With Damon and Affleck Resurrecting ‘Project Greenlight,’ Let’s See Where Past Winners Are Today

Shia LaBeouf in Battle of Shaker Heights


I wonder if any of you are too young to remember Project Greenlight. The competition reality show was a big deal when it began back in 2001 on HBO, the brainchild of pals Ben Affleck and Matt Damon with producer Chris Moore, then known best for American Pie. And Harvey Weinstein was involved through Miramax, which had a stake all the way through distributing whatever movie was made out of the winning script. Project Greenlight would begin each season with the screenplay contest, which fed into a directors contest, which fed into a making-of docu-series where we watched the champion filmmaker complete his feature. After three seasons of what could better be called Project Greenhorn, it seemed as though those features weren’t worth the effort. Actually, most viewers knew after the unsuccessful release of the first, Stolen Summer, that it this idea didn’t work.

But now Affleck and Damon, sans Moore, are bringing it back. They think it was actually ahead of its time and will work better in the post-YouTube era. “A whole new generation of filmmakers has grown up sharing everything, and the next big director could be just an upload away,” Affleck is quoted as saying about the reasoning for the resurrection. Damon added that the first incarnation was actually a success, proudly noting that “careers have been launched and sustained as a direct result of this contest.”

He is right, as the show’s past winners, who include Stolen Summer writer/director Pete Jones, season two combination of screenwriter Erica Beeney and directors Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle (that season they started separating the script and directing competitions to avoid another good writer who was a bad director) and third season writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton and director John Gulager are all still working in Hollywood.

Doing what and how successfully, you ask? Let’s look at these seven careers that were launched by Project Greenlight to see what is the bare minimum of success the new generation has to look forward to.

Pete Jones: Season one winner. After Stolen Summer bombed at the box office, he made another little movie called Outing Riley, which I’d never heard of. He stars, as well, as a gay Catholic man who comes out to his brothers, one of whom is played by Nathan Fillion. His biggest success came a number of years later when the Farrelly brothers directed Hall Pass off his original screenplay. He is currently developing his third feature, titled Jack on the Rocks.

Erica Beeney: Season two screenwriting winner, who wrote The Battle of Shaker Heights. That is her last and only credited screenwriting work, she hasn’t been in a ditch somewhere. According to a 2012 interview, she wrote an unmade Gidget remake for Sony and has done pilots and other specs and rewrite gigs. At that time she said she was about to make her directorial debut with a new original screenplay titled Sleeping Dogs, which Ethan Hawke was set to star in and Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt was producing. Last update I can find was that it was supposed to shoot last summer and come out this year. But there’s nothing about it on IMDb.

Kyle Rankin: One half of the season two directorial team that gave us an early decent vehicle for Shia LaBeouf with The Battle of Shaker Heights. After that movie also bombed, he made a few minor things, such as the short Hellholes, with his Project Greenlight partner. Then he apparently teamed up with actor Ray Wise, who he cast in the 2009 horror comedy Infestation and the web series pilot Nuclear Family. He’s currently in pre-production on a zom-rom-com titled Night of the Living Deb, also starring Wise, and then he’s set to direct an apocalyptic movie set in the Wild West called Death Valley Karmageddon scripted by actor Corin Nemec. He also appears to act on occasion.

Efram Potelle: The other season two director. He has since found work in visual effects, credits including Punisher: War Zone, The Devil Inside, Sparkle, Wrong Turn 4 and Rankin’s own Infestation, for which he received a VES Award nomination.

Marcus Dunstan: One half of the season three screenwriting team that won for Feast, which no surprise was not a hit. But it was the best performing of the three, and afterward he and partner Patrick Melton were hired onto the Saw franchise. They wrote Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI and Saw 3D. In between they also got to script two Feast sequels, then they wrote The Collector and its sequel, The Collection, both of which he directed, and wrote Piranha 3DD. They also did uncredited rewrites on Pacific Rim. And they’re nowhere ready to stop, given they have multiple projects in development, including an adaptation of the TV show The Outer Limits.

Patrick Melton: See above. He and Dunstan have stuck together ever since Project Greenlight.

John Gulager: The season three directing winner. He followed Feast with Feast II: Sloppy Seconds and Feast III: The Happy Finish. He also worked with that series’ screenwriters on a short film and then Piranha 3DD. He went on his own for last fall’s SyFy movie Zombie Night. But he currently doesn’t seem to be attached to anything.

Rather than a reject, Christopher Campbell is a film school dropout. But he has since gotten a master’s degree in cinema studies and has been blogging about movies since 2005. Earlier, he reviewed films for a zine (a what?) that you could buy at Tower Records (a what?). He is married with two children.

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