The Startup That Resurrected Matt Damon’s and Ben Affleck’s Long-Lost Project …

14 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Project Greenlight’ doesn’t miss a beat after 10-year absence.

After more than 10 years off the air, Project Greenlight is finally back to give another behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process — this time tracking the pre-production, casting, post-production, and more of first-time director Jason Mann’s dark comedy The Leisure Class. ‘Project Greenlight” destroyed Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s friendship, Ben tells the camera at the start of the fourth and newest season in the docuseries about the making of a film.

The first episode picks up as the Academy Award-winning best buds (along with their producing partners) hear pitches from 13 finalists, who are competing for the chance to direct a $3 million movie for HBO Films. That’s Hollywood,” Jennifer Todd, President of Affleck and Damon’s Pearl Street Films, says. “That’s what making movies is really actually like.” Filmmaking is a narcissistic endeavor filled with egos, personality conflicts, endless script rewrites and seemingly impossible deadlines. The last “Project Greenlight” aired in 2005, and on Bravo, of all places, but hey, HBO had great luck reviving Lisa Kudrow’s sitcom “The Comeback” after a decade, why not “Greenlight”? Now the series returns to HBO, and Joshua Alston—in his review of the first two episodes—is of the opinion that it’s back in fine form and that the hiatus has done everyone some good: The emphasis on instigating drama may cheapen the historically high-minded Greenlight for its fans, but it’s got the same sturdy bones. Greenlight aired seasons 1 and 2 on HBO and season 3 on Bravo in the early 2000s, and with any show returning after a long time away there’s the question of, “Why now?” For Damon, the technological progress that has occurred in the show’s decade-long absence, and talent that he believes has increased as a result of more access to new technologies, was a big motivating factor. “Because of the advent of the iPhone and the fact that we’re carrying all these video cameras around now, understanding how to tell stories visually [is] beyond what it was 10 years ago,” Damon told EW at The Leisure Class’ August 10 premiere at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. “That’s one thing that gave us a greater group of people to choose from this time around.” Marc Joubert — also an executive producer on the show, and co-founder of Adaptive Studios, one of the production companies behind Greenlight — echoes Damon’s sentiment. “Pete Jones — I can bust his balls because we’re friends — won season 1, [but] he wouldn’t have made the top 100 this year,” Joubert says. “What young filmmakers have access to today is unbelievable.

Though the premiere’s ending has been mostly spoiled by the marketing for the new season, every moment watching the hopefuls fight for their dream and navigate the foreign waters of the movie industry — like when the winner demands to shoot the small-budget project on 35mm film — is completely absorbing. From its inception, Greenlight has married the conflict-hungry conventions of a reality competition with the narrative discipline and naturalistic look of a reputable documentary. Social media and digital outlets like YouTube and everybody having access to a camera today has elevated what filmmakers can do.” Back to Mann, who won the competition to be at the center of season 4, which will see Peter and Bobby Farrelly and Effie Brown as mentors in addition to Damon and Affleck.

In the years before they were Batman and Bourne, the duo’s brand was that of the plucky underdog kids from Boston who “made good.” Project Greenlight — which snatched a filmmaker from obscurity via a contest, gave him or her the resources to make their film, and released the film in theaters under the devil’s bargain that they had to submit to their big break becoming a reality show —was something of an attempt to pay it forward. The winner, Pete Jones, both wrote and directed his “Stolen Summer,” and a second season of “Greenlight” followed. (That one discovered actor Shia LaBoeuf.) Bravo then picked up the show for a final season in 2005. This engrossing four-hour documentary spread over two nights takes a deep dive into the life of the storyteller who aimed to create “the happiest place on earth.” From his most famous creation, Mickey Mouse, to his animated film classics, namesake theme parks and beyond, this is an exhaustive look at a man who, whether you enjoy his vision or not, made an imprint on American culture. “Sons of Anarchy” took its final ride last year, but creator Kurt Sutter wasted no time getting to work on his latest project. Then as now, it’s the perfect approach to developing a reality format for HBO, the standard bearer of salacious drama lacquered with pay-cable prestige. His Leisure Class (see a behind-the-scenes shot above) follows a couple in the 24 hours leading up to their wedding when lots of dirty laundry is exposed.

He leaves behind motorcycles — and all other modern conveniences, including toothbrushes — for this adventure in a politically volatile 14th-century Wales. They remain committed to mentoring the next generation, giving a hand to filmmakers the way Harvey Weinstein did for them and their Oscar-winning film “Good Will Hunting.” This time, they’re teaming with the Farrelly brothers to act as producers on the film, which will air on HBO, thus eliminating any commentary about box office receipts. Hand Of God (Amazon, 1 p.m.): It seems like only yesterday that we began our coverage of Amazon’s latest offering, full of hope that Ron Perlman could carry this series through by weight of his personality and gravely voice alone. It stars Ed Weeks, Bruce Davidson, Brenda Strong, Bridget Regan, Tom Bell, and more — and Damon believes it to be the best film in Greenlight history, sure to launch a successful career for its maker. Like any job, there are disagreements, and especially in an industry built on relationships, those differences in opinion cannot result in the face slaps and table flips we see elsewhere in the format.

