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Aspiring filmmakers can go for the green

By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


In Hollywood parlance, the term "greenlighting" means a studio approves a film project idea and will begin production.

Now, Miramax and HBO are turning that idea into reality-based television.

Starting this summer, aspiring filmmakers have a chance to electronically submit screenplays for a program called Greenlight to be aired in 2002.

Just like ABC's Making the Band follows the creation of a pop singing group, this one will trace the development of a somewhat independent film.

Details are still incomplete, but a Web site (http://www.projectgreenlight.com) is collecting names and e-mail addresses for upcoming messages about the rules.

One winner will be chosen from submitted entries. There is no registration fee, but contestants will be required to read three other submissions and use an online form to analyze those scripts. The accuracy and integrity of those reviews will be a factor in choosing a winner.

The winning author will be paid by Miramax to direct the movie for theatrical release. A documentary film crew will trace the production from casting meetings to final product for a 13-episode cinema verite series on HBO.

The contest can be entered only through the Internet. Mailed or delivered submissions will not be accepted.

Instructions will soon be posted on the Greenlight Web site, which will also serve as an online community for independent filmmakers to share experiences and perspectives on the industry.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who were plucked from obscurity when Miramax greenlighted their Good Will Hunting screenplay, are executive producers of the TV series and movie.

SNEAKING IN - Miramax will probably treat that Greenlight project better than Warner Bros. is handling The In Crowd (PG-13), a movie that opened Wednesday without advance screenings for critics. Keep in mind that Warner Bros. pulled the same hide-and-don't-bother-seeking tactic with The Avengers two years ago.

Preview trailers for The In Crowd make my skin crawl. The plot appears to deal with oversexed college students playing status games leading to murder.

Adrien (played by Lori Heuring) gets hired at a posh country club and befriends Brittany (Susan Ward), the leader of the most elite clique around. Brittany's boyfriend (Matthew Settle) takes a liking to Adrien, bringing out the worst in Brittany. Her closet contains as many skeletons as miniskirts.

Why would anyone pay money to see unknown actors display such archly familiar Melrose Place behavior? How can the Motion Picture Association of America give a PG-13 rating to a movie that doesn't bother to disguise its central themes of casual sex, fashionable drugs and necessary violence among youths?

There may be solid reasonings in the movie, but Warner Bros. apparently doesn't think so.

JEWISH FEST SET - Organizers recently announced that the fifth annual Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival will be Feb. 8, 10 and 11 at Tampa Theatre.

An estimated 1,200 moviegoers attended this year's festival at the same location. A committee is searching for films to be screened next year. An announcement of those selections is still several months away.

Volunteers are needed for festival planning. For information, call David Katz at (813) 264-9000 or visit the festival Web site at http://www.tbjff.org.

X-TREME CINEMA - More than 40 AMC theaters nationwide will begin a program called Adrenaline Theater in August, offering late-night weekend screenings of films aimed at young sports enthusiasts.

Woodlands 20 in Oldsmar and Regency 20 in Brandon are the only Tampa Bay locations slated to participate. Regular admission prices will apply.

Adrenaline Theater includes six documentary films dedicated to action sports including skateboarding, motocross racing, freeskiing, surfing and snowboarding. Each film will be shown for at least three weekends and only during late evening hours.

The program debuts Aug. 4 with Hit and Run, starring world-class surfers and the waves of Australia, Mexico, California and Bali, among other locales.

Other films in the series include: The End (skateboarding, Aug. 25), TB9 (snowboarding, Sept. 15), Further (skiing, Oct.13), The Resistance (snowboarding, Nov. 10) and Crusty 9 (motocross, Dec. 8).

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