Father Geek here in Central Texas with ol' Latauro's report from his uber cool, plush offices deep in the coral forests of the Great Barrier Reef...
I prefer women with a past. They're always so damned amusing to talk to.
Is Project Greenlight Australia guilty of nepotism?
If you read the AICN-D talkback last week, you would have come across the following post (which I've edited down slightly) by "projectredlight":
"I am writing this because I have information about illegal activity effecting the decision making process of Project Greenlight Australia. ... I cannot say how I have received this information as I run the risk of exposing myself by doing so, however the right amount of research can reveal that everything I am about to say is true. Sam Worthington, one of the judges of Project Greenlight Australia, has been friends with series winner Morgan O'Neill for years. The two studied at NIDA together and are very, very close. This in and of itself presents enough of a conflict of interest to indicate that Worthington had no business as a judge of the finalists. However what I am about to say goes well beyond this. SAM WORTHINGTON, PROJECT GREENLIGHT JUDGE, CO WROTE THE WINNING SCRIPT! This is a fact. Though uncredited, Worthington had significant input into O'Neils screenplay before judging it as winner and ensuring it a one million dollar budget."
(To read the full post by "projectredlight", go to: http://www.aintitcool.com/tb_display.cgi?id=20496#920585)
I asked him to email me, and we spoke about where he got his information from, how he could verify it, etc. Even with repeated promises of anonymity, "redlight" would not divulge his identity (though he did, after some coaxing, confirm he *wasn't* Mark Felt). Is he legitimately afraid of reprisals, of losing his job and being ostracised from the industry, or did he get knocked back from Greenlight and is now seeking revenge? Tough to say, as some of his claims checked out and others didn't.
I'm going to start by saying that, at time of writing, I've found absolutely no proof that Sam Worthington had any input into the winning script. At the moment, it is nothing more than an unfounded claim by an anonymous individual. We won't be coming back to it in this article.
Let's slow down a bit.
For any who might not be aware, Project Greenlight is a project started in the US by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. A reality show/competition whereby scripts are submitted and the winning script is given a $1million budget and put into production. This year, Project Greenlight Australia was launched, a co-production between the Movie Network and Screentime.
As AICN-D reported last week, actor/filmmaker Morgan O'Neill took out first place with his script SOLO. Unfortunately, in retrospect, I made a vague joke about those who had read his script writing in to "tear him a new one", intending to make fun of the jealous nature found in many aspiring Australian filmmakers. Man, that one really came back around.
After swapping emails with "redlight", I did some checking. Sam Worthington and Morgan O'Neill were, in fact, in the same NIDA class. They graduated in 1998, and the class list can be read at: www.nida.unsw.edu.au/media/nida_ar_second_part.pdf (scroll to page 7). Then, in 2002, they collaborated on the short film BIOPIC, which was written and directed by O'Neill, starred Worthington, and was co-produced by both of them.
That's a pretty definite connection. I wrote to Project Greenlight Australia, to the Movie Network, and to the respective agents of both Sam Worthington and Morgan O'Neill to ask for comments.
On Thursday, I got a call from PG-A publicist Tracey Mair, who assured me that they were indeed aware of the relationship between Worthington and O'Neill. "Sam Worthington and Morgan O'Neill both went to NIDA," she said, "and have worked together fleetingly in the past. This is not surprising as the Australian film and television industry is tiny."
The word "fleeting" came up a couple more times as the relationship was played down. The following points were then passed on to me, and it's important to note them:
1. Contestants were narrowed down from 1200 to 100 without Sam's input.
2. Third party professional readers culled the 100 to 50 and using their assessment criteria, the finalists were culled down to 20. Sam was not a third party reader.
3. The Panel, consisting of Chris Berry, Sue Milliken, Greg Haddrick, Victoria Treole and Brian Walsh reduced the finalists down to 10, without Sam's input.
4. Sam and Pia [Miranda] were brought into the Panel only after the Top 10 had been decided. These two were added to give some perspective from an actor's point of view. Producer Sue Seeary was also included as an advisor at this point.. Sam's view represented 1/8th of the decision, and was never a casting or influential vote. Collectively the panel chose SOLO, for all the right reasons, it was the favoured choice because of quality of the screenplay - even without Sam, SOLO would have been announced as the winner.
That last comment is fairly spurious. There is absolutely no way to know if SOLO would have been picked if Worthington had not been on the panel. It also goes without saying that his opinion counted (otherwise, why would he be there?). He's a judge. We must then consider the following three possibilities: (1) Sam Worthington was pushing for Morgan O'Neill's script; (2) Sam Worthington was pushing for someone else's script; or (3) He was completely superfluous to the process.
There's nothing in the rules and conditions on the Project Greenlight Australia website that contains the usual stuff about not being a friend or family member of anyone associated with the companies etc. It wouldn't make much sense. The Australian film industry is tiny, everyone knows everyone, it's unreasonable to expect complete disassociation across the board. That's completely practical for the initial stages of the process. However, once you get down to those last ten scripts, shouldn't a higher standard be employed?
Speaking to Ms Mair, I asked if she considered their relationship a conflict of interest. "No."