Just to put that in context, that’s the equivalent of about one-and-a-half Hallmark movies, perhaps a quarter of one of HBO’s prestige movies, and the craft-services tab on a major studio release. American Idol would premiere four months after Greenlight‘s first season ended and go on to birth actual pop stars and dominate television ratings for a decade. After reviewing thousands of applications from wannabes — and their short films — Ben and Matt and their team bring to Los Angeles their top 10 — actually, their top 13, because they couldn’t narrow it down — and truly, their top 14 because one woman forgot to list her then-boyfriend, now her ex, as her producing partner. He’s used terms like “ludicrous, overheated contrivance” and “scattered, rudderless mess” in his reviews, and a tepid B- is the best any episode can muster. He knew what he wanted on every frame of this movie before we shot one frame.” Joubert also hints, however, that the getting there was not so easy, and that Mann most definitely stirred the pot: “He’s a stubborn S-O-B, and you will see that.” Perhaps that’s why Affleck called season 4 the “riskiest season we’ve ever done” in its teaser trailer.

Neither person is clearly right — though we do get the sense that conversations like this is how Hollywood’s lack of diversity perpetuates itself — but they still have to work together to create something. Today, Idol is approaching its final season, I can’t name a single winner of The Voice, and Top Chef seems to lose its luster with every hokey spinoff. And while the “winner” has been known for months, we’ll skip past that — the “reveal,” such as it is, comes at the end of the premiere — and note only that the choice was seemingly motivated less by a desire to make the most viable movie than simply to maximize the drama of the show surrounding it. Damon attributes that remark, at least in part, to the film going through two different scripts while under major pressure. “[The film] ended up being completely different than what we thought we were going to make and we were under a huge time crunch so there was way more opportunity for things to go wrong,” Damon says.

These shows stumble when audiences realize the prize is just a check, some free clothes, and a few months on TV to tell your kids about and not a glamorous new life in Hollywood. Vegas”) stars as the voice of Dazzle Novak, a sex-crazed detective in the titular metropolis, which looks like it was created by Patrick Nagel in 1983 for a Duran Duran video game. Of the incredible talent assembled — and you’ll get some impressive glimpses of their work — only one candidate, Jason Mann, comes off like a pretentious twit. Elizabeth Banks (“30 Rock”) and Will Forte (“Last Man on Earth”) costar as his boss Chief Pizzaz Miller and nemesis Rad Cunningham, respectively. It’s compromise with a little magic dusted on top, and watching the pros do what they do, especially under the leadership of a stubborn newbie, makes for excellent, excellent TV.

Fear The Walking Dead (AMC, 8 p.m.): The fall of Los Angeles was on hold last weekend for Labor Day, but those zombies are back in force as society continues to get worse and worse with the spread of an epidemic no one can explain. Apparently even online content providers want their moment to shine on good old-fashioned cable television, as this celebration of all things interwebs comes to VH1. Depending on who is talking, the script is either titled “Not a Pretty Woman” or “Not Another Pretty Woman,” and is a raunchy comedy about a guy who is dumped on his wedding day, apparently goes on a bender and wakes up married to a prostitute.

The Strain (FX, 9 p.m.): Last week’s episode saw The Strain finally picking up some momentum and head in the right direction, as well as introducing a brand new credit sequence that Kyle Fowle thought was “a pretty great balance of stupid, goofy, and fun.” That sounds like a descriptor all episodes of The Strain should strive to earn. Ultimately, though, most of the action surrounds the front-line producers (Marc Joubert, Effie Brown) charged with keeping the production on track, while HBO movie exec Len Amato appears periodically to impose seemingly arbitrary deadlines. Masters Of Sex (Showtime, 10 p.m.): John Teti’s reviewing both Masters and Masters’s identified show-within-a-show, which he’s dubbed Betty And Helen Are The Dumbest People On Earth. So I combed through the bowels of Netflix and Amazon Prime to find these movies that failed to launch many careers and give them a fair chance to wow me. The documentary, coinciding with the release of Richards’s first solo album in 23 years, “Crosseyed Heart,” follows Richards as he retraces his steps to illuminate his formative influences.

Mostly, once you get past thinning the contestant pool down to a victor, “Project Greenlight” becomes any task-driven reality show, and less a primer on the movie business’s machinery than just another case-study of big egos and personalities under pressure. Doll & Em (HBO, 10:40 p.m.): HBO’s other show about female friendship returns for its season two premiere, as Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells’s characters keep balancing their friendship in the cutthroat world of Hollywood.

