Project Greenlight: Alan Markfield
Gillian Flynn
March 21, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

Project Greenlight

type
TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
12/02/01
performer
Erica Beeney, Marcus Dunstan, John Gulager, Pete Jones, Patrick Melton, Efram Potelle, Kyle Rankin
Producer
Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore
broadcaster
Bravo
genre
Reality TV

We gave it a B+

Art schmart. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have twice convinced Miramax to pony up several million so that amateurs can create their first indie movie — with the bumpy process documented for their reality series, Project Greenlight. Both seasons produced snoozy coming-of-age films, which were stillborn at the box office. Undaunted, the two have moved their show from an unamused HBO to Bravo, and proclaimed a new goal. ”It’s about making a movie that makes a profit,” Affleck explains.

Almost on cue, this Faustian bargain (can you ensure a quality movie if your primary objective is to earn cash?) blows up in Affleck’s and Damon’s pretty faces. Miramax’s genre wing, Dimension, insists on making the marketable Feast — described by its writers as ”Evil Dead meets Diner” — despite Damon’s deep misgivings about the script: ”Making cynically made, low-budget horror films for the purpose of making a small profit is not the reason I got into Greenlight.”

Mmmmm. . .too bad. Feast gets the nod, and by the end of the premiere, the reality cast is complete: screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (who seems trapped in his own bad improv skit) and lumpy, pessimistic director John Gulager, who is easily the most intriguing personality in PG history. Considering PG‘s integrity-versus-earnings theme, he’s the perfect auteur to play off the grabby Dimension execs. (Greenlight was filmed before Miramax’s Bob and Harvey Weinstein split with Disney, but the brothers will be involved in the release of Feast.) The insecure Gulager might have a permanent ”Kick me” sign on his back, but when it comes to movies, he’s got the highfalutin outlook that comes from growing up in a filmmaking family. (Greenlight makes the Gulagers seem like home-movie freaks, but John’s dad, Clu, wrote and directed the unsettling 1969 cult short A Day With the Boys.)

By the second episode, Gulager is mumbling about the ”integrity and art” of his favorite director, Fellini, and clashing with the Dimension guys, who want a quick and dirty horror film. The influence of Bravo — which also airs the gawking docuseries Showbiz Moms & Dads — is obvious here. We follow Gulager home as he sits in his bathrobe and talks about his dead mother, and even into the tub where he lolls like a pensive frog. This shy fellow is soon insisting on casting family members in Feast‘s prime roles and complaining of being disrespected — despite the fact that he refuses to articulate his vision for the film. A box of Goobers says this gets gloriously messy.

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