PETE JONES’ “DOUBTING RILEY” DIARY II (part 2)

Cut to the meeting with my manager and him saying that every studio in town likes the writing, but has passed. So I call my good buddy Pat Peach. If you watched the first Project Greenlight, you might remember him as the backstabber. The villain amongst a group of unlikable people. Well, needless to say, I disagree with that depiction of Pat and have stayed really close to him over the past two years. Filled with “I’m-gonna-show-them” emotion, I asked Pat to breakdown the script. And with all of the experience of a newborn, I said, “Get the budget to $500 grand.”

Pat went to the secret dungeon where dollar signs are attributed to every description in the script, even those stupid passages where you’re just trying to break up the dialogue so you throw in “…Bobby smiled as he parachuted out of the helicopter and onto the top of the Sears Tower, where he repels down the side of the 110 story building into rush hour traffic.”

Now, it was time to find the $500 grand. I called two of my brothers, who each make a good living as traders down at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and told ‘em I need $500 grand-
Can we do it?
Sure. We could probably find 10 guys willing to part with $50 grand each. What for?
A gay comedy.
Starring whom?
Um, nobody.
When do you need it by?
The Sundance deadline is October 3rd, so working backwards, we need to finish production by, um, let’s see, I made one film… I got no clue. Um, September 15th.
Great. We’re on it.

My brothers come back to me and say a few guys might throw in $20 grand but they want a name in the movie. $20 grand? And a name? My good friend Judd Nissen, who I pass the unemployed days with by playing Halo on Xbox, says he heard about a loan program from the city of Chicago. Judd, you’re now a producer! I call up Rich Moskal at the Chicago Film Office and he says the loan does exist, nobody’s used it, but the city of Chicago will give us a low interest production loan up to $10 million bucks that doesn’t have to be paid back for two years. What’s the catch? The whole loan needs to be collateralized. So I come up with this idea. Find 10 people to give me $25 grand each, with the notion that if the movie doesn’t sell, they will have to come up with another $25 grand two years from now. The pitch is you might only come up with $25 grand, but you will be a full partner on a half million-dollar movie that could sell six months later. To make a long story short, my brothers find enough guys to make it happen. (I could go deeper into how they found these guys, but I like my thumbs.)

And then Pat Peach calls me back and says the movie can’t be made for less than $700 grand. These guys are in for $25 grand, what’s another $10 grand up front plus add another $10 grand to the $25 grand you owe two years from now if the movie flops. So easy to reason with other people’s money. And the investors agree. But now the investors interest level is higher, a little less than Harvey Weinstein on Gangs of New York but more than Harvey Weinstein on Stolen Summer. They all want to know who we can get to star.

It’s a story of four Irish Catholic brothers. How ‘bout the Baldwin Brothers? The answers in alphabetical order. No. No. No. And no. A fellow Chicagoan like Chris O’Donnell? No. Whats-his-name, the younger brother of my good friend Ben Affleck? No. Fellow Irishman Jerry O’Connell? No. Up and comer Shawn Hatosy? No. I could list about five more names of varying recognition, but all of the answers were the same. And by the way, we are three weeks from starting and we can’t get anyone to sign on to the other roles because everyone wants to know who is going to play Bobby Riley, the lead character in “Doubting Riley.” We need someone who can be Bobby Riley, love the material, come cheap, and say “Yes” right away. So with all of the wisdom of King Lear passing his kingdom onto his three daughters, I cast myself.

We start shooting Tuesday, August 19th. Next week, I’ll fill you in on how the news of casting myself went over with the investors and update you on the first week of shooting.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: After the first column came out, Pete sent us the following letter: On a pussy note, I got a couple of complaints from some higher-ups at corporate Project Greenlight that they didn’t like the opening line ‘I won Project Greenlight and all I got was this lousy career.’ Honestly, I laughed because it was the only line I didn’t write, but is it possible to write an editor’s note that gives you credit on that one? Yeah, I’m a pussy, a big fro of a pussy, but I actually like those guys over there so it’d be great if you could do that.

To clarify, FilmThreat.com editor Chris Gore responds: No problem Pete. First, let me say that I’m sorry to any and all that I may have offended by the sentence. I personally edited Pete’s story which was, let’s face it, a mess grammatically-speaking. (Okay, not that bad.) Yes, I wrote the line — “I won Project Greenlight and all I got was this lousy career” — which only appeared on our front page as a tease to the story, you know, a little something to grab the reader’s attention. I guess it worked. It’s my fault for writing it and I take full responsibility.
So if Chris Moore wants to yell at me, he can call me at Film Threat at 818-248-4549. (Honestly, Moore is probably too busy working on great cinema like “American Pie 4: Revenge of the Pie” to call a media bottom feeder like myself.) Anyway, I’m sure some people who read it laughed, but Miramax is not exactly known for their “sense of humor.” Now “arrogance,” that’s something Miramax is known for.
Pete, I promise I’ll try to keep any editing or tweaking of text to a minimum in the future. You know, other than correcting the occasional crappy “Irish” spellings you come up with. Sheesh!
- Gore out!

CHECK BACK NEXT WEEK…
The first week of shooting goes off perfectly without any problems whatsoever. Kidding! Production snafus. Location problems. Gaffers gone wild – all familiar territory for Pete. Somebody’s gonna get hurt!
Visit FilmThreat.com each Wednesday for the next exciting entry (or depressing entry, depending on how you look at it) in PETE JONES’ “DOUBTING RILEY” DIARY!

Discuss Pete Jones’ “Doubting Riley Diary” in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>




Posted on August 21, 2003 in Features by
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