Project Greenlight The Complete Second Season

Cover Art: 8/10
I have to say that the artwork they designed for the promotion of this movie is insane. They make it look like a whacky teen flick, which it is NOT. Then they had to go and slap a little image of it on the front of the DVD box. Yes, it was the movie that came from the show, so it’s important, but it’s just so cheesy and obnoxious I hated to see it on the cover. The rest of the cover is quite boring, much less interesting than the first season. I hope the next time around they have a contest for a graphic designer to market the movie and DVD 🙂

Features: 8/10

  • Deleted scenes from Shaker Heights and Project Greenlight 2 – A lot of the scenes they shot for this movie were left on the cutting room floor, or saved on a harddrive somewhere because of how the studio wanted to market it. So, these deleted scenes fill in a few gaps of the original script where the final film might come up short. The most dramatic scenes were cut out so it would be left as a comedy, coming of age story. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough comedy material left over to patch together a really good movie. I would like to see a final cut of the film with all of the dramatic stuff put back in, but I don’t think that will be happening.
  • Filmmaker Bios
  • Filmmaker Scenes – All of the contestants got a whack script to make a short film of and the kind producers of Project Greenlight were kind enough to put the top ten on the DVD….it’s really cool to see all the different interpretations of the same material. Highly recommended.
  • Commentary On Shaker Heights from Kyle and Efram – Kyle and Efram are both kind of annoying so their commentary is a bit of a rehash of what you saw on the show. I still like to hear people’s afterthoughts and reflections about a movie they have made, so it’s worth a listen.
  • Gag Reel – These really use to appeal to me but for some reason watching people screw up just didn’t strike my fancy this time around. Some of the humor is lost when you have seen so much behind the scenes footage, like on each episode, but it’s still sort of funny if you like to see famous people mess up over and over and over.

The Show 8/10:
What can I say about a DVD set that’s a TV show AND a movie all in one? It’s a dream come true. Right? That might be a bit of a strong statement, even though I want it to be true. I love Project Greenlight. The whole idea is interesting to me. I am a huge film lover and I have an unusually strong desire to learn about the whole process. From script to final credits rolling up the screen I want to know it all. It’s an amazing process that has produced some of the most exciting, stimulating, emotional, thought provoking, and entertaining moments of my life, therefore I am curious about how it all comes together. Don’t get me wrong, I have had excitment, stimulation, emotions, thoughts, and even entertainment in “real” life. My husband even provides several of those services from time to time:) But it’s the movies of my life that have taken me places I have never and will never go, both geographically and intellectually, it’s only natural I would fall in love with the idea of a TV show (not to mention the online competition that fuels it all) that follows people through the gauntlet of making a movie.

Ben and Matt, you know them. The handsome young chaps who a few years ago took Hollywood by storm with their award winning script and film, Good Will Hunting. From there they both spring boarded their careers from film to film, interview to interview, pop singer girlfriend to pop singer girlfriend, and now they have ventured into the wide world of experimental internet movie making contests. Wait, did that even exist before they came up with the idea? I don’t think so, ok, they have made a few good things happen over the course of their brief careers.

Project Greenlight started as an online competition where people like you and me can send in our own movie scripts and have them read, scored, judged, ripped apart, degraded, insulted, nurtured, criticized, and hopefully chosen as the winner of the privilege to have it actually committed to celluloid for the whole world to see. The first year the competition called for only one winner. Someone who wrote a script would be chosen to be handed a million bucks to go on to direct their project themselves. That didn’t work out so well when Pete, the first winner, didn’t show much promise as a director. The film tanked financially so for the second season they have made some changes.

They split the contest into to bits. They decided to pick an original script from one writer, and pick a separate director based on a short film sent in by each directorial candidate. They were given a short and bizarre script that had little substance but a lot of room to “play” with what ever images they chose to put with the cryptic dialogue. The DVD’s include all of the finalists’ short films, which is cool.

That’s the beauty of this DVD set. There is so much to it, it’s not just a movie, or just a season of a TV show. They make an effort to include much more to make it a full Project Greenlight experience.

This year they quickly get you through the finalists and onto the winner in the first episode, just to get the ball rolling. Some of the writers and directors had a few good qualities, but when they were put to the test in front of the panel of experts who challenged them to defend their script or their film making techniques, most fell short in some area. Some were to emotional, while some were a bit too technical. One guy even brought his own storyboard, which seems like a good idea, but the REALITY of Hollywood is that a writer does not have that kind of creative freedom. I think Matt Damon looked at this guy with a bit of respect for all his hard work , but a bit of sadness because he knows that the ambitious young film maker would have his heart broken eventually when he realizes just how hard it is to break into the “biz” no matter how prepared you are or how good you think your idea for a movie is.

That is the real beauty of this whole project. It explores and exposes a lot of what most of us don’t know about the business of making movies in the big time. We don’t like to think a great idea will be rejected because the sets would be too pricy. I mean, what did Lord of the Rings cost all together? A third of a billion….so if they gave Peter Jackson that kind of dosh to make three movies about wizards and hobbits, why not throw a million or so at the rest of us who have amazing ideas for movies? Um…politics and cash! That’s the answer that Project Greenlight exposes. There is a lot of butt kissing, schmoozing, and deal making in Hollywood when it comes to getting a movie made. There is also the ever looming dollar sign floating over your head. If your movie will not guarantee a studio that it will make a huge profit, it’s not gonna get made. I know there are bad movies made all the time, but I guess even the studio gurus make decisions that bite them in the back side sometimes. Why oh why don’t they make that bad decision and throw some money at my brilliant script? Oh yea, they don’t know I exist. I’ll get right on that after I finish this review.

