Some things are better left a mystery — like hot dog ingredients or Catherine Zeta-Jones’ real age. Scoffing at this notion, HBO’s ”Project Greenlight” became the ultimate form of reality TV, exposing the filmmaking process and revealing this: real people making real mistakes and getting really mad about it.
In 12 episodes that ended Feb. 10, HBO followed first-time writer/director Pete Jones as he made his $1.5 million Miramax debut, ”Stolen Summer.” With that film set to hit theaters on March 22, EW.com looks back at ”Greenlight”’s highs and lows (can you say ”backstabber”?) and names the series’ winners and losers.
PETE JONES, DIRECTOR — WINNER
WHO IS HE? A former insurance salesman, production assistant, and TV weatherman, Jones penned ”Stolen Summer” from his experiences in late ’70s Chicago.
WHY HE’S A WINNER Jones made all the classic first-timer mistakes: He insisted on ambitious but impractical setups, put his trust in a director of photography with selfish motives, and met every crew member objection with the annoying catchphrase ”Over my dead body!” Still, he got his film made — in the scheduled 25 days and without breaking his budget — and got a warm critical reception when it screened at January’s Sundance Film festival. How many people can say that?
ONE SHINING MOMENT Sundance. Nothing heals the emotional scars of a rough shoot like the standing ovation and congratulatory hugs Jones receives from the audience at ”Stolen Summer”’s screening.
CANDID CAMERA Jones recycles a ”heartfelt” casting letter to Sean Penn and sends it to Aidan Quinn. When Quinn says he’ll join if certain demands are met, Jones tells a producer Quinn can ”go f–k himself.” When Quinn signs onto the project, Jones calls him his hero.
QUOTABLE QUOTE First, Pete swoons, ”They really like me,” à la Sally Field. Later, he flip-flops: ”I feel like they hate me.”
CHRIS MOORE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER — WINNER
WHO IS HE? Moore is the business genius behind the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck show. And he’s done pretty well on his own, too: He produced the surprise hit ”American Pie.”
WHY HE’S A WINNER Early in the production, when he fumed over a missing caterer, a lack of bathrooms, and bad location scouting, it was easy to criticize his temper. But his warnings proved prophetic, making it even easier to forgive the guy for being right. In all his imperiousness, he was still humble enough to take his wife’s advice when she suggested he not fire coproducer Jeff Balis, which may have saved the production.
ONE SHINING MOMENT Choosing just one is impossible, but his warnings against shooting under the El train in Chicago, on a rainy baseball field, and from above Lake Michigan stand out. Almost no footage was salvageable from any of these setups.
CANDID CAMERA We see Moore’s soft side as he calls 10 people to tell them they’re finalists. ”It’s sort of emotional,” he admits.
QUOTABLE QUOTE ”Our goal is NOT to not be the worst movie ever.”