Jones Greenlights an Interview!
an emily blunt interview
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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]
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
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
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
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
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
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
PJ: If I've got my choice to do it again for a second time?
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
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!