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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday March 25, 2020 


Project Greenlight, an initiative spearheaded by actor-screenwriters Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, aims to give one new writer-director a chance to break into the film industry. The winner of an Internet screenwriting competition will be flown to Hollywood and given a million dollars from the Miramax studio to direct his or her movie. The competition is won by Chicago writer Pete Jones for his script “Stolen Summer.” But the real challenge for Jones has just begun – now he must direct the movie, despite his total lack of experience and a number of disagreements with the studio over budgetary and other issues. 

Review by Jake Wilson:
Poor Pete Jones, the “struggling writer from Chicago” who won the Project Greenlight competition and the chance to direct a movie from his own script. How chuffed he must have been, not guessing he was about to enter a living hell – battling to maintain control over the production, harassed by Miramax executives, way out of his depth with the crew, and forced to star in a embarrassing reality TV show exploiting the whole sorry mess. 

In retrospect, it’s clear that Jones walked into a trap, a corrupt enterprise rigged from the start. When a rank amateur with no training or experience is handed the keys to a million-dollar film production, should we be surprised that things go wrong? While Stolen Summer looks like a disaster (I haven’t yet seen it) Project Greenlight itself is a grimly fascinating if dubiously contrived piece of television. Shot fly-on-the-wall style, the series fetishises insider gossip and LA-speak, but also contains an element of tabloid exposé perversely satisfying for those who believe that Miramax and its boss Harvey Weinstein represent most of the worst tendencies of current US cinema. 

Though the editing is obviously selective, it must be said that most of the studio employees seem like remarkably unpleasant people. Some match their stereotypes so well it’s laughable – with his robotic monotone and fishy stare, executive Jon Gordon could be a yuppie villain from a Disney comedy. More seriously hateful are those who pretend to use their power with reluctance, like producer Chris Moore, a specialist in affable threats (when he gets annoyed, his grin widens, showing more teeth). 

Leaving aside the supposed glamour of the film world, anyone who’s worked in an office will recognise the dynamics – the petty power struggles and sanctimonious bullying. It’s strange to reflect that while Miramax presumably meant to encourage innovation, the artificial conditions set up by Project Greenlight seem guaranteed to produce a hacked-together dud. Or have I missed the whole point?

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CAST: (Documentary)Ben Affleck, Jeff Balis, Peter Biagi, Matt Damon, Brian Dennehy, Bonnie Hunt, Pete Jones, Kent Kubena, Joseph Middleton, Chris Moore, Kevin Pollak, Aidan Quinn

PRODUCER: Tony Yates, Tina Gazzerro, Eli Holzman

DIRECTOR: not credited

SCRIPT: Tom Magill


EDITOR: Teresa Lang, Steve Lichtenstein, Kirk Marcolina, Sharon Rennert

MUSIC: Dennis McCarthy


RUNNING TIME: Part 1, Part 2 - 160 minutes each

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 28, 2002 (Melbourne)

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