Battle of Shaker Heights [2003]

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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