Once again fairy tales can come true. Over a year ago, Oscar winners Ben Affleck and Matt Damon created Project Greenlight, an Internet competition for screenwriters. The winner of the competition (chosen from over 10,000 scripts) would receive a $1 million budget to direct and produce the script, a guaranteed distribution deal through Miramax and a chance to live a dream. Last year, after an emotional deliberation, Pete Jones was given the chance of a lifetime. In conjunction with Jones” movie debut this Spring, HBO airs “Project Greenlight,” a 13-episode documentary series chronicling the making of Jones” film, “Stolen Summer.”

Paul Wong
Matt and Ben doing their acting thing.<br><br>Courtesy of Wire Image

Last Sunday night, “Project Greenlight” debuted with two back-to-back episodes depicting the intense competition between the top 10 contestants as they journeyed to Los Angeles earlier this year to screen a scene they directed from their respective scripts. For most of the 10, “just being nominated was enough.” But for some, Project Greenlight was their final chance to break into the business. Coming from all different backgrounds with only the love of film in common, the 10 were on a whirlwind mission to convince Affleck, Damon, producer Chris Moore (“Good Will Hunting,” “American Pie”) and production execs from Miramax that their script was the best.

Initially, what was a chance to give the average Joe a shot, quickly turned into a debate over what makes for good filmmaking. Choosing the best director and the best script seemed almost impossible for the judges to make, as most of the scenes were either well directed or well written. After a Hollywood-style premiere for the contestants, full of the usual pomp and circumstance, the 10 were whittled down to three. Eventually, after an intense eight-hour review and a heart-pounding speech, Jones came out the winner.

What makes “Project Greenlight” interesting, and a far cry from the documentary-stylings of DVD extras, is the extreme amount of Hollywood bashing featured in the show. Playing upon various Hollywood stereotypes, contestants sent in biography videos a la “The Real World,” each in some small way incorporating familiar films, TV shows (particularly “Survivor”) and industry antics (read: We”ll do lunch). While it is plainly obvious what is at stake for each writer, “Project Greenlight” comes across as a chance for Affleck and Damon to flex some star muscle, continually making cracks at the Miramax execs as they debate the essence of this one-time “small” studio. Miramax has suddenly become too good for its indie roots.

Eventually the series will provide an uncensored look at Jones” exasperated journey to produce his film, a story about life, families and the power of a child”s faith. Snide remarks about his inexperience, an exploding budget, pressure from the studio and constant script changes all impede his progress. Jones” wide-eyed innocence doesn”t last long when he is forced to get his hands dirty and fight for his vision every step of the way.

With the dynamic duo as his guide (well, maybe Affleck takes more of an interest), Jones recently completed shooting “Stolen Summer,” which stars Aidan Quinn, Kevin Pollak, Brian Dennehy and Bonnie Hunt. The behind-the-scenes look at the time and effort put into the production of a film is educational for any who are contemplating venturing into the wild Hollywood unknown. For those without the slightest inkling, “Project Greenlight” is still worth your time, taking you on a passionate journey where the ordinary is suddenly thrust into the extraordinary, and one man gets to balk the Hollywood system.

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