Unlike some reality TV vets, Pete Jones has never guzzled cow blood on national television. Instead, we’ve watched him perform an even messier task: first-time moviemaking. As the winner of Matt Damon’s and Ben Affleck’s Project Greenlight screenwriting contest, Jones got to make his screenplay ”Stolen Summer” into a film — an excruciating process now being chronicled on HBO’s ”Project Greenlight” (Sundays, 10 p.m.). Jones, who plans to debut ”Stolen Summer” (a tear-jerking period piece about friendship between two young boys) at Sundance in January, told EW.com about his clashes with Miramax, his relationship with new pals Matt and Ben, and his most embarrassing on-camera moments.
You’ve been accused of whining too much in the moviemaking process. How do you plead?
You know, from [Miramax’s] perspective, I WAS whining. I wish to God I had decided to make a TV show instead of focusing on the movie, so that I could have guarded how I behaved — the documentary catches me at moments that I really wish didn’t occur. But what you see are the dramatic moments and the tense moments. You don’t see when [a Miramax exec] says to me, ”Pete, we want the director to fight with us, because then we know the director cares.” They don’t show that. Why? Because it defuses the drama, it defuses the tension.
Is there a particular moment that jumps out as the most embarrassing to you?
Yeah, the Hawaii line. We were waiting for Miramax to respond to an 11 o’clock deadline, and I said, ”What, did they think it was, 11 o’clock Hawaii time?” It’s just a snotty, not-funny comment. I wish I never said it. I wish I never thought it. It’s just stupid.
Some people have also made fun of you for wondering aloud why Emma Thompson didn’t immediately reply to your letter to her.
I was just joking around! But it didn’t look like I was joking around as much as I was. I watch it myself and it looks like I’m kind of serious. But I remember it specifically not being that way.
The making of this movie has been chronicled as closely as any ever made. How do you think that’s going to affect audience and critic reactions to it, especially since it often didn’t seem to be going well?
I don’t know how people are gonna go into the movie. From what I’ve seen, they’re gonna go in thinking, Okay, this movie can’t be good — and if that’s the case, maybe we’ll sneak up on them and surprise them. What I am worried about is that it’s a little movie. We’re getting a lot of publicity that’s [bigger than] the size of the movie, and I hope that the hype doesn’t cave it in.