Aspiring screenwriters and directors have found an oasis in the desert of Hollywood hype and the old boys club. This haven is “Project Greenlight,” an original documentary series airing on HBO this summer. The program provides a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a winning film on a modest budget of $1 million.
Project Greenlight, which works with production company LivePlanet and is produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore, holds a contest yearly to find a promising script written by an unknown screenwriter and for the first time this year, an unknown director.
For the 2002 series, only one screenwriter was chosen from many Hollywood hopefuls to both write and direct. “For the winners, it’s a dream come true,” said co-producer Jeff Balis, “But then the person has to change from a wide-eyed contest winner to someone who realizes that he has a difficult job to do. The transition is really quick.”
Peter Jones was the fortunate winner who envisioned a nostalgic film set in the 1970s. His winning film, “Stolen Summer” tells the story of a young Catholic boy who attempts to get his Jewish friend into heaven.
Balis said that one of the things that made “Stolen Summer” stand apart from other films about religion was its honesty about the subject matter. “It stood out as a non-cynical movie,” he said. “Even though the protagonist was a little kid, the movie was done in a straightforward way. It had children’s simplicity and simple truths which we could all learn from.”
He added, “Anti-Semitism is a lot more veiled now than it was back then. A modern setting would have changed the film fundamentally. Now things are more relegated.”
However, according to Balis, the age of the main character was always a big concern. “We couldn’t make him much older, and if he was too young, he would come off as too na