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Project Greenlight: The Complete Season 2
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The complete second season of the behind-the-scenes look at making a motion picture series Project Greenlight.
Anyone contemplating a career as a screenwriter or film director--or anyone who simply wonders how movies get made--would do well to watch Project Greenlight 2 from beginning to end. The second season of the HBO reality series, co-created by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and producer Alex Keledjian, follows the creation of Miramax feature The Battle of Shaker Heights from unknown screenplay through various levels of Greenlight competition to first-run theatrical feature with a big, Hollywood premiere. The road to completion, however, runs through hell many times over. Shaker Heights writer Erica Beeney, having survived Greenlight's script contest and intimidating meetings with Affleck, Damon, and various producers and executives from Miramax and elsewhere, is matched with the directing team of Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin, who have undergone similar trials. With little time to celebrate, the winners moves into production offices in Los Angeles and confront a stark reality: A lot of people are involved in getting a movie made, and very often a writer or director is just one voice among many.
The most interesting backstage dramas in the series take place during pre-production for Shaker Heights, when casting proves to be a nightmare, time runs short, and Miramax starts insisting that Potelle and Rankin take the actors they're told to take. Part of the problem is that the team, new to the big leagues, often look like startled deer. They don't know how to talk to stars or make decisions quickly, they question the need for vital crew members, and they don't understand that in the absence of leadership a panicked studio will take over. Still, everyone gets through intact, and after a couple of episodes detailing Shaker Heights' actual shoot (with stars Shia LaBeouf, Kathleen Quinlan, William Sadler, and Amy Smart), the editing and marketing processes become a new kind of misery, threatening to destroy the film and end careers. It's all very engrossing, and its good to have a DVD of the highly enjoyable The Battle of Shaker Heights (which comes with this set and offers a "jump-to" feature linking select scenes to Project Greenlight background info) to prove, in the end, that all that matters are results. --Tom Keogh
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The story is simple but the acting is impeccable and it develops a wallop emotionally. The movie is totally carried by Shia LaBeouf. He had done some work before this, but here, at 17 he shows the maturity and skill that his furthering career would only develop. He is the sparkle that shines in this film. LaBeouf plays Kelly, a somewhat unhappy teen from a somewhat unhappy family. He escapes by participating in war reenactments. It is here he meets the wealthy, preppie Bart. They become best friends and his family an escape for the emotionally lost Kelly. He also falls for Bart's sister played by Amy Smart.
The story is well told and all the characters have depth. They all experience some life changes through their experiences together but it is Kelly and Labeouf's portrayal that shows the most depth. His innocence is very believable. The drama is provided in some excellent moments by him but the biggest surprise is his comedic timimg. All the comedic touches are provided by the shyness of Kelly.
I highly recommend this slice of life coming of age film to all independant film lovers and also Shia LaBeouf fans. It is an excellent part of his ever developing career.
Project Greenlight 2, was an inversion. I loved the show, and found the movie, BATTLE OF SHAKER HEIGHTS lacking.
Now I have made a feature film. I made my feature KNAPTID for $6,000 and wrote about how in my How to Make a Low-Budget Digital Movie short. Even though I had some bad actors I think Knaptid--4 Days After The First Abduction is a better movie than BATTLE OF SHAKER HEIGHTS. So my comments here are those of an experienced low-budget filmmaker.
Project Greenlight 2 does give you some real insight into how a Hollywood film is made, and what all happens. The way in which the parent company tried to change the movie after it went before a test audience is a lesson by itself for the would-be filmmaker. The casting problems which I experienced myself--though not with stars, struck home, and the list goes on. What might really be of value to the independent filmmaker here is watching the problems develop.
