Sunday, September 24, 2006

Project Greenlignt -- and amber

Okay, first of all, when I took the picture here, the light changed to amber before I could click the shutter. Maybe my fate is in the stars, like Julius Caesar's. The diskette was full, so this "The Color Amber" was the only shot I got.

I'm referring to Liveplanet's Project Greenlight screenwriting contest, of course. The "greenlight" comes from the phrase used when a movie project is funded. (It's also used in Internet content rating now; The ICRA says "this site gets a green light" and has a picture of the appropriate traffic light once a site is properly labeled.)

There has been three contests. The first was, I believe, in 2001. They were run by, a production company then associated with the older Miramax (now, the Weinstein Company). The site provided an upload mechanism, an automated download facility for screenplay scorers and reviewers (even a true-false quiz submitted by the screenplay author that had to be taken by the reviewer first), and a snazzy announcement system to present the winners at each contest stage. The first two contests also offered elaborate message boards, which were quite lively and were similar to those offered by TheWB (now CW). The contestants actually organized a couple of events or parties that I believe took place in LA.

The contests consisted of a writing contest and a director's contest. At least in the most recent contest, the director's contest consisted of a five-minute short based on a bare-bones proprietary script. You can still watch some of the finalist directors' entries at the PGL site above in a movie player.

The three winners have been Stolen Summer, The Battle of Shaker Heights, and, most recently produced, Feast. Each film had an "art house" theatrical platform release. Each movie has resulted in an HBO documentary series depicting the process of making the movie, and the stress felt on the winning team (winning writer and director) to get the movie done within budget and on schedule is quite striking. (Hence the "amber light".) Chris Moore would really ride the winners hard. (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were also executive producers, and Ben Affleck actually announced the 2004 contest in a January Sunday morning NBC Today, as I recall. I do not know whether there will be a fourth contest, or when.

I participated in the second contest as a reviewer, and in the third contest I entered a script. That was "Baltimore Is Missing," details here. It did not place. The winnings script, Feast, is quite witty with punch lines, and would read as a funny monster movie. Winning scripts tend to have simple, structured story telling, following the lessons learned by studying the 1948 Vittorio de Sica masterpiece The Bicycle Thief, apparently a staple of film schools. Every screenwriter entrant had to review at least three scripts. I believe that directors also had to score others' works.

Participation in Project Greenlight was an interesting experience. The automatic uploading facility ought to be emulated by other screenwriting contest operators.

I miss the message boards and I believe that there needs to be a lively message board for "amateur" screenwriters somewhere. If someone knows where there is one, please add a comment letting us know where. I can imagine moderating such a board, but I would not have the time to do it for free. As a baby boomer retiree, I do see doing something like that as a part-time hourly contractor job. Again, I welcome comments to that effect.

I have detailed reviews of the three winning movies at this link.

If anyone knows when a PGL contest might occur, or any other good contests, please feel free to comment.

Subsequent blogger entry on Season 2 finalist screenplay "Renaissance".

Update: July 31, 2007

I found a link for the ten director's submissions, based on a short script owned by Project Greenlight. The link is here. You may need the right version of Media Player. My favorite film was the first one, the only one that was 2.35 to 1, where a young girl shares a last meal with her grandfather and horrific surprises wait.

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