In fact, the extent to which HBO is unfettered by box-office concerns, as Amato notes, renders the show even less illuminating about customary studio priorities. While that might result in reasonably dramatic TV, in keeping with the conventions of the reality genre, it’s also the sort of dime-a-dozen project that hardly screams “HBO.” I wish I could have been in the meeting in which Pete Jones slammed his fist on the table and demanded Comic Sans for his magnum opus, no matter the cost. Watching Dolly squeeze herself between the vine-covered fence and the stucco walls trying to find an unlocked door into her new home via the nervy, nervous view of the camera is tense.

The narration ends (never to return) and the film meanders for 40 minutes of its 91-minute runtime before it settles into what it’s actually about: a semi-creepy story of a young Catholic boy in Chicago named Pete who simultaneously takes religion too literally and completely misunderstands it. Brown is prone to saying things like “I’m going to go eat my feelings” and “sweet Jesus,” and “with love in my heart.” She a nurturing den mother who won’t take any flak from anybody. The home-video quality casts us as a silent observer trained on Dolly and particularly Emily throughout their power struggle, and the disorder of the compositions contributes to the chaos.

Rick And Morty (Adult Swim, 11:30 p.m.): “Rick joins in on some high jinks” is all the information that the description of tonight’s episode provides, which Zack Handlen thinks sounds a bit out of character for our favorite mad scientist. During his interview he says, “I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around how to make this movie good yet.” Most people would be thrilled to win, but he worries that his artistic vision will be compromised. He has “trepidations about the way this movie could paint my career.” Peter Farrelly, who along with his brother Bobby Farrelly will be producers of the final film, initially has no tolerance for Mann’s attitude. “Jason is pretentious as hell,” he says. { “nid”: 816819, “type”: “review”, “title”: “‘Todrick’: TV Review”, “path”: “”, “relative-path”: “/review/todrick-tv-review-816819” } But Mann isn’t being difficult just to be difficult. The Simpsons (3 p.m.): It’s a very unmerry Christmas for the Simpson family in “Miracle On Evergreen Terrace.” Kyle Ryan has some strong, bewildering words for the one responsible: “Uh, hello, jerk. But as a practical thinker with a low tolerance for whimsy, I found myself constantly asking why no adult seemed all that interested in explaining to this clearly curious child what he’s got wrong about religion.

Probably not, since you’re a regular What’s On Tonight reader, but there’s no question that this era of peak TV is taxing everyone’s free time and DVR space. Thankfully, the staff of TV Club is there for you, with the first part of our exhaustive list of the fall premieres and a handy priority scale of 1 to 5 to tell you what’s worth checking out. The 2016 Miss America Competition (ABC, 9 p.m.): The beauty pageant is celebrating its 95th year, and commemorating the occasion in an interesting way. Vanessa Williams, the first African-American to win the title of Miss America and the first to resign said title—due to a scandal involving nude photos in Penthouse—is returning to the pageant 32 years later as the head judge.

The one moment of sanity is when someone tells Pete, “Don’t try to change the world at 8½.” If only this movie had more straight talk and common sense like that. The Great British Baking Show (PBS, 7 p.m.): This week, contestants are baking “outrageous loaves of bread.” What makes a loaf of bread outrageous? Pacific Rim (FX, 7 p.m.): Giant robots fighting giant monsters, Charlie Day melding his brain with said monsters, Ron Perlman as a gangster with inimitable style, and Idris Elba being authoritative as all get out? Emotional manipulation aside, this movie is tedious and aesthetically comparable to flipping through a photo album with your grandpa who smells like shoe polish and potatoes.

Rating: MUST AVOID (There’s probably a joke here about how Stolen Summer stole 91 minutes of my life, but I’m sure someone made that same connection in 2002 and I ain’t no Fat Jew). Though Shaker Heights differs from Stolen Summer by taking place in the “present” (technically, 2003, the present for when it was produced), it’s still focused on characters who are equally bathed in nostalgia. Through his hobby, he meets Bart, played by Elden Henson3 — a rich kid who also loves history, because modern teens so often find themselves making friends through a shared interest in the Battle of the Bulge.

Bart and Kelly bond quickly, but their union is threatened when Kelly falls in love with Bart’s adult sister, played by Bill Simmons Actress Hall of Famer Amy Smart. I’m not sure I should call it a movie anyway, because it looks like it’s a pilot for a TV show on one of those channels you don’t know exists but skim past on your way to finding NBA League Pass, C-SPAN, or pornography. After three hours of maudlin dramedy, I was more than ready to watch a parade of character actors (Judah Friedlander, Jason Mewes, Balthazar Getty, Henry Rollins) get eaten by monsters. This is the kind of movie in which a character screams, “It’s gonna eat us!” and the appropriate reaction is “Hell yeah, it is!” It’s pure exploitation filmmaking, which was the engine that drove much of independent cinema until the major studios turned that infrastructure into a prestige machine that cranks out Oscar bait every fall.

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