Greenlight 2 makes producers Balis and Moore look good, and the winning directors look like idiots, while the writer, Erica Beeney is treated sympathetically. The question is: did the show treat Potelle and Rankin fairly or just make them look bad? (One does wonder after watching the show if the winner had been the director candidate who said she would only make SHAKER HEIGHTS or the one who actually did the best job on his directorial sample, the one with the crazy person in the psych ward, whether the end product would have been better. )
How bad are the directors? Here is an example. We see them filming at a church. They need the church for outside shots of Shia LaBeouf as Kelly at his best friend's sister's (Amy Smart) wedding. So what do the directors do. They spend way to much time filming LaBeouf in a Limo talking to Smart in a scene they never get right, and then have to set up lights to fake daylight in a scene that has to be outdoors. In the final movie there is a shot of LaBeouf riding away from the church before the daytime service starts, while cars on the street have their headlights on because it is actually dusk. They only had the church for a day. LaBeouf did okay, but Smart never got the 'in limo scene' right. We never get the idea that she is being confronted just before her wedding by a guy she may have made love to while on the outs with her fiance. (Want to see the surprised bride done right watch THE GRADUATE.) The thing is there was no background in focus, so they could have shot the 'in the limo shot' anywhere after spending a little time directing Smart.
When the movie making was beginning, I can't believe the directors didn't ask the casting director right up front 'who can we reasonably get? LaBeouf was a bad choice here for example. LaBeouf may be great in comedy, but he did not always deliver here. Example, the bully.
The bully picks on LaBeouf because LaBeouf harasses the bully's father who is a history teacher. But the bully's demeanor and LaBeouf's is cartoonish. The fact that the bully has motive to hate LaBeouf is important as LaBeouf later regrets the trick he pulls on the bully. The interaction of the two characters comprise some of the worst, most wooden acting in the movie. In fact, LaBeouf barely seems bothered by the bully, emotionally detached.
Speaking of emotion to really show it in a movie you need close-ups. This movie seems shot entirely in medium shots. In fact, one extreme close up is of a tiny doll held by LaBeouf's best friend's father. The problem is instead of a real character the friend's father is a caricature.
Directing the actors: Didn't these people ever rehearse? Kathleen Quinlan does this scene that ends where her saying 'because' she loves her husband. This is an emotional scene yet she doesn't seem real because she goes from smiling to serious without really being the character.
Some of the problems could be placed on Beeney the writer. But if you watch the show you'll see the directors tried to rewrite her. And the studio heads redid the movie edit. So who is to blame for some of the movie's problems is up in the air, for example: Why LaBeouf hates his father is not revealed until the end of the movie. Meanwhile we go through the movie finding his 'I hate you Dad' attitude unbelievable enough to make him unsympathetic.
Here the directors made mistakes, the writer may have, the studio heads obviously did, and so what was in Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's heads when they actually said the fiasco that was THE BATTLE OF SHAKER HEIGHTS was better than STOLEN SUMMER.
(By the way: The directors and the writer here have not gone on as Pete Jones has. At the time of this writing the SHAKER directing gang has one movie of their own they are working on. Beeney has no further credits. Pete Jones seems to have done a few things.)
This all makes for an educating show. They show these guys making mistakes people can learn from. So enjoy the show, endure the movie and learn.
And it's worth recounting what else they were up against: a miniscule budget of just over $1,000,000 (yes, in Hollywood, there are so many mouths at the trough that a million bucks barely gets you a no frills, no looking back dash to the finish line, if that); a compressed schedule that required six months from first draft script to final, polished film; a single test screening just weeks before final edits had to be completed; directors who had no power to inject their own creativity in the conversion of the screenplay to the film; and the almost non-involvement of the contest's sponsoring celebrities. All of this is more than apparent from the HBO series on the making of this film.
Against this backdrop, Battle of Shaker Heights is a wonder. It tells a touching story of a young man coming to grips with his own unhappiness, and the difficulties of navigating the strange waters between childhood and adulthood. Sure, it isn't exactly an original theme, but Shia LeBouef's Kelly, the lead character, comes across like a real human being, someone of flesh, blood, and ideas. At the end of Shaker Heights, I wished that I could see more of Kelly, perhaps count him among my friends. That's a rare feat for a film, and a real tribute to the young writer and directors.
There likely will be another version of this DVD down the pike--one that includes the television show and director commentaries.
Most recent customer reviews
Enjoyed every moment of it. Shia where did it all go wrong?