Stolen Summer [2002]

Genre: Drama
For all of its controversial manipulations of reality, Project Greenlight offers a revealing, pragmatic look at the pressure cooker of film production. Originally broadcast during the HBO 2001 to 2002 season, this 12- part series chronicles the premiere contest--conceived by coproducers Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Chris Moore--that resulted in 30-year-old Pete Jones being plucked from obscurity, out of 10,000 contestants, to direct his winning screenplay, Stolen Summer, as a professionally crewed feature film distributed by Miramax Films (included in this set; see separate review). The series gained notoriety for emphasizing the negative (backstabbing, budgetary battles, onset crises, etc.), but it's also a definitive nuts-and-bolts exposé of the filmmaking process--stripped of glamour, emotionally intense, and daunting to anyone without a steel-plated constitution. Key personnel emerge as admirably tenacious in their given roles, from the commanding presence of Chris Moore; the frictional yet ultimately cooperative dynamic between executive producer Pat Peach and coproducer Jeff Balis; the rally-the-troops efficiency of 1st Assistant Director Bruce Terris; and many other crucial crew members. Through it all, Jones shows his inexperience but rises to the occasion, earning the respect of those who could easily have dismissed him as a lucky amateur. The series' editorial weaknesses are readily apparent, and the postproduction process (especially the creation of a musical score) is woefully underrepresented, but Project Greenlight is a riveting and altogether encouraging primer for anyone who shares Pete Jones's dream. --Jeff Shannon

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