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Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 15:51 GMT
$1m contest for Hollywood big break
Actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon at the 1998 Oscars
Oscar-winners Affleck (left) and Damon will work on the winning film
Actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have announced the finalists in their competition for unknown film-makers, which they hope will shake up the Hollywood power structure.

The winner will get $1m (700,000) to turn an idea into a major movie, which will be distributed by Miramax.

Rather than the traditional gatekeeper system, this contest is based on merit

Matt Damon
Damon and Affleck will work as executive producers and the making of the film will be the subject of a 13-part documentary to be shown on American TV channel HBO.

They hope it will prove an alternative route for talented film-makers to get into the industry.

Amateur talent

The short-list was announced by the actors at a Hollywood cinema filled with top agents, managers and industry moguls keen to get a look at the amateur talent.

Ben Affleck
Affleck: helping budding film-makers
The three finalists - who were each sent $8,000 (5,500) worth of digital video equipment to shoot one scene - are Evan Katz and Barron Ebenstein for Freeing Mr Jiggs, Brendan Murphy for Speakeasy and Pete Jones for Stolen Summer.

The overall winner will be announced on Thursday (1 March).

The finished film will be released early next year, after the documentary following the filming has been aired, in order to gain maximum publicity for the venture.

Route to success

Damon and Affleck made their names when their screenplay for Good Will Hunting was picked up by Hollywood and subsequently earned them an Oscar.

Now they want to help other budding film-makers, who have found it harder to get a foot in the industry door, to follow the same route to success.

"Rather than the traditional gatekeeper system, this contest is based on merit," Damon said.

The competition - named Project Greenlight - received 7,300 entries. These were narrowed down to 250 by visitors to the project's website, who picked their favourites.

'All very surreal'

Katz, 28, and Ebenstein, 34, from Los Angeles, said they have been trying to get through Hollywood doors for several years, with little success.

They describe themselves as "hair replacement product salesmen" by day and writers by night.

"We did the best we could under the circumstances," Ebenstein said. "But hey, the feeling was, we made it here, so we'll make the most of what we have."

Murphy, 24, a web designer from Atlanta film whose film is about a magician who has lost the magic in his life, described the feeling of being short-listed as "all very surreal".

See also:

19 Dec 99 | Tom Brook
Year of living digitally
29 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Good Will stars' fishy venture
17 Dec 99 | Entertainment
'Blasphemous' movie sparks protest
17 Mar 00 | Oscars 2000
Hollywood braced for the future
02 May 00 | UK
22m boost for British films
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