Green Lights Ahead
Written by Randy Steinberg | Posted by: Anonymous
Several years ago, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck inspired a program called "Project Greenlight" whose mission was to bring to the screen unknown screenwriting and directing talent. For two seasons, HBO followed the search for and selection of Greenlight winners. For the moment, Damon and Affleck’s Greenlight seems to be on hold, but that doesn’t mean the tradition is dead.
In Boston, public relations and media guru Diane McNamara hopes to keep the idea of Project Greenlight alive. Her "Green Light" (note the slight difference in appearance), is an attempt to marshal grassroots support for Boston’s and New England’s film, media, and performance arts community.
On October 27, McNamara’s Project Green Light kicked off at George: An American Tavern (formerly the Rattlesnake) in Boston. Dan McCarthy, director of the just-released film "Irish Eyes," a movie based loosely on the lives of infamous Boston brothers William and Whitey Bulger, and Angela Peri, owner and operator of Boston Casting, appeared to consult with anyone who wanted to learn more about the movie "biz." Over 100 people showed up to pitch a movie idea to Dan McCarthy and present Angela Peri with headshots for possible acting gigs. The following Monday (November 3) Boston Casting was back again to cull the ranks of amateur actors and to promote a search for contestants for a Fox Television reality series called "The Complex." As a Boston University Lecturer of Film and Screenwriting, I was also on hand to discuss the ins and outs of screenwriting and the business of selling scripts.
Sponsored by Rock Light Beer and hosted at George: An American Tavern, in a now set schedule, Project Green Light Boston will meet the first Monday of every month from about 6-9 pm. Guests will include men and women who work in various aspects of the film, theatrical, and media industries; these experts will mingle with those who are looking to break into the business and others already in the industry who wish to further their careers.
"Boston and New England are wonderful places for film projects," McNamara explains, "But unless you’re Clint Eastwood and can swoop in with a budget of $30 million, it’s very tough to get a film project going in this area. The Teamsters have an almost unbreakable grip on what gets filmed and what doesn’t. Dan McCarthy bears this out with his experiences filming ‘Irish Eyes.’ "We had to do most of the shooting in Canada," McCarthy relates, "But we still needed some establishing shots of Boston. We were forced to do this on the run for fear of Teamster pressure. And when the film was released, I received some letters, ones meant to intimidate, denouncing me for failing to use union people."
It is this climate that McNamara hopes to change, and she just might get her chance in the coming months. Her firm, Fire It Up, P.R., is set to lobby Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, local businesses, national corporations and private donors in an effort to raise $1 million. The money would be used to conduct a search for Boston or New England material that would be written, produced, and directed, entirely locally. "It would be a terrific opportunity to provide a counter-weight for an almost unbearable situation," McNamara said with enthusiasm. With Capitol Hill and a number of local and national backers, McNamara would gain some much-needed momentum toward this goal.
Diane McNamara’s route to Green Light has been a circuitous one. After studying computer science at Tulane University, she came to the University of Massachusetts, Boston to earn a degree in Communications. She soon became a public relations specialist in Boston, but she also began to pursue an acting career. She earned small roles in various films and even tried her hand at stand-up comedy. Bitten by the acting bug, McNamara took the next logical step and moved to Los Angeles where she became increasingly involved in the acting and stand-up comedy community. Next, it was onto the Williamstown Theater Festival and then New York City for a crack at Broadway.
After a six-month road trip last year, McNamara set her sights on a return to Boston. "In Los Angeles and New York, you trip over people in the business. No matter what night of the week, you can always find a restaurant or a pub that is hosting an "industry night" for actors, directors, musicians, playwrights — anyone in the industry," says McNamara. "That’s how you meet people who can help you — or who you can help. You bring your headshots, your postcards, your notices of a new play your in, whatever. There’s no place like that in Boston."
In discussing the troubles of Boston’s film community with Gordon Wilcox (the owner of George: An American Tavern and generous patron of the arts), McNamara proposed the idea of Project Green Light Boston. Wilcox jumped on board and provided his establishment as the nexus for this networking effort. McNamara picked Monday nights because the Theater is dark. "It’s the only day of the week — no matter where you are in the country — that nearly every legitimate theater is closed," she explains.
McNamara has a wealth of guests ready to contribute their insight to the Project Green Light gatherings in the coming months (and a roster of A-list talent she’s determined to pin down).
How long will the program run? "Indefinitely!" McNamara claims. "It will last as long as people show enthusiasm and until we can make it easier for independent, non-union and most-importantly — major motion film projects to flourish in this city and throughout New England."
There is strength in numbers goes the old adage, and with McNamara’s leadership and spunk it appears Project Green Light Boston has the growing appeal and drive necessary to not only survive, but also to triumph.
More information about Project Green Light Boston may be found at www.projectgreenlightboston.com. Diane McNamara may be contacted through Fire It Up, P.R.: Fireitup@comcast.net.