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It's a go

Local filmmaker makes the cut in Greenlight

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Remember Good Will Hunting? You know, the film where everyone sat around for 100 minutes telling Matt Damon how important he was? Now we have a reason to sit around and celebrate the centrality of Matt Damon to our real lives. That reason is Project Greenlight, one of the spiffier gimmicks Hollywood has come up with for exploiting the Internet.

It goes like this: Back in September, Miramax Film & TV (now a subsidiary of the Great and Terrible Mouse) teamed up with HBO and invited would-be screenwriters to submit their original screenplays to a glitzy Web-based "film community" called project greenlight.com. The winner, as selected by a braintrust watched over by, among others, Chris Moore, Ben Affleck and the aforementioned Damon, will be produced and distributed theatrically by Miramax, and chronicled from soup to nuts on an HBO documentary. Like "Pop Stars," only with fewer tantrums.

About 7,000 hopefuls sent in screenplays. The top 250 then made videotaped "auditions," which narrowed the field to 30. On Feb. 1, Greenlight announced its 10 finalists, which include Atlanta's very own Brendan Murphy, who made the grade with an original screenplay titled Speakeasy. Should Murphy's script be chosen, he would direct the picture that is to be produced by Ben and Matt and company, with a budget of not less than $1 million.

The remarkable thing about Greenlight, which would deserve kudos as an exceptionally canny hype machine if nothing else, is that in theory it places in the hands of a total unknown the most elusive and necessary commodity in the film biz: juice. Who you know has always been more important to movies than what you know, and Greenlight puts at least a few lucky stiffs right in bed with players they might otherwise wait years even to meet. In the next century of cinema, the Internet might be the key to jumping the vast cultural gap between ordinary folks with movies to make and the relatively elite class of people who can muster the moolah to make them.

Whether Greenlight is the beginning of the Next Wave of American cinema talent, the Internet Brats, or just a scam to introduce Damon and Affleck to some good ghostwriters remain to be seen. And we'll have to wait as well (till 2002) to see the film that springs from this unconventional approach. But for Murphy, and several thousand like him, the young Turks at Greenlight have given them a chance to bypass the slush piles and the festival scene and given them a merge straight into the fast lane.

Black cinema at emory
Emory University has been celebrating black cinema this month with Black Film Thursdays. The micro-festival that focuses on African-American and Pan-African cinema began as the pet project of Miriam Petty, a grad student at Emory's Institute of Liberal Arts, who rallied support from a wide range of university departments and organizations to sponsor the month-long series of free screenings and discussions. Each series is centered around a specific genre or theme.

Black Film Thursdays is now in its third year and looking to expand its audience. "This year we took much more of a broader-based, community approach," says Rhea Combs, another grad student who co-produced the current series with Petty. This meant promoting the series at public libraries and other schools, including Clark Atlanta University and Spelman, and reaching out to the filmmakers themselves.

The festival, which this year highlights documentaries, continues Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. with Stanley Nelson's Shattering the Silences at White Hall 205. It ends March 2 with a symposium to be attended by all the filmmakers in the series, including Nelson, Camille Billops, Yvonne Welbon and Louis Massiah. The final event held in the Woodruff Library's Jones Room will begin with screenings at 3 p.m. of new works and works-in-progress by three of the visiting artists, and it will end with a filmmaker's forum from 5:30-7 p.m. For information call 404-235-4389.

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