The Shootists

Indie Film Producer Christine Vachon Analyzes 'Project Greenlight'

PRESS: Kyle and Efram pissed everyone off by acting so power hungry, but now that they have a modicum of control they're totally clueless. The two of them are standing on opposite sides of the car giving Amy Smart contradictory advice on her acting performance, and . . . look, she just gave Efram the finger through the smoked-glass window!

VACHON: It's like a dog smelling fear on you. Being on a set where the director has lost control is just sickening. No one goes the extra mile, there's a lot of eye-rolling . . . it just breeds inertia. If a director is in control, the crew follow their leader. But the second anyone senses the directors are not sure, people just swoop in.

PRESS: They sure are swooping in, like vultures with headsets. The producers and Erica and everyone else are badgering the directors with criticism. What would you do?

VACHON: Run? I hopefully wouldn't have gone down this road with these guys. But say I did, I would never ever criticize them in front of anyone else, because if the crew and the actors don't respect the director, you're screwed as a producer. Ultimately when I throw myself behind a movie, I have to really believe in that director's vision.

PRESS: Throughout the show the executive producer has mocked Kyle and Efram in front of the camera. It's enjoyable to watch but not always fair. He's dissed them for being too passive and too aggressive; he urged them to be more vocal in the casting process, but when they spoke up, Miramax overruled them.

VACHON: You could say that these guys got handed an incredible gift and they're walking around like spoiled white boys. But they could argue back that they were given responsibility with no authority. When you make a movie for this little money, your only perk is usually some autonomy—freedom from the breathe-down-your-neckiness that is happening to these guys.

PRESS: I have a feeling that you're starting to feel sorry for these guys too. Does that have anything to do with the fact that Kyle has ditched the little ponytail?

VACHON: And the soul patch is gone! Much, much better.

For another kind of low-budget film, check out Josh Pais’s intensely personal documentary about the Lower East Side, 7th Street, which airs on the Sundance Channel after a fleeting appearance on the art-house circuit. Josh spent his childhood surrounded on one hand by his mom’s artist friends, and on the other by his "street family," which insulated him from drug violence. Filmed over a decade, 7th Street captures a neighborhood in constant flux-from Hungarian-Jewish slum to Puerto Rican ghetto to the gentrifying hodgepodge that it is today. Pais tries hard not to pass judgment on the new kids on the block. Instead he creates a document of the vibrant community he once knew.

Related Story:
Michael Atkinson's review of Project Greenlight

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