The highly prolific Aaron Beierle has written a wonderfully thorough account of the contents of the Project Greenlight contest and reality TV series in his review so I will just give you my own spin on the DVD set and the finished film "Stolen Summer".
The Movie "Stolen Summer":
The film "Stolen Summer" was really enchanting. I was very moved emotionally to see the journey that these character take. Thorough attention was paid to each character and their relationships with each other in Pete Jones script. Some very important issues of morality, faith, pride, prejudice, and values are dealt with in very meaningful ways. I was delighted to see that the characters were not so heavy-handed but rather average people who are given the opportunity to learn about other peoples beliefs and about themselves in ways they never thought about before. When characters are written and created that change into better people right before my eyes I see a great movie. In a time where religion is proving that it can be a very dangerous component of human nature, this message is sorely needed.
The story is about Pete O'Malley, a young boy who is looking for answers about faith, heaven, and god. In his 'quest', he meets Rabbi Jacobson played by Kevin Pollack. The Rabbi helps bring answers to Petes questions and the two of them become friends. Aidan Quinn as the father and prideful, protective disciplinarian, Joe O'Malley in the family is wonderful. He shows us a character we initially aren't quite sure about but find to really see how much he loves his family. Bonnie Hunt plays the mother, Margaret O'Malley who becomes the voice of reason in Joe's often Chaotic rein on the family.
In a world where religion has many faces and many doctrines, often with little tolerance of each other, there is a strong need to understand that no single religion has the "right" way of living life, worshiping a higher power, or getting to heaven. Despite so much shouting by each religious sect, people aren't laying down their beliefs to change sides. "Stolen Summer" gives us a look into the discovery of religious differences in a boys mind and how he finds a more enlightened "middle ground" to carve out his own spiritual path.
The TV series "Project Greenlight":
Project Greenlight is valuable necessary material for any would-be filmmaker. You will gain valuable insight into the highly stressful and political nature of filmmaking. So much of being a good filmmaker involves serious skills in dealing with people. Seeing much of the problems in the production of "Stolen Summer", it was obvious that people skills were not in abundance amongst the staff. Communication was a major problem by all parties involved and this, combined with a brand new director and producer on set caused a lot of tense situations that hurt the production. It was clear that this film could have been cancelled at any time, but after seeing the dedication and diligence of the crew it became apparent that the film would actually happen. Some valuable lessons can be learned here for anyone in a position of managing people and resources.
I found the coverage of behind the scenes stuff for the process of crafting a film to be fascinating and educational. This alone makes repeat viewings very desireable. Pete Jones, the winner of the contest and writer/director of "Stolen Summer" does a great job at handling the oncoming barrage of responsibility with his newfound role. The runners up in the contest seemed a bit discouraged after finding they had not won the contest. I kept wanting to scream at them for seeing how valuable an opportunity this was to have the exposure in this contest to studio and industry execs. With initiative and commitment, any of them could make a name for themselves in Hollywood.
I viewed the film first before seeing any of the greenlight contest or production details so I had no idea of the mistakes and flaws that they showed during the series. I was so consumed with the wonderful and interesting story that I missed all the technical problems and mistakes that were covered so thoroughly in the TV series. From my own limited experience working on special effects for films I have shirt tail knowledge of budgeting problems and working within deadlines for finishing work on a film. Every film suffers from bits and pieces not getting finished, so often you will see things that appear to have slipped through the production pipeline, but more often it is because there was no time or money left in the resources so it had to go as-is. This very thing is illustrated nicely and clearly in the greenlight series.
VIDEO: "Stolen Summer" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, while all of the episodes of "Project Greenlight" are presented in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. A very nice, vibrant transfer with clear crisp edges and contrast.
SOUND: "Greenlight" is presented in stereo, while "Summer" is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a great mix of audio. The music comes alive to really enhance the story points nicely.
MENUS: The menus in this set are very nicely designed animation with music enhancement and transitions.
EXTRAS Disc 1:
Audio Commentary Featuring director Pete Jones, producer Chris Moore and co-producer Jeff Balis for the film "Stolen Summer". Lots of good insight into the film and some things we didn't get to see in the greenlight series.
Scene vs. Final Film: Viewers can choose to watch a scene from the film and the scene from the rough video version that Jones filmed to enter the contest.
Deleted Scenes: 2 deleted scenes (including the "Baseball Game" featured on one episode of the show) with commentary by the director and producer.
Jump to Scene Feature: There is a switchable option for viewers to click on a logo during various points of the movie and watch scenes from "Project Greenlight" about the making of that sequence.
Trailers for "Stolen Summer" (which seems more concerned with "Project Greenlight" than the movie itself). A sneak peak of Pinocchio is also included.
EXTRAS Disc 4: Bonus Disc:
"Notable Filmmaker Videos" - The filmmakers who were in one of the final rounds were asked to discuss their ideas and sort of present themselves in a short video.
"Top 10 Filmmaker Videos"
"Top 10 3-minute Scripted Scenes"
"The Chris Moore Challenge" - Project Greenlight asked 500 people to send in their one-minute taped imitations of producer Chris Moore. The top 25 are available for viewing here, along with Affleck's "How To Imitate Chris Moore" featurette, where he offers his very funny impressions of Chris.
Project Greenlight Experience:
This section offers seven featurettes that fills out some of the aspects that the show did not cover. The featurettes include:
Lesson 1: Make the Public Aware (The Press Junket) Affleck and Damon meet with reporters and generally say the same thing over and over to journalists who all ask the same questions
Lesson 2: Assemble Your Crew (Crew Profiles) Offers short featurettes on the main crew members, who describe their career and their role in the production
Lesson 3: Fix it in Post (Matt Damon gives Pete Jones editorial notes) and the editor to give notes on how to fix the Lesson 4: Find A Mentor - Kevin Smith gives tips to Pete Jones
Lesson 5: Take Your Film on the Festival Circuit - Q & A at Sundance
Lesson 6: Never Forget The Little People - Chris Moore treats the crew to Ice Cream when no lunch is available.
Lesson 7: Remember; Someone is always watching - Members of the crew discuss the problems of being filmed during a production.
Project Redlight: A sarcastic parody of "Greenlight", which shows the making of a direct-to-cable feature starring Corey Feldman.
Also: DVD-ROM weblink.
Final Thoughts: Could the movie have been better with more time, more money and more resources thrown at it? Yes. What movie wouldn't? Even when you don't consider the personalities working behind the scenes, Stolen Summer is still a remarkable and very well crafted film. The greenlight TV series is something I always wanted to see. Behind the scenes of the real politics or making a film happen. And it makes it even more entertaining to see a new-comer take on this daunting task as I think many of us dream of what it would be like to make movies. This DVD set belongs on the shelf of any film lover and/or DVD collector. I give the film "Stolen Summer" 4.5 stars and the Project Greenlight series 5 stars simply for its originality and value to the film making community.