Chicago filmmakers advance to Top 10 in Project Greenlight competition

Scott Smith
Duane Edwards

Two of the original six Chicago Project Greenlight contestants have advanced to the elite Top Ten, competing to direct a $1 million horror/mystery feature that will be documented in a series on Bravo.

Technology executive Duane Edwards and advertising art director Scott Smith Tuesday night received personal phone calls from Ben Affleck congratulating them on their advancement. They had progressively made the cut to ten, from 50 filmmakers who had been selected from 250 competitors out of an entry field of 1,700.

Project Greenlight founder Ben Affleck (with Matt Damon) and executive producer Chris Moore personally called to congratulate Edwards and Smith. Affleck said the competition had been tough this year and they should feel proud of having made it so far, a nervous but elated Smith recounted.

To become one of the three finalists, Edwards and Smith have only until June 11 to pull out all creativity stops to produce a video based on a unique but ambiguous script provided by PGL. The three finalists will be named June 29. They will be given still another assignment and the winner ? hopefully one of the two Chicagoans ? will be announced July 14.

To arrive at the top 50, Edwards, a former Hollywood and New York actor and now an executive with Teksystems, and former Leo Burnett art director Smith, who now runs his own creative boutique, submitted personal Filmmakers Videos to make the cut from 250 to 50. They were then subjected to a tough phone interview to emerge among the top ten.

Winning the top prize would launch his professional film career, said Edwards, who had made four previous award-winning shorts. He views filmmaking as a business and art form. As such, he said, “I have the confidence of walking into a 28-day, $1 million shoot.”

Smith said getting as far as he has in the national contest has “validated what I want to do,” which is to produce commercials for his advertising clients and films.

Mark Sofil shot Edwards’ Filmmakers Video in 24P, in letterbox, and Kurt Brandstetter shot Smith’s FV in HD.

Chicagoans who made it into the first cut of 250 were professional producer/director Bryan Perraud, who also ascended to the top 50; architect Rus Blemker and designer Brian Craft.

The current contest is the third Project Greenlight. The first contest in 2000 was won by Glenview native Pete Jones, who directed his own screenplay, “Stolen Summer.” It’s sponsored by Live Planet, Miramax and HP.

Edwards can be reached at 312/474-5583; Smith at 773/991-1394.