Be Careful What You Wish For
So you wanna be a filmmaker? Better think twice, or at least watch Project Greenlight: The Complete 2nd Season – now available on DVD. All thirteen episodes are eye-openers for anyone interested in the moviemaking process. Surprisingly, this HBO series managed to generate more drama and suspense for me than many of the feature films I’ve seen lately.
Excitement begins for finalists in this unique contest (sponsored by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris Moore and Miramax) when they’re invited to pitch their scripts or directorial abilities at the Sundance Film Festival. Unlike the first Project Greenlight process, two winners were selected instead of one. Not a bad decision, especially since writing and directing a film surely must require different types of skill and talent.
After watching clips and pitches presented by all the finalists, I would’ve picked a different director. Still, the directing team of Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle become fascinating to watch as they face the frustrations involved in trying to blend their own ideas with the writer’s vision while meeting production demands in terms of casting, budget, time and marketing. Their most serious handicap? Inability to communicate effectively with the rest of the cast and crew. At one point, Rankin gives a particular direction to the actors, and Potelle tells them just the opposite. Note to self: If I ever sell a screenplay, remember to insist that only ONE person be assigned to direct it -- preferably Anthony Minghella.
At first ecstatic over submitting the winning script, The Battle of Shaker Heights, Erica Beeney soon starts to experience her own problems. Unclear about her role as the writer, she worries about changes made to her screenplay. Should she speak up when she’s not happy with the changes? Is the film version more dramatic than she intended the story to be? Why does she have to do so many revisions? I felt very sorry for Beeney and couldn’t help wishing those directors would work more closely with her. (No surprise here, is there? As a writer myself, I confess to having stronger empathy for Beeney.)
Believe it or not, I was so committed to finding out how The Battle of Shaker Heights would make it to the big screen, I watched all thirteen episodes during the same day. When serious editing changes had to be made because of low scores from a test screening audience, I became as upset as the writer and directors.
Whew! I’m tired just thinking and writing about how hard it is to make a movie. And I’ve covered only a small part of what’s involved in such a collaborative art form. For in-depth knowledge about the ups and downs of the filmmaking process, be sure to check out this Project Greenlight three-disc DVD.
Oops! Almost forgot to mention that the full-length movie, The Battle of Shaker Heights, is also included in the second season home entertainment package. I think you’ll enjoy it, but not as much as the film’s riveting journey from script to screen.
(Released by Miramax Home Entertainment and rated “PG-13” for language and some drug references. Bonus material not rated.)