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Pete Jones Greenlights an Interview!
an emily blunt interview

 

 

The buzz is dying down around the infamous hunt for a good script that would be given the go ahead to be made, hence the name: "Project Greenlight."

For those who don't know...Ben Affleck and friend Matt Damon had an idea to sponsor a contest. The winner would have their film made. That means no inside contacts or playing the games usually associated with film making would be needed. Over ten thousand scripts were recede. This fellow Pete Jones won.

Um, yeah right. Well, the boys had their heart in it for sure. However with movies being so expensive -- even Indies -- they needed sponsors. In steps the studio and they will sponsor provided they get a thirteen episode documentary of the whole contest and film being shot.

Doesn't sound like a bad deal...

Yeah, but apparently the documentary was so dull so they oomphed the footage up by cleverly editing sentences and conversations making the cast, crew and director look inept and childishly backstabbing. Each has voiced their sadness at the tactic and pretty much talks openly about it. They insist there was no hatred or dislike on the set. Each respected and enjoyed the other it's the editing that created this tone in the documentary nothing more.

I got to chat personally with the winner of the whole shindig Pete Jones. He wrote and directed the script ( Stolen Summer review here) that wooed the panel at Project Greenlight. Here's what he had to say about the project and his film. Enjoy.

EB: Well, congratulations on everything !

PJ: Ah, thank you! I appreciate it. Thanks.

EB: Where did this story come from?

PJ: I wrote a story that I knew. You know, I grew up Irish Catholic...uh...I...I should have hidden it better by not..you know...naming the lead character Pete. That probably would have been smart, you know, but I wasn't gonna lie to people. You know if I am writing about myself why not just name the kid who I am and it won't be kidding anyone. Uh, I grew up Irish Catholic - big family. My wife's Jewish; a lot of my close friends are Jewish, and I've always really been fascinated by religion. I know people, a lot of people...uh, that's weird and boring, but I'm fascinated by it, and I decided I can't write the gross-out comedy. I wish I could, make a lot of money doing that, but I can write about what I know and everyone always tells you to write what you know and when you start thinking about what you know, you're like, okay, that's REALLY boring. Let's move on to something else, and I sat down and I wrote about growing up Irish Catholic in Chicago and the fact that when you get to that certain age and get beyond what your parents tell you, you start realizing there's other people out there that are good people that do things differently, and I
started thinking I love that dynamic. I love...I love the whole part about it, so I sat down
and I wrote the story. The story itself never happened to me. Um, but the environment,
who those people are, those are people I grew up with. I didn't even know about Greenlight when I started writing it and...uh...I just knew that it's not box office gold. You know, people aren't gonna go, "We gotta get that religious kid movie!"
[laughter] I knew they weren't gonna be clamoring for it, but I knew it was gonna be a good story. I knew that if I got a chance to convince someone to make this movie, or if I had to go do it myself, that in the end it would be a good movie that people would like. But the religious part of it - that's what it was, and so I wasn't afraid, and if...you know...and if people thought I had one opinion or another opinion on religion just from the script you know that's not exactly it. It's a story, and I was hopefully entertaining people while tackling a tough issue.

EB: Had you sent this script or any other scripts you've written to agents and producers before Project Greenlight?

PJ: Yeah, I had sent "Stolen Summer" out. I moved out to LA about four years ago, so part
of the process is meeting people and...you know...hopefully getting enough contacts to
get people to read your stuff, and the people I sent the script out to, it was pretty much,
hey, we really like it. It's a well-written script. It's not what we're looking to make. You
got anything else? And...uh...can we concentrate back on this script? You know, and
they said, well, you know [inaudible] and uh...so, yeah, I had sent this script out. I had
sent out a few scripts and...uh...I think...I think the idea of Greenlight, that idea of being able to give someone, like I say, "access"...uh...that's...that's the best part about
it. It gave me the opportunity obviously to make a movie, but beyond that I can now
kind of get in doors that I couldn't get in before. You still gotta have something good
when you get in that door, but the hardest part about making it in Hollywood is getting
to meet the people [inaudible] Greenlight movies, and...uh...you know...I think four
or five other people that didn't win the contest, but the exposure they got from Greenlight has given them that opportunity, too. But, you know, I know a lot of good scripts
and a lot of good writers that didn't make it or haven't made it just cause they can't get
in that door. It's not cause they don't have a good script - it's just they don't have the
opportunity.

