With the winners having been announced for the second edition of the “Project Greenlight” contest on January 22nd, the project shifts into the production phase in March.
Tweaking the original competition, the producers chose a feature screenplay from submissions by amateur screenwriters, to be produced by LivePlanet and Miramax Films; whereas the winner of last year’s contest also directed the adaptation of his screenplay, this year it also introduced a bake-off for directing honors, with the winners helming the production of the winning screenplay. More than 9,000 people entered in the contest combined.
Winning the contest, along with a budget of $1.7 million and the backing of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Miramax studios, were screenwriter Erica Beeney for “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” while Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle won for their directorial efforts. Darwin Mayflower of Coming Attractions (site closed) called the film “a terrific character study…almost mistake-free and, of all the scripts in the contest, is the most ready for its moment in the spotlight. It’s a perfect [“Project” Greenlight] script: fit for its budget, character-driven, a drama interfused with comedy, featuring young people, but geared toward everyone. It’ll also give them the opportunity to launch the career of someone who I think is a natural storyteller with a flair for sly family dramas.”
But there are problems, past and present, that loom for the contest. Although the HBO series chronicling the filming of the first installment’s movie did well for HBO, the final product there, “Stolen Summer,” failed at the box office, managing to only make $120,000 at the box office, despite its $1.5 million budget. What’s more, there are questions forming around screenplay winner Beeney having previously written for a children’s television show produced by Disney (who owns Miramax, the film’s distributor) and the two directors receiving a national distribution deal with the Sci-Fi Channel before the contest began.
As one poster on Project Greenlight’s official site wrote, “”Project Greenlight” rules clearly stated that only amateurs were allowed to participate. “If someone had been paid more than $100 as a writer, they were considered a pro and ineligible, according to the rules. If a director contestant had produced or directed any work that received national distribution via movie houses or television, that contestant was not eligible.”
Are Ben and Matt are bringing in the ringers, so that they can make a profit on this film and gain some credibility for their production arm, perhapsr But what’s done is done; they’re not going to disqualify the winners at this point in the game.
Sources close to FilmJerk.com have confirmed that as of Monday night, casting calls have been released for the film’s main players. The film focuses on a 17-year-old boy, a World War II enthusiast, who learns that not all battles are fought in combat.
According to sources, casting call sheets were sent out on the following main characters:
- The lead character, Kelly Enswiler, a senior at Shaker Heights High outside of Cleveland. Kelly is an extremely bright, albeit defensive, fellow who likes to engage in WWII battle reenactments. Friendless for most of his life, Kelly clearly resents his parents, whose preoccupation with their own lives/difficulties has made him feel a bit of an outcast. A box boy at the local Shop Rite, Kelly is a charming, deft, clever, articulate and dry-witted young man, who is never at a loss for words. However, his easy gift of gab is couched in a powerless anger. Finally, in a cathartic moment in the film’s third act, he is able to expunge the misplaced rage, the fights and the stubbornness.
- Bart Bowland, of the same age, becomes Kelly’s friend early in the film, meeting him at one of the WWII reenactments. Despite his geeky hobby, Bart is an all-American type kid and is a senior at the prep school in the same town, Langley Prep. Bart’s careless confidence is a result of a feeling of powerlessness, living in the shadow of his well-to-do family. Bart has his life mapped out for him, not something he particularly enjoys, but tells Kelly “You can’t fight it. Go with the flow.” Later, incensed as he watches Kelly schmooze his family, he pulls back from the friendship, becoming downright outraged when he realizes Kelly is romantically interested in his sister.
- Kelly’s mother, Eve Enswiler, is described as being “one of those young-looking mothers Kelly’s friends would have crushes on. If he had any friends.” A breezy, chatty, often-preoccupied woman, Eve is an artist who must sell her works in order to keep the family solvent. She has trained a family of Chinese immigrants to paint for her, which only irritates Kelly. She’s too busy enabling her husband, Abe Enswiler, to be an effective mother until Abe’s sickness forces her to deal with Kelly. Abe himself is an upbeat, eager-to-please kind of guy who’s been clean and sober for five years, and proud of it. “He looks kind. A bit ill-used by life. The phrase ‘rode hard and put away wet’ comes to mind,” as it says in the screenplay. Cheerfully optimistic with a mission to save the world, Abe is constantly giving a hand-out to the local needy, yet remains at a loss with how to address the needs of his own son. However, Kelly, who still remembers the terrible years when his dad was using, views his altruism with disdain. The production is looking for star names for both these roles.
- Tabby Bowland, Bart’s older sister, is described as bring “totally shockingly beautiful…Otherworldly.” A graduate of Sarah Lawrence, now in grad school at Yale, Tabby is an artist and has her own studio behind the house. Charming, intelligent, with an inner glow and a likable sense of humor, she immediately captures young Kelly’s heart. Producers are also searching for her fiance, Miner Webber, a smiling stockbroker who is not exactly sure how to take Kelly- – his oddball comments are lost on him. Kelly sees Miner as overbearing, convinced her fiance is not the right guy for her.
- Kelly’s nemesis, who is short and wide, built like a tank, and prematurely balding, by the name of Lance. This Cro-Magnon type high school kid is a mean-spirited bully only steals Kelly’s backpack, only to have Kelly and Bart pull a stunt on him he’ll never forget.
Perhaps they’ll have a casting call akin to what we’ve recently seen on “American Idol,” without the singing. The film, with many of the same faces returning from the first installment like Chris Moore and Jeff Balis, is set to begin filming in March, location TBD, with a theatrical release in August. The second installment of the HBO series looking behind the camera, from the winner selection to the wrap party, is said to begin sometime in the second quarter of this year.
Directors: Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle
Executive Producers: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Producers: Chris Moore, Jeff Balis
Writer: Erica Beeney
Casting Directors: Joseph Middleton and Stacie Goodman-Binder
Start Date: March 10, 2003
Production Company: Live Planet/Project Greenlight Films