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Kyle Rankin & Efram Potelle, Directors

Directors, Kyle Rankin & Efram Potelle

This summer marked the second installment of HBO's Project Greenlight. The format changed since the first show. This time a director and a screenwriter would be chosen instead of having one person do both tasks.
The winners of the directing portion were filmmakers Kyle Rankin & Efram Potelle. Film Addiction recently caught up with the filmmakers to discuss their experience on their Project Greenlight film "The Battle of Shaker Heights" and their past experiences.
A Conversation with Kyle & Efram

Film Addiction: What was the biggest difference in shooting a studio production and an independent film?


Efram Potelle: Working with a Producer and the politics involved in that business. As a producer you are serving several masters-filmmakers and studio. The Producers job is to say they have your best interest at heart, yet they still have to meet the demands of the studio. We also felt a lot of pressure because the film was produced over a very short period-8 months. This is about a third of the time allowed for a normal studio release. We were really rushed to get the film finished.

Another experience was having a writer on the set. Erica was on the set everyday except one.



FA: Efram Potelle: Were there times you felt like you were making things up or faking it while on the set of Battle of Shaker Heights?


EP: No, the act of directing was probably the easiest part of the whole process. The difficult job was having all the Beta Cams around the set filming Project Greenlight. Having cameras around added a lot of pressure. There were only two times the Greenlight cameras were not around.


FA: Do you think that Project Greenlight painted a fair picture of the production of Shaker Heights?


Efram receives another call and Kyle Rankin takes over the rest of the questions


Kyle Rankin: No, it was not fair to the spirit of the production of the movie. At times it presented a negative and mean spirited presentation of how the production went. We really had a lot of fun on set. We cut up the writer and actors. So it did not paint an accurate picture of the production.

It really did a disservice to the production of the show and created drama that was no accurate.


FA: What kind of control did you actually get on the film (Shaker Heights)?


KR: It really ebbed and flowed on how much control we had on the film. The least control we had was over the casting. That really put us between a rock and a hard place. We were really at the mercy of the actors provided by the studio.

The show does not articulate the vision of the artists (directors) because of a conflict of an independent filmmaker shooting the film. One of the down parts of the production was having our vision changed several times by the studio.

On the set, we tried to make the actors feel safe so they could be strong for their parts. Overall the studio wanted to protect the integrity of the film and not so much the integrity of Project Greenlight. The studio had the interest of the film over Project Greenlight.


FA: Was Chris Moore as much of an asshole to you guys as the show (Project Greenlight) made him out to be?


KR: When the show came out we were really shocked. Our view of Chris from the first was someone we really respected because he was a straight shooter. We did not realize that he was unhappy at times. A lot of the drama involving Chris was spun out of interviews when we were not around. I felt that Chris was upset at times because he felt like he was being shut out of the creative process.


FA: How is your relationship with Chris Moore currently?


KR: At this point it is strained and it is highly unlikely that we would work together again, but it is not totally out of the question.



FA: Where did you and Efram meet?


KR: We met as teenagers at film festival in Maine. We are both originally from Maine.


Newborn Pictures are Kyle and Eframs production company that the started before Project Greenlight


FA: Newborn Pictures-Do you guys produce other filmmakers works or mainly your own?


KR: Right now we are just producing our own films.


FA: Is this paying the bills?


KR: Definitely not. Right now it is not producing a lot of revenue. The nice thing about Newborn Pictures, since Project Greenlight, is that we have a creative team. The team is made up of managers, agents and others within the industry-which we did not have before.


FA: At one time you and Efram hosted a controversial cable access show?


KR: Yes, it was called Live on 2. We did the show for three years.


FA: What made the show so controversial?


KR: The show was completely uncensored. People would call in and swear and it was not edited out. People would watch the show just to find out what people would do.


FA: What were some of the topics covered over the span of the show? Was it film related?


KR: No, we did not talk about film. Most of the conversation revolved around sex.

We did lots of skits which helped us draw actors for our independent films


Side conversation about the Canadian show Sunday Sex Talk insues.


FA: Do you plan on doing another major studio release?


KR: We are open to the idea, but we are not nailed into a studio release right now. We are currently writing a screenplay base on our earlier Sci-Fi Films They Came To Attack Us. We would opt it to a studio, but if it does not work out we will shoot it ourselves independently.

Instead of the character dying (They Came To Attack), he keeps on living and the screenplay is based on his story.


FA: What is your directing style Comedic or Dramatic?


KR: We prefer the comedic style and that is what we wanted to gear Shaker Heights into being.


FA: Was Shaker Heights your first time to shoot on film stock.


KR: No, we shoot a film titled Reindeer Games no relation to the studio version. In fact, our version came out several years before the studio move titled Reindeer Games.

On that production we used 16mm, so we knew how the process of using film worked.


FA: Have you shot on video as well?


KR: Yes, in fact, one of the hoops we had to jump through for Project Greenlight was to shoot a short film on video. The top ten finalist were all given a Mini-DV camera and a script which we had to shoot and send back within a week. The nice thing was we got to keep the DV cam.