EB: So if you didn't win The Project Greenlight gig, what do you think you'd be doing right now?

PJ: Ha! Um...what would I...I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure I would have gone back to Chicago and taken some job there trying to get myself out of debt. I was making some pretty good money, before I moved out to LA, as an insurance salesman. Real exciting -
HMO policy stuff.

EB: What? No job with the city? [ Joe (Aidan Quinn) in the film continually talks about the greatness of a city job]

PJ: No, you know this story...I grew up...uh...yeah...that part of the story is made up. I mean, I know Irish people and I know like my family and the city job is a good job, but I grew upin Deerfield, which is a suburb of Chicago, and my dad owned his own insurance agency and our life was not as much about the city jobs as it was about actually having that
opportunity to go to college and get a professional job, so that part of the story is kind
of made up. It's not real. A lot of people ask me that - "So your Dad's a fireman?
What's he think about 9/11?" You don't think my dad was moved by it and how grateful he's not a fireman. [laughter] And I think he's proud of all the firefighters that were in it, but he personally is not one. Yeah. You know I mean I wish...it was funny - when I was at Sundance, though, and I'm not trying to name drop here, but one of the heads of Blockbuster said we hear you're not exactly happy about the show. We'd love to have you edit a version of it and put it on DVD, but you know what? The version I edit would be so far from the truth compared to what they did, you know...it just...they had a tough time. I mean, the documentary, what it does really well, is it shows how tough it is to make a movie and how many opinions are out there and you know how hard it is to stay focused on making a movie cause there's so much else going on. Unfortunately I think they've inverted the failure to success ratio and uh, I think the reason they did it is it makes for really good T.V. I remember sitting there - they had given me the tapes before it aired on HBO - and I'm watching and I'm thinking - one part of me is thinking - this is GREAT interesting T.V. The other side of me is saying I'm getting my butt kicked. [laughter]And it's not exactly the way it happened, you know, and...uh...I used to watch these...uh...you know, people from Real World or Survivor coming off the island and they'd like be "oh, that's not how it was", and I'd always be, oh yeah bullshit. You know, that's how it was and now you're trying to cover yourself and now I'm in the same boat. What it is is what you're missing is things are taken out of context obviously and it's, you know, making a movie is...is a lot of fun and it's rewarding, but it's also boring. You know, if you've been on a set before it's 4-hour setups and you're sitting around just trying to stay interested, and that doesn't make for good T.V., but backstabbing and all that stuff - that makes for really good T.V., but directing a movie is as much managing personalities than it is as distinct focus toward vision . It's a lot like any other job. You know, I was shocked the office politics of the insurance world are pretty similar to the office politicsof movies, and they capitalized on that and I wish...I wish they had shown the people that I worked with the way I saw them. You know, as hard working, opinionated, passionatepeople trying to do their best job. Uh, not petty little arguments, but occurring I think on any job.

EB: The film is a gentle, family-oriented movie.

PJ: Yeah. You know when it comes to marketing, who am I to tell Miramax how to market
something? They seem to...and that's their idea. They think that's gonna get the most
people in to...to see the movie and so I wish in a perfect world the movie could stand on
its own and just be its own, but I'm realistic, too. I mean people are going to be showing
up for this movie because of the HBO show.

EB: Were you worried at the same time that people who didn't watch the HBO The photos on this poster make the movie look too ominous...action packed. I didn't watch the show actually...

PJ: Right. Right. No need to watch it. [laughter]

EB: There are people out there who never even heard of Project Greenlight, or better yet saw the documentary.

PJ: Unfortunately when it comes to marketing a movie it's about trying to maximize profit,
and so what they're looking at is they're saying okay the people that have already been
associated with this - people that have watched the T.V. show - those are the people we
want to get in there and hopefully word of mouth will get everyone else, or reviews, or
whatever it might be that gets people in the movie theaters, so that's what they're going
for. You know, I don't think it's marketing a movie is about the quality of the movie; it's
about trying to get people off their asses to go see a movie, and so I think there is a
clear distinction between marketing and the actual product itself. Uh, you know, cause
in this case like we talked about earlier is that's a story about kids and religion and, you
know, that's not...uh...people aren't clamoring for that. They're not, oh, I gotta go see this
blockbuster.

