In their move from HBO to Bravo, “Project Greenlight” creators Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and, uh ... the other nonfamous guy decided it was time to go commercial. The first two seasons of the moviemaking reality show produced two dreary coming-of-age dramas, The Battle Of Shaker Heights and Stolen Summer, neither of which made the slightest ripple at the box office. For the third season, then, it was decided to move from prestigious Oscar-generating indie studio Miramax (Shakespeare in Love, Chicago) to cheapjack genre filmmakers Dimension (Dracula 2000, Darkness). The purpose: to create an inexpensive box office hit.
In ditching the high-minded artistic aspirations of the first two seasons, “Project Greenlight 3” has hit upon perhaps the most honest portrait of Hollywood ever recorded. So far this season, Affleck and Damon have come off as a respectable, intelligent duo, angling for the smartest scripts and the most talented people. Unfortunately, they've made a deal with the devil. Dimension, like just about every chintzy horror/sci-fi studio in Hollywood history, is only interested in appealing to the lowest common denominator.
No wonder then, that the script chosen for development this year was the beastly “horror comedy” Feast. The script, by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan (an annoying chatterbox who looks like he's auditioning for open mic night at the Chuckle Hut every time he's on camera), is a total piece of crap about some people trapped in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of monsters who attack them. This is the script the producers chose out of thousands of entries? Immediately, everyone involved admits it sucks and needs to be completely rewritten. Welcome to Hollywood, folks.
Affleck and Damon at least stuck to their guns and got the most interesting of the director candidates hired. John Gulager, a middle-aged schlub with some demonstrable talent and a comical lack of self-esteem is now prevailed upon to turn this junky script into a hit movie. Though he's skilled with a camera, Gulager seems to have zero people skills. He's unable to articulate his smallest thought and would rather just cast the entire film with his family members. Gulager (who actually has a tighter Hollywood connection than the show would lead you to believe) is certainly the best dramatic choice for the show, creating loads of tension among Feast's producers, casting directors and writers. Whether or not he actually survives the shoot without being fired remains to be seen. (I have my doubts.)
“Project Greenlight 3” is at its best when revealing the utter idiocy that goes into making feature films. For example, after weeks of discussing how funny the chosen script is, executives at Dimension announce flatly “there's no way this is gonna be a comedy.” Even Wes Craven, brought on board to produce Feast, looks embarrassed by this one--and he's produced garbage like They, Mind Ripper and Dracula II: Ascension.
I have full confidence at this stage of the game that the finished product for Feast will be god awful. But watching this season of “Project Greenlight” will at least answer the age-old question, “How did they make a movie that freakin' bad?”