I haven't read SOLO. I can't speak to its quality, but I presume that it wouldn't have gone as far as it did without it being pretty good. It's irrelevant, as the script's quality is not the issue. The issue is that one of the judges, regardless of the speculated percentage of his input, had a personal relationship with the winning entrant. If that's not a conflict of interest, we're using some pretty different dictionaries. I love the idea of Project Greenlight, and was overjoyed when I heard it was coming to Australia. I wish Morgan O'Neill every success, and hope that SOLO is both brilliant and financially successful. But the fact that Project Greenlight Australia did not do anything about this situation casts an unfortunate and unneeded shadow over the proceedings. More on this in coming weeks.
* As has been reported everywhere, Hugh Jackman, an excellent actor who appears in shoddy films, will appear in the next currently-untitled film by Woody Allen, an excellent writer/director who makes some shoddy films. Jackman will play the romantic lead opposite the thinking man's Jessica Simpson, Ian McShane.
* Cinescape recently ran a rumour about FANTASTIC FOUR villain Julian McMahon screentesting for the remake of THE HITCHER. Well, earlier this week Mr McMahon himself confirmed the rumour during an interview with bland pop station Nova FM in Melbourne. "It's called the Hitcher, it's a real creepy thing. I'd play the villain again. So that might happen...And I'm doing a film with Kim Raven (or Raver?) thats set at the Tennessee State Prison in Nashville called PRISONER." The scooper who passed this along wondered if it was a remake of the Patrick McGoohan TV series, but I thought it would be more exciting if it were a remake of the Australian women's prison series. Before I go too far down that road, I should point out that it's actually an original script that was a runner-up in the 2003 Project Greenlight (America). Big thanks to "The Glebe Guy".
* One of my favourite behind-the-scenes stories is how the producers of THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE III had to drop the "III" from the title, lest audience think they'd missed the trilogy's first two installments. Now, in what could be one of the first every biopic sequels, Cate Blanchett will return alongside director Shekhar Kapur for more adventures in the life of Queen Elizabeth. Whilst it would be funny if they decided to go with ELIZABETH II, the currently-reigning monarch might be a little confused (though it's doubtful that most film goers would be). ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE will also feature Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, Jeremy Irons as the Earl of Leicester, and Hugh Dancy as the Earl of Essex.
* "Double the Fist" is a strange TV show on the ABC that, upon initial viewing, I thought was some sort of drug-induced hallucination. Three weeks later, I'd weaned myself off the glue sniffing and the show was still there. So, I understand, as the show's makers, who have just begun pre-production of their first feature film, MARCUS + LOVE. According to Encore Magazine, the film is "a black comedy about a lonely heart mathematician afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome". If this ends up being a BEAUTIFUL MIND send up, I'm totally on board, but be prepared for some serious phone-to-face injuries.
* A few years ago, Australia's outback desert was used to simulate NASA's Mars experiments. The terrain was as close as possible to that of Mars (although later when scientists wanted to simulate conditions in a place with no atmosphere, they went to Adelaide... ZING!). If it's good enough for Mars, it's good enough for Hollywood. Rumours abound that JOHN CARTER OF MARS will shoot down here, taking advantage of said deserts and redness. While the setting is appropriate, it's more likely just an excuse for the film's producer Harry Knowles to be near me. The rascal.
Father Geek Note:
While I've heard this rumor too, it is just that at this point in time... JC is still a long way from location shooting, they're still tweeking the wonderful script at this point. The art dept. is coming up with great stuff and that branch of the production is chunked full of more name talent than any fan could hope for... just relax the project is in good (even loving) hands...
AWARDS AND FESTIVALS
ANNECY INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL
Anthony and Julia Lucas have taken out the top prize in France for their animated short THE EXTRAORDINARY GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER MORELLO. Wow. Why not call it XGEJM and be done with it? The film will screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival next month.
Wow, that's pretty depressing. A DreamWorks film beating... well, anything really. Many people have been questioning the link between loving a film and caring about its box office results. The (rather obvious) answer is that if BATMAN BEGINS does really well, a sequel gets made (see: SPIDER-MAN). If, like BATMAN BEGINS, it takes a fair haul but doesn't really rewrite the history books, it may justify a sequel, but only after elements are tinkered with. Like, for instance, execs believing that the film didn't make enough money because there wasn't enough action and making sure that part two gets Renny Harlin in place of Christopher Noland. You know, that sort of thing. Got it? Good. Now commit the following to memory.
2. BATMAN BEGINS
3. MR AND MRS SMITH
4. THE LONGEST YARD
5. STAR WARS - EPISODE III: RETURN OF THE SITH
RELEASED THIS WEEK
Scarlet Johannson goes for Oscar glory, the potential box office takings get shaved down a cup or two by CG artists, Disney drops the ball and goes for cute over seat-wetting horror, and three young girls live out the wish of perverts everywhere by getting into Alexis Bledel's pants.
A GOOD WOMAN
HERBIE: FULLY LOADED
POOH'S HEFFALUMP MOVIE
SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS
- Rick Berman promises to reinvigorate the STAR TREK franchise by signing Vin Diesel on for YOUNG PICARD, which will also star Justin Berfield as Special Agent Will Riker
- Jessica Biel to star in THE GRAVE SPITTER, the Platinum Dunes remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
- Ben Stiller to star in the remake of THE GREAT DICTATOR, which follows the misadventures of a Jewish comedian living in 2003 Iraq