EB: Do you fear that there's gonna be a backlash from the odd advertising strategy of the poster here?

PJ: Yeah. You know, that was....that was my fear. My fear was, you know, that they even
have it on the T.V. show as being this inorganic creation. You know, just being this
manufactured, oh, we're just gonna plop him in front, and uh, that's not what it's about.
You know, there's some sort of, I don't know, fame or what ever you get from when people recognize me and that's not what I was in it for. I was in it for writing and directing. Really writing, and I got the opportunity to direct, and when all this stuff fades away hopefully that's still what I will be able to do.

EB: Your character research - how do you go about like making it so
real? You know, like you're obviously Irish Catholic, but how did you...how did you round
it up? Did you interview people for the script or...I mean, how did you do your research?

PJ: The research on the Irish Catholic side of things...and that's the thing...that's why I didn't
want it to be like this religious movie because it's a religious movie by the way I look at
it. You know, it's my version of religion growing up as a kid. So I didn't do that much
religion. My oldest brother's a priest - he's a Catholic priest - and so I sent it his way and
he sent me notes and I just said screw you, I'm writing the story the way I want to,
you bastard. [laughter] But no, yeah, I'd asked him. I asked my parish priest.

EB: How about the other end?

PJ: And then on the other end that was the end I was most nervous about because I didn't
want it to be, you know, when you're writing a love story about religion, especially I'm
Irish Catholic. I don't know the...I'm fascinated by the Jewish life, but I don't know what
really makes up Judaism, and so yeah, I asked...I interviewed three rabbis, including
[inaudible]. His father is a rabbi, so I hired the actor and got the rabbi for free, which was
nice, but...yeah, I'm fascinated with the similarities. Everyone talks about the differences
between the two religions and I'm fascinated by the similarities and my buddies growing
up - their moms just as annoying as mine. And so...

EB: And real quick, did you have anything to do with the casting?

PJ: I had everything to do with the casting.

EB: Okay. I didn't see your show, so it's probably in the show.

PJ: Yeah. No. Miramax gave me the opportunity, and it's a rare opportunity which is probably untrue of most Hollywood movies, is it didn't matter box office, you know, so
I wasn't grabbing actors because the studio said you've gotta have this actor cause
this actor means "X" amount. They said go find the best actors that will say yes.

EB: Do you have a new deal somewhere, or what's going on career wise?

PJ: Yeah. You know when I say I've got a...I signed a 3-picture deal with Miramax, and this counts as one. When I say that it sounds a lot cooler than it is. [laughter] But it comes down to is...the next script I write, Miramax has first look at it and...um...I'mjust about...I keep saying I'm just about finished writing it. Um....halfway through it.

EB: Can you tell us something about it?

PJ: Yeah. It's a...it's again a story from Chicago. It's about four buddies that have been
friends their whole lives and they're mid to late 20s and at that point in their life where
they're trying to figure out is there something tangible about being an adult. Is there a
moment that you go from being high school buddies, college buddies, to being an adult,
and each of the four has different views about what it is that makes a person an adult.
Um...it sounds serious, but in tone it's more like Diner Of course it's gonna fall short of Diner one of the best movies ever, but....

EB: If you had your choice, would you do...would you go through the documentary process
again?

PJ: If I've got my choice to do it again for a second time?

EB: Yeah.

PJ: NO!! [laughter] No. It was like...yeah. It was the opportunity I was given, and for me to bitch about it, you know, that's just...that's the greatest opportunity I've ever been given. I would love to be able to write and direct a movie without it. You know...I'm thankful for that opportunity, but I hope to be able to do things without the camera catching every mistake. I mean I'm still gonna make the mistakes, I just...you know it's not as much fun having it on Sunday nights where everyone in the world can...can rip on you.

A nice guy who got his movie made...he also had his ego dragged through the mud, but, I bet he still thinks it was all worth it!



 

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