As you watch the penny pinching producers hover over every detail you get an idea of just how difficult it must be to be creative on a budget, no matter how big or small it might be. I love Chris Moore and his passion for what he does. I know he must be a real jerk sometimes when things are not going the right way, meaning not toward a big fat profit, but I appreciate his devotion to what he does and his overall attitude. I don’t like to measure his success by the American Pie flicks that have been under his wing from start to finish, but I do have to give the young guy a lot of credit for playing ball with the big dogs and making something like Project Greenlight a reality. Along with Damon and Affleck they make the dynamic trio who may not be involved in every detail of the PG contest and series, but they make their presence very known by being part of the final decision making team who pick the script and director(s). I think the also make sure that if the budget for their little million dollar winning film needs a bigger budget, they have some pull with the really big dog, Harvey Weinstein of Miramax. I think the two of them have made it possible for Harvey to buy a few luxury items for himself over the past few years, so he does give into their requests occasionally

I won’t tell you who won this year, you have to see that for yourself. All I will say is that they seem to pick some difficult people as the winners, but then again, that does add to the drama of the show. From long filming days to conflicts between the writer and co-directors, this year’s Project Greenlight did have it’s moments of excitement and entertainment. Yes, I did say Co-directors. I won’t tell you who they are, but this year’s film was directed by two filmmaking friends who maybe got themselves in over their heads. Not maybe, they definitely got themselves in too deep with making a feature film under so much pressure. It turned out ok, but it was painfully obvious that the monster machine that is Tinsel Town can really chew you up and spit you out if you are either too innocent, arrogant, or just plain stubborn.

The Movie: 6/10:
What kind of movie comes out of a project like this? With an amateur writer, semi-amateur directors, a small budget, scheduling issues, last minute casting problems, and the first product of the whole process (Stolen Summer) did not have enough success to give anyone a hint of confidence about the second time around, the tensions and expectations were high. If this process did not lead to a financially successful flick Project Greenlight might not see a third season.

I’m not sure if it’s better to watch the movie first or after you see the whole season of the show. I like to watch the show first, and then the movie. I’m not sure why. I normally hate (HATE) to know anything about a movie before I see it, but in this case I want to see everything behind the scenes and then see the final product as a lovely reward 🙂

The Battle of Shaker Heights is not the raucous outrageous comedy they try to make you believe with the posters and advertising. It’s quite the opposite actually. The story is tempered with some good solid characters and genuine coming of age issues to anchor it all.  But something is missing. I’m not sure if it’s how quickly we move through the story, or if it’s the choppy editing and too many very brief conversations between pivotal characters, but the whole thing seems rushed. There is not enough attention to detail or care taken to make sure that the interactions between the characters are solid, believable, interesting. I love the lead actor who plays Kelly. He’s wonderful with his wit and youthful angst. He is THE saving grace of this movie. I would have to say that if it were not for him this review might get ugly.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the movie. It’s got a hint of comedy, and just enough emotion to keep you feeling something for the people you are watching, just barely enough. It’s got so many weaknesses like the rushed story and what feels like endless cuts from one shot to another, with no real reason or style involved. It’s not a visually interesting movie, that’s for sure. There isn’t even a smidgen of creativity or artistic efforts made here. I’m sure it’s the limited funds and the inexperience of the directors, but it still leaves an empty spot in my stomach to know that they had such resources at their finger tips and did not make it more visually stimulating. Let’s hope next year’s winners put more effort into being creative and less into being important, enough said.

I’m still unclear as to why we start with a faux Civil War battle that is trying to look like Saving Private Ryan, but it ends up looking like a cheap history re-enacted film for history class. I think the gag was supposed to be that you are convinced you are watching a real life battle in the middle of a brutal war, but then something so funny happens, someone’s cell phone rings. Oh that’s so clever. Sorry, but that’s really not the gripping kind of a start that I hope for in a movie. I think that it wasn’t done with enough umph or something. If it had been more intense and less “after school special” looking I would have no complaints.

Kelly is  a Civil War fanatic so his story revolves around him growing up and learning how to separate reality from fantasy and these re-enactments are supposed to be symbolic of something in there somehow. I’m a semi-smart chick and I do get what the screenwriter was trying to do, but when the directors got their hands on it it all kind of fell apart and became a little cheapened by their inexperience.

The movie over all looks pretty good. There’s not much to brag about, just standard shots, standard lighting, standard sets, and standard costumes. The story is interesting only because of the actor who plays Kelly, and the young lady he works with in the grocery store. Everyone else is kind of boring and blah. Even Amy Smart doesn’t inject much life into the party.

On the whole it’s good enough to recommend to you review reading zombies, but not good enough for me to rave about, or even rant about. Now that’s saying something. If I can’t find something that is worth my time to praise OR complain about, it just means this film falls in the perfectly average category. Nothing wrong with average, it’s just a shame that the movie couldn’t be as satisfying as the series is to watch.

Value: 9/10
Now this is a fantastic value! A whole season of a TV show, a movie, and a few extras tossed in for good measure. All this for just at $30!! I love it. I think it’s well worth the cash if you are a lover of the process of making movies. If you want to just see the movie go rent it, don’t invest the money or the shelf space.

Overall Score 9/10