Saturday, June 10, 2017

Project Green Light Television Series Review

Project Greenlight (2001-2015)
Season 1 - 12 episodes (2001)

Season 2 - 13 episodes (2003)
Season 3 - 9 episodes (2005)
Season 4 - 8 episodes (2015)
Buy Project Greenlight Season 1 on Amazon
Buy Project Greenlight Season 2 on Amazon
Created by: Alex Keledjian
Starring: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Pete Jones


My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous television reviews!

This documentary television series focuses on first-time filmmakers being given the chance to direct a feature film through Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's production company.
The first, second, and fourth seasons aired on HBO. The third season aired on Bravo.

This series is a fascinating behind the scenes look of how a movie is made. There are many people involved, and those that don't get credit can have a massive effect on the final product.
It's surprising that people with little to know experience are given such freedom. You would think with the amount of money on the line, these directors would have a mentor. Maybe they did off screen. While this is nearly a documentary, it often succumbs to reality-tv tropes, I have to wonder if some of the feuds are manufactured for added drama.
The series as a whole really rounds out your education as we see how different mentalities flourish and flounder in different aspects of making a film. If you love film or just want a crash course on how a movie is made, this is it. I would love to see more seasons of this, but unfortunately there are none on the horizon. While I typically don't like reality type shows, I love this series.
Watch it.

A first time director is put in charge with a supporting cast that often are only vying for their own interests. The directors are given a lot of freedom for people that have little to no experience, and the shooting schedule is quite short for someone learning as they go. This of course leads to lots of drama and confusion with people that either don't know what to do or who is in charge.
Season 1 - Ben and Matt
Season 4 - Ben and Matt
Each season begins with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and a studio representative deciding contest winners.

It's an amazing opportunity, but they're almost throwing the directors to the wolves by not giving them enough support or giving them too much freedom. This is a great look at behind the scenes, but I have to wonder how much of this is manufactured drama.

The only movie I've seen is The Leisure Class (read my review), it's easily rated the worst among the Project Greenlight movies and with good reason.

Season 1
Season 1 had the least amount of drama. Pete Jones won the contest and goes from stay-at-home dad to directing his own script. The contest would later change with separate contests for script and director. Of course Pete doesn't see his lack of experience as a road block, though he understand that it closes doors.
Due to his experience, Pet often defers decisions. The producers state they don't want someone that lays down, though they do want them to pick battles. This is an oft repeated phrase. In season 4 Pete will returns as a director who fights all battles in in the chair.
Season 1 - Winner Pete Jones
Another recurring issue is the budget. The winner is selected ignoring budget, and all of the movies want more budget.The movie this season was a period piece, and that is an additional cost that no one worried about... initially.
While striving to pick the right locations, no one considered the parked cars on the street were to modern. Making a movie is chaotic. That's inevitable with so many moving pieces. So many things have to come together and so many decisions are made on the fly that it's really stunning movies even get made. Personalities often clash, and the director of photography, Biagi, really becomes the director, pushing Pete to make decisions. Biagi ignores standard practices, dismissing this movie as low budget. He doesn't create shot lists which are used for the crew as an outline for the day. Imagine a moving company with boxes that aren't labeled as to which room they should go to. It's pandemonium.
Season one's movie was Stolen Summer (2002).
Season 2 Title Card
Season 2
Part of what makes this series so intriguing is how the dynamics change each season. This season had two separate contests, one for directing and one for the script. The winners include co-directors that are used to doing everything themselves and don't quite get the need for a team. They want to cut everyone else and do everything themselves. I get it. they've been making films for ten years. They have a process, but this movie has a timeline and they can't physically do everything.
Kyle does most of the talking and he becomes very insecure about appearing in charge. The tension with two directors is evident as co-directors Kyle and Efram talk to young actors Shia Lebouef and Amy Smart separately, and give them conflicting advice.
Just to maintain that he's in charge, and a hilarious comparison to his directing style Kyle complains about multiple crew members giving him notes and requests notes are written down and distributed by one person. The parody is lost on Kyle.
While it's easy to write these movies off as a gimmick to create a show, legitimate actors star in them. It's funny to watch a young LeBeouf in this season.
The movie for season two was The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003).

Season 3
Every year Matt, Ben, and crew pick a movie they know needs more money. I get wanting to make the best movie, but it has to fit in the budget. You can't do more with less. It doesn't matter how good a movie is, if you don't fund it, you've got nothing.
The winning script is estimated to be a twenty million dollar script and they want to do it for one million. It's frustrating that the concept of budget isn't discussed during contest selection.
Season 3 winner John Gulager.
Matt and Ben realize selecting John Gulager as a director is a gamble, but believe in his artistic merit. It's a risky move, but vision is only part of it. The director has to lead and communicate with a team. I wouldn't trust Gulager on that and that's soon proven. He''s terrible at communicating, thoughts never even leaving his head. When Gulager finally speaks, it's only to defend his desire to cast his entire family in the lead roles. He doesn't realize it makes the movie look cheap, claiming his family are the greatest actors the world doesn't know.
This is the only season where the writers aren't on set for shooting. They quickly parlayed this win into a job opportunities. Usually the writers complain about how their vision is changed or the script ruined. It would have liked to have them back to discuss the finished product.
While I haven't seen this movie, and everyone on the show always loves the movie made, the fact this movie was even completed is a marvel.
Season three's movie was Feast (2005).

Season 4
All of the concerns for director Jason Mann came true almost immediately.  Seconds after winning the contest, while still on stage, Jason wants to fire the writer, season one's Pete Jones. Jason manipulates the production to get his own script made instead. I don't know how they didn't realize they were in trouble the second he started making demands. This is a guy that comes straight out of film school and is given ample leeway. He wants to shoot on film instead of digital, dismissing the costs and how pretentious he's being. He's telling a producer that's done seventeen movies what's what.
Season 4 - Winner Jason Mann
If Jason was the pick based on creating drama this season, he was definitely a winner. This season, more than others felt over-dramaticized. Producer Effie Brown is portrayed as the bad guy when she's in the right. she' has to make a movie in a short amount of time while everyone else tries to complicate the end goal, especially Jason.
When the film's done, everyone, even HBO has the same complaints about the character Fiona. Jason still resists any changes. Jason claims as the director he should have creative control. Even big name directors don't always get that.
Jason wins a contest and immediately feels he shouldn't have to debate or defend his opinion to anyone, even to HBO who is financing the film. I assume this has to be amplified for the show. Surely someone can't really be like this.
The movie made during season four was The Leisure Class (2015). I saw it. It's terrible (read my full review). The direction is adequate, the script is utter garbage. Despite Jason's big arguments over shooting on film, the car crash, and more, none of it affected the end result.

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