By Pete Jones | October 16, 2003

Before I get to the nonstop editing for the October 3rd Sundance deadline, the craziest thing also happened to me while editing last week. My editor Gregg Featherman got up to go to the bathroom. After he left, I decided I had to go but I didn’t want to go to the same bathroom so I walked to the other side of the “Big Time” editing facility. As I am walking into the bathroom, none other than Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax, the only living movie mogul, turns the corner. Being the “Aw Shucks” guy I am, I introduce myself again to Harvey Weinstein and as we walk into the bathroom, he starts singing my name. “Pete Jones, Pete Jones, Project Greenlight, Pete Jones.” I’ve always found Harvey to be incredibly kind but his reputation and aura are chokingly intimidating. I walk to the far stall and Harvey walks to the near stall with a big red slab of steel separating us. As I pull out my weenie, Harvey says to me like Oz from the other side of the wall “So I hear you’re starring in your own movie.” Well that’s all my weenie had to hear to go into emergency shutdown. I want to say something witty back but my penis is like a turtle trying to get back into its red shell. I retort “Uh huh.” And Harvey says, “That’s great. I hope you’ll let us take a look at it when you’re done.” I’ve heard of guys getting the frights, but this was new to me. All I could do was answer “You bet,” with a Peter Brady crack in my voice. I then inexplicably shake and zip up, knowing that Harvey has to know from the lack of piss hitting water and how quickly I finished that nothing happened. I walk to the sink to wash my unpissed on hands and look in the mirror to see that the hemoglobin in my face has decided to patch my face with fire red spots. Harvey zips up and turns the corner toward the sink as I head out. Knowing I had to take advantage of this serendipitous moment, I stop and deliver a gem. “So. You look like you’ve lost some weight.” I have never felt more alone. Harvey winces and nods while walking past me. I attempt a save. “If you don’t mind me saying that in the men’s bathroom.” He laughs. Sort of. Which, if I followed George Costanza’s advice, was my ticket out. Nope. I decide to stand and hold the door while Harvey was hoping to have some quiet time. As Harvey walks past me holding the door, I have to fight the temptation to pat him on the back like a fraternity brother. We head out to the lobby where Meryl Poster waits. A little background on Meryl. She hates me. And she’s two heartbeats away from running Miramax. Which, if I had talent, wouldn’t matter but since I don’t, it’d be smart to have friends in high places. She’s actually nice to me, probably because it looks like I’m going to have a heart attack. Harvey and Meryl then walk out and for the rest of the day, I try to figure out the hidden messages within meaningless conversation. I conclude that Miramax hates me and I will be selling insurance by year’s end.

And now Sundance. The rough cut for “Doubting Riley” is, um, interesting. The most common feedback I got on the script was that the first third somewhat meanders and the final two thirds is really good. In the rough cut, the first third is really good, the second third is slow, and the final third is decent. Almost a complete reversal from the script. So I spent four days trying to improve the middle third before delivering to Sundance. I think the reason for the slowness in the middle third is that the movie takes an abrupt turn from a light, absurd comedy to a gay drama. Tonally, it didn’t work. Two ways to attack it – cut the drama or improve the drama. I decided to improve the drama, which conflicted with my editor’s thoughts. My motivation is that at the end of the day, we can’t be “American Pie” with a gay theme. We need to be true to the gay story with an “American Pie” theme. The big problem is transitions. In a small budget film, you’re just lucky to shoot the core of the movie. The finesse needed to allow the audience to take a breath from scene to scene is a luxury we couldn’t afford. So it felt choppy. Don’t be shocked to see a lot of driving scenes between comedic scenes and dramatic scenes. I also decided to add more wide shots to let the film breathe some more. And finally, I used more reaction shots. Strangely, after four days, a movie that felt somewhat slow at 98 minutes felt tighter at 103 minutes. So on Friday, October 3rd, I delivered “Doubting Riley” to the Sundance offices in Beverly Hills. The man who took it complimented me on the title and, like a replay with Harvey, all I could muster was a nod. I had a million questions but the only one I could voice was “When will we know?” One of the younger guys answered “Early December.” I walked out the door and as I headed for the stairs, I could have sworn one of the guys walking in laughed at me.

The film has been turned in to Sundance. Now what? Visit each Wednesday for the next exciting entry (or depressing entry, depending on how you look at it) in PETE JONES’ “DOUBTING RILEY” DIARY!

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