The bad part to that story is that we left the DV cam in a cab and we have not recovered it yet.


FA: Any parting words?


KR: Project Greenlight was a great opportunity despite the negative outlook that was generated. It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot and we will use the techniques on future films



HBO Pulls Plug on 'Project Greenlight'

LOS ANGELES ( - "Project Greenlight" has burned out at HBO, but there's a chance the movie-making reality series could wind up on another network.

HBO has opted not to pick up a third season of "Greenlight," which stages a contest for aspiring screenwriters and directors and then chronicles the winners as they work with Miramax to make their movie. The show may not be dead, however.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Bravo is negotiating with Miramax TV and Live Planet, the production company headed by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon that co-produces "Greenlight," for the show's third season. Bravo recently ordered "Project Runway," a similar competition set in the fashion world that's also from Miramax.

A Miramax spokesman confirms that the company is shopping the series but little else. "We believe in 'Project Greenlight' and are currently re-evaluating its distribution options," the spokesman says.

Neither movie that resulted from the previous two "Greenlight" contests made much noise at the box office. Neither "Stolen Summer" nor "The Battle of Shaker Heights" cracked even $500,000 in their initial release. Still, Affleck and Damon reportedly remain committed to giving would-be filmmakers a shot.

Their Live Planet partner Chris Moore, however, might not be. He produced both of the "Greenlight" films and was the strongest personality in the TV series, but hasn't committed to a third season. The possibility of a Moore-free show was a factor in HBO's decision to drop the series, according to the Reporter.


A Closer Look:

Battle of Shaker Heights

War isn't hell for Kelly Ernswiler (Shia LeBeouf); in fact, the high-school senior enjoys re-enacting battles in his hometown, Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. With the encouragement of a new friend (Eldon Henson), he uses his military knowledge to plan a special mission against a hated enemy: the school bully. But Kelly also has his eyes on his new pal's sister (Amy Smart), which could jeopardize their friendship.
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Amy Smart, Elden Henson, Billy Kay, Kathleen Quinlan, Shiri Appleby, William Sadler

Release Date
August 22, 2003

DVD/Video Release Date
December 9, 2003

Running Time
Running Time:90 minutes

A Rotten Tomatoes Review

Like last year's Stolen Summer, The Battle of Shaker Heights was spawned by HBO, Live Planet and Miramax's cable hit series Project Greenlight. And like Stolen Summer, this second feature to emerge is a very nice, beautifully acted, humor-tinged coming-of-age drama. But also like its predecessor, Shaker Heights begs the very same question: How do you draw audiences to a very nice, beautifully acted, humor-tinged coming-of-age drama without any marquee names, edge or sharp marketing hooks?


In its favor, the film does offer Shia LaBoeuf (star of the overrated, over-marketed Holes) in the highly appealing role of 17-year-old Kelly, an aimless senior from the wrong side of the tracks in affluent Shaker Heights, Ohio, who seeks refuge from a troubled home to perform in elaborate simulated war battles in nearby fields. The movie is also powered by Erica Beeney's smart screenplay (beating over 7,000 other Project Greenlight entries) and fine casting in all subordinate roles, including Elden Henson as Bart, Kelly's rich pal and fellow war buff, and Amy Smart as Bart's older princess sister Tabby, who arouses the man in the doggedly boyish Kelly.


The story kicks off with the uniformed Kelly in the midst of an elaborately staged battle with German soldiers. Kelly and new friend Bart bond and plot an elaborate revenge against Lance (Billy Kay, a Spirit nominee for his acclaimed role in L.I.E.), the high-school bully who torments Kelly. Their so-called Operation Mincemeat, emanating from their skills at battle simulation, amounts to delicious revenge.


The ill-adjusted Kelly fights battles on other fronts: He rejects the advances of cute Sarah (Shiri Appleby), his young colleague on the late-night shift at the local Shop Rite, and, on the family front, remains estranged from his recovering drug addict dad Abe (William Sadler) and his struggling art teacher mom Eve (Kathleen Quinlan).


Welcomed into Bart's family, Kelly falls under the spell of Tabby, who is about to be married to handsome Miner (Anson Mount) and study art at Yale. Kelly and Tabby share a love of art. Discussions ensue and sparks fly, which are incendiary for Kelly. Tabby's squabble with Miner catapults her into the arms of Kelly. Their makeout session, meaningless to Tabby, sends Kelly into turmoil. He crashes Tabby's wedding but has a showdown with both of the affianced that provides life lessons and leads to the inevitable reconciliation with both mom and dad. But, as evidenced in a final scene with bully Lance, Battle effectively avoids being too mushy or predictable.


Maine-based directors Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle deserve stripes for this effort and, as seen in the HBO series, for surviving on the Hollywood battlefield. Production values are fine. Beeney's script is often right on the mark (Kelly describes his irresponsible dad as a VH1 documentary without the music) and the Los Angeles locations are convincing stand-ins for the Ohio setting.


War in this accomplished film is certainly more heaven than hell. But the real battle will be at the box office, where this lightweight entry could get crushed.

               Doris Toumarkine