They believe the studio will jump on, that they are willing to make a small profit. “Not the reason I got into Greenlight,” Damon rebukes Dimension’s stand. The debate erupts that Feast and Damon gets very angry about it. He says he hates that Dimension feels like just making a profit because that’s what the project needs this year or it may not be back for another reason. “I’ve never done a movie based on marketing skills.”
“I would probably have to work hard to make it work for me,” Craven admits on Feast Damon tells the studio that if Craven thinks it suck, doesn’t that mean it sucks? “Basically, we’re helpless,” Damon sighs.
The screenwriter’s come down to meet with everyone and are met with a pep talk. Feast is chosen as what will be made. The others call their families and friends to let on to the disappointment, while Dunstan and Melton are ecstatic. Soisson notes, “This is going to make our lives a living hell,” on the movie.
Scott Smith, from Chicago, believes he’s the perfect directing candidate because he knows he can make a successful – not necessarily good – movie. James Ryan, from Los Angeles, has a hilarious video making fun of Project Greenlight.
John Gulager is weird. He grew up surrounded by film, he’s older – 46 years old – and things just don’t really go right for him. “It would just be freaking crazy,” he says of possibly winning the position.
Now, the interviews for director candidates begin, starting with James Ryan. Moore really liked his individual scene. Ryan thinks they need to create amazing sound techniques with the monsters from Feast. Affleck says he “sold it.” Ryan is very into sound aspects, going so far as to even act out the onomatopoeia.
Smith is ushered in to the room. His scene was funny, entertaining and Moore believes comedy would suit him. Phillips sees his background as an advertiser would help with vision. Smith focuses on the tone of the movie, believing it should be a “horoedy” combining horror and comedy. He definitely didn’t seem to have much of his own vision for the film. Damon believed he had ideas that would make the movie better than what it is with his ideas.
Gulager is the last to come in, but Moore still feels Ryan is the best choice with Scott lacking vision. However, Moore believes Gulager is the one to take on this project. Damon believes so, too. John starts out by noting he picked at the script he wanted to do, notes he is a horrible salesman and it shows. “I just wanted to make a monster movie,” he says, smiling. “I dig that kind of stuff.” He shares a painting, thinking it’s an inspiration for Feast. Affleck notes he has idiosyncrancies, is quiet and isn’t much for selling himself to Dimension. “I’m worried about communication and getting across what movie he wants to make,” Moore. Damon says he knows director’s that may not be able to sell themselves but they are still great filmmakers. Dimension’s studio executives don’t like him much at all because of that.
Damon and Affleck made effort to try to get their director picks in since they didn’t get their screenwriter pick. Dimension doesn’t like Gulager, they like Ryan. Craven doesn’t think Gulager would be a good director because of his quarks, it’s a big risk to take.
That night they have a big premiere and party to announce the winner of the director search. The candidates and their wives join them and wait out the night for the announcement.
Ben Affleck explains the process and shares time with Matt Damon to read the script while bits of the scenes shot were shown to the audience.
Wes Craven announces the director of Feast to be John Gulager. Gulager just sits there, stunned, while the others do their best “damn-it-I-lost-the-Oscar” smile. Gulager jokes that he called everyone last night to tell them he had lost. “If John does a good job on the film, it’s going to be the biggest opportunity in his career,” Damon explains. The other candidates still want to be directors and they are still going to truck on.
Leahy and Soisson were approached by Gulager’s friend who warned them of his temper tantrums and other on-set troubles. They both believe this choice will backfire in the end and ruin Project Greenlight.
Carpesomediem is an aspiring freelance writer from Lancaster, Pa. who enjoys music, movies and writing about the way the world works; you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about this week’s episode or anything at all.
Carpesomediem is an aspiring freelance writer from Lancaster, Pa. who enjoys music, movies and writing about the way the world works; you can contact her at email@example.com to talk about this week’s episode or anything at all.