Lit Up

It's more fun watching the movie get made than watching the movie

"They needed a bad one," he says. "Actually, there was one with Catherine Manheim that didn't go well." He is referring to Camryn Manheim, formerly of ABC's The Practice. And he wonders why it didn't go well. Continue, Kyle.

"I think Efram and I hadn't eaten, it was like low blood sugar, and I think Catherine came in and made some kind of allusion to something like, 'You know you'd better be careful, kids and guns, you don't want another Columbine or something,' and I was like, 'Oh, God.' She didn't seem right for the role; she wasn't in the correct mind-set. It's just funny because Catherine Manheim was smart enough to say, 'Well, I don't want to be on tape unless I get the role.' So what they did was, they were like, 'Well, we need to re-edit one of these to make it look like it went bad,' so...The show is a brilliant marketing tool, but it is not a correct reflection of [our] reality. What I hope is that the movie will just speak for itself and the show will be quickly forgotten."

To which you feel it necessary to say to Rankin, And good luck with all that.

The battle of The Battle of Shaker Heights: from left, Kyle Rankin, Efram Potelle and Chris Moore, smiling when they weren't yelling
The battle of The Battle of Shaker Heights: from left, Kyle Rankin, Efram Potelle and Chris Moore, smiling when they weren't yelling

The movie's not the disaster Stolen Summer was, if only because LaBeouf's engaging enough to drag you through a movie that has less a narrative arc than a storytelling valley. His character, Kelly, doesn't evolve so much as change his mind for no reason; one second he's a sarcastic and selfish twerp, the next he's a loving son and boyfriend. Miramax likely knows what it has, something perfect for Saturday-afternoon cable, which is why the film is scheduled to open in only 10 markets. If it does well, only then will it roll out into wider distribution.

Beeney said in the August 10 episode that an early test screening was a "first cousin" of her screenplay; now, she likens the final film to the script's "perky younger brother." Which means, more or less, she likes it. She's also been fond of the experience, perhaps because, unlike Potelle and Rankin, she's come off looking pretty good--more beleaguered and less bitchy than the men trusted with her script. She's even relished seeing herself described in newspaper pieces as "earnest" and "hapless" and someone who will one day make a fine studio executive.

"I really wouldn't trade it for anything," she says. "A very rare part of the screenwriter's dream has come true for me at a very early stage in my career, which is that I get to see all these amazing people that brought this thing to life. That's worth a lot."

Rankin says that just after he and Potelle and Beeney were selected as this year's winners, during the Sundance Film Festival, Moore took them aside and said that Project Greenlight is not about setting up people to fail but instead about making the best film possible. Rankin believed it then and all the way through the making of the movie. But, he says now, Moore was "serving two masters": Not only did he want a good movie, but he wanted a great TV show, which, as far as the filmmakers were concerned, meant creating conflict whenever possible.

Even now, Rankin says, "Chris is still trying to keep the tension up: Is the movie going to be bad? Is it going to tank or not? That will probably get people in the theaters, I think."

Moore is not at all pleased with the insinuation that he would have sacrificed the film to make the show more entertaining.

"Kyle's sort of implying there wasn't that much conflict," he says, chuckling. "I can tell you that there was 200 times more conflict. I mean, they pissed off Jeff, Erica and me and Andrea Wortheim, who was the post-production supervisor, and Richard Nord, who was the editor, and Pete Solder, who was the music supervisor, and Dan Perry, who was the titles guy. He pissed all or one of us off every day. And I'm not talking just a little bit frustrated; I'm talking super-pissed-off, like I want to quit the project because I can't take them anymore. Right? So the point is, for Kyle to indicate that there wasn't tension is more of an indication of Kyle than it is of the show or the process."

Ultimately, Project Greenlight plays like a junior-varsity version of the great behind-the-scenes books, among them Lillian Ross' Picture and Steven Bach's Final Cut, filled with gossipy accounts of the making of movies and the breaking of those involved. But this is more interactive, not just a history but a peek into the present: You've been allowed to read the screenplay (posted on the Web site) and watch the process, the butchering and backstabbing and bitching. Good Lord, who cares in the end if the movie sucks?

"I'm expecting that people carry a lot of baggage into the theater," Moore says. "What I'm hoping is it's baggage that makes the movie a shitload more fun. You sort of watch it and you're like, 'Oh, yeah, I would have done that.' Or, 'Yeah, if they'd had the group hug, it would have really sucked.' Or you dislike me: 'Chris was an asshole, it should have been a fucking drama, and I don't care about this funny shit and he's just stupid.' Whatever it is, that's the kind of thing I hope people bring in. I hope it doesn't distract them from watching the movie. I hope what it does is make it much more fun for them to do it."

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