Thursday, November 24, 2011

How I, Jason Soto, Could've Stopped Shia LaBeouf From Happening

I can't think of a better time than Thanksgiving to tell this story. It's an interesting story and after thinking about it a few weeks ago, I came to a horrible realization:
If things would've went better for me, Shia LaBeouf wouldn't have had a career. That's a bold statement, sure. And looking at his IMDb, I doubt little ol' ME would've actually have stopped him, but it's fun to think that if the events in the story I'm about to tell you played differently, some other guy (maybe me?) would've been making out with Megan Fox in two horrible Michael Bay movies.

Ok. The year is 2000. I was unemployed at the time and I was living with my dad and grandmother. It wasn't really a high point in my life but hey, I was still alive and I had a roof over my head. I couldn't complain. I was a budding screenwriter, just writing scripts left and right. My ex-girlfriend, who I talked to on occasion, told me about this awesome contest she heard involving screenwriters. You submit your script and if it wins, it gets made into a movie.

This contest was called "Project Greenlight".

I don't know if anybody remembers "Project Greenlight" but basically Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and some other guy started it, opened it to the public and fronted the money to make this movie. The instant I heard about this, I said "Fuck yeah I'm in!"

After carefully selecting which script I wanted to submit, I went with a comedy I wrote called "The Adventures of A Loser". It's the touching tale of a high school reject who goes on his first date with a girl, who only used him to help get money she owed to some dangerous drug dealers. I still think it's a cool little script I wrote.

So here's how this process works. You sign up on their website and they give you a little account and space. You upload your script to this space. This was 2000, and I was still using dial up. So this process took a few hours. After it was uploaded, I had to wait.

The next step then was on a certain date, they were gonna place three other scripts into your account. They were randomly selected and I had to read them, take this stupid test to prove I read it, and send it back with my thoughts.

So to clarify this step, all of us people in this contest got to read other people's scripts and had to say if they thought it was good or not. If you think the trolls of 2011 were bad...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I barely remember the three scripts I had to read. I remember one was a straight up comedy about some guy pretending to be a therapist to get back at an ex-girlfriend and he used the office of some lawyer and things get mixed up or something. The other was some action film about a homeless guy. I promise it wasn't "Hobo With A Shotgun". I liked both of those scripts.

Then I got the third one. Take David Lynch's worst movie, give it to Hunter S. Thompson, and then have Salavor Dali throw up on it for good measure and you got this movie. I had NO FUCKING idea what was going on in this script. Some guy went into a basement, got turned into a woman, who was alive in the 1950's, there's some party going on, some ice cube trays start talking. It was....a fucking mess. And I said so. I think I even failed the little test cause I didn't understand fucking anything.

Ok so, I finish all three scripts, send in my recommendations and then we had to wait again. Now comes the fun part. The feedback from the people that read my script. I guess how it worked was each script was sent to 10 different people so a wide array of people would read and judge it. Meaning 9 other people read that third script I read and said "WTF was that?!"

Anyway, all 10 people send in their feedback and recommendations for my script. To put it in a nice way...they were less than nice.

Needless to say,I didn't make it to the "second round". Yeah, there's "rounds" to this thing. The semi-final round was Afflect, Damon, and that other guy actually read the script and pick a winner. I think if they read my script, I would have a shot cause I know they have a great sense of humor. A bunch of starving screenwriters don't.

Ok so what kind of feedback did I get? I don't remember exactly what they said. I know someone said it was the "worst thing they ever read" and "the screenwriter has some maturing to do" and something about "this isn't even a REAL script. FAIL!" Something to that effect.

Yadda yadda yadda I have self esteem issues.

Anyway, the winner of the year I partook in this ended up being some movie that starred a unknown guy named Shia LaBeouf. I'll tell you now if I won, he wouldn't be in my movie. I was picturing the "Dude, you got a Dell" guy.

Yeah, it was a sign of the times.


Adam Blank said...

Ugh. I remember Project Greenlight. I had 2 friends; one who swore that he was the next big Hollywood director and another who thought he was a brilliant writer. They wrote a script, which I won't write the title of here because these fuckers probably still google it once a week because they thought it was sooooo awesome they wouldn't shut up about it for 5 years after it was over. For all I know, they're still trying to secure funding for this shit.

Before they submitted their script, they had me read it and give them feedback. My payment for this service was a pack of cigarettes.

Anyway, their script was a ridiculously pretentious vampire "art" movie that had no action, was impossible to follow, and seemed to focus on some asshole vampire (who was too deep for his own good), brooding over whether or not he should turn a particular child into a vampire while sitting on freeway overpasses being sullen. His mother and girlfriend were also vampires and his mother told long, boring stories in a 24 hour coffee shop (this monstrosity was actually written at The Steer) that were supposed to be profound but were just painful to read. (Keep in mind that these assholes began writing this in the late 90's, when an idea this stupid wasn't actually too far off from the shitty vampire movies of our late high school years).

All I know is when I told them the dialogue sucked and that their was no action and nothing at all to draw anybody into the movie, they, of course, told me I just didn't understand their creative genius.

My favorite part of their criticism of my criticism was when the "director" told me that I just didn't understand film noir. Perplexed, I asked if this was some sort of stylized crime drama set in the 40's or 50's, or maybe supposed to be in that style and I just wasn't reading that in their script. He looked at me like I was retarded and said no. He had no idea what film noir was! Not that I have a firm background in it to this day, but you shouldn't throw around names of sub-genres if you are just guessing what they mean by taking French for a semester freshman year. (BTW, this asshole once put you in a lead role in a high school play).

Anyway, from what I remember, they both read the other scripts and gave them low ratings even though there was some supposedly awesome zombie comedy in there that blew their fucking minds. They didn't want to give it a high grade because they didn't want the competition. As you can imagine, their FUCKING AWFUL script got shitty reviews. But, obviously, the people reading it didn't know a thing about film noir.

Jason Soto said...

Oh my god, I know who you're talking about. I can totally see him writing some shit like that. That whole thing sound awful. How funny that they were techically ahead of their time by coming up with "Twilight" before "Twilight" was even a thing. I wonder if Stephanie Meyers did Project Greenlight.

And I wouldn't doubt if these assholes read my script and gave me horrible recommendations.

Adam Blank said...

From what I can tell, the main difference between Twilight and their vampire movie is that Twilight has a plot and characters. It might be a shitty story with terrible characters, but still. Their movie had virtually no plot. I don't even think the characters had names; like the main guy was VAMPIRE and his mom was MOTHER and the child was THE CHILD. And seriously, virtually nothing happened. I can't stress this point enough. No vampire attacks. No group of intrepid teens hunting the vampires. All the conflict was internal and it wasn't resolved. It was just the main character sitting alone and being morose about his sad existence of sitting alone and being morose. I cannot stress how much I hated this "story."

Kev D. said...

I just got an idea for a script. Two screenwriters go back in time to try and win Project Greenlight to prevent Shia Laboeuf from happening.

Unlike "The Butterfly Effect" everything would go awesome, and there would be 100% less Ashton Kutcher. At some point there would be ninjas.