The producers of “Project Greenlight,” a reality television show about young filmmakers making their first movie, want something new this season — a money-making hit.
Actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who made names for themselves writing and starring in “Good Will Hunting,” are leading the series through its third season, and they want their pet project to live through a fourth.
“We had pretty strict marching orders this time” from the studio backing the project to produce a commercial movie, Damon said in an interview after picking a horror film script to develop this year.
“Greenlight” developed cult followings in Hollywood and across the country in two previous series that began with a contest for first-time filmmakers and ended with their making a movie.
In between there was a lot of fighting, which made for great television, but the two films that emerged from the first two years, “Stolen Summer” and “The Battle of Shaker Heights” sank at the box office.
Walt Disney Co. unit Miramax put up the budgets for the previous films of between $1 million and $2 million per film and did not make a fraction of that back. This time Dimension films, Miramax’s genre unit, will supervise and has set a $1 million budget.
As a result, Affleck said, this year the film would be “more studio,” meaning more commercial.
‘Feast’ for horror fans
The script, “Feast,” by Patrick Melton and Marcos Dunston, is about beasts locked in a bar fighting with humans.
“The tongue breaks right through the cheek with this one,” said Dunston. Melton hopes for a good showing at the theater but is certain DVD sales will do well.
Cable channel Bravo will show the series this time since HBO bowed out after the first two tries. “Feast” begins shooting this fall, with “Project Greenlight” set to hit television screens in February. The series will end in tandem with the movie premier in April.
The producers have also gone more mainstream by finding sponsors, including Hewlett-Packard Co .
Professional cameraman John Gulager was picked to direct “Feast” and appeared to be on good terms with the writers at a party where winners were announced.
That is a good sign for the movie-making experience but that camaraderie may produce a problem of its own: boring television.
Part of the attraction of the first seasons was Schadenfreude — the joy in watching filmmakers suffer and struggle when they got their big chance. As the New York Sun newspaper put it in a headline “Bad Film — Good TV.”
Larry Tanz, chief executive of production company Live Planet which is putting the series together, said his group felt good discussions — arguments, really — helped make a good movie, even if it did not work the first couple of times.
“We fundamentally believe you can make a great movie and still have a great TV show,” he said.
The arguments were enough to send Chris Moore, the producer who tried to help the filmmakers cope in the first two movies, packing. “I just got tired of playing a producer on TV,” Moore said.
Sense of adventureHorror film director Wes Craven, the creator of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” is taking Moore’s spot as the filmmakers’ mentor in a bid to help “Feast” make a box office killing.
Craven said that he was attracted to the project by “God-awful vanity and a sense of adventure” and unfazed by having every moment documented on television.
Most movie sets have cameras filming documentaries to be included with the DVD he said, and they don’t like them.
“As a director, you kind of wish they’d get the hell away,” he said.