Project Greenlight Shines After 10 Year Hiatus

Sep 18, 2015 by Sarah Moffatt

It has been 10 years since season 3 aired, but season 4 of HBO’s documentary series Project Greenlight picked up where it left off with intrigue, drama and excitement – fitting for a documentary about how Hollywood films are made.

Executive producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon set out once again to find the most talented undiscovered director in the nation to take the reins of a new HBO film. This competition/documentary show is nothing to scoff at; it has been a Hollywood career launchpad for both writers and directors alike. In the early 2000’s, Stolen Summer, The Battle of Shaker Heights, and Feast were all productions of Project Greenlight and starred name-brand actors like Amy Smart, Shia LaBeouf, and Eric Dane.

This season is trying something a little different by taking on a romantic comedy, with Pete and Bobby Farrelly – aka the Farrelly brothers (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb & Dumber ) – signed on as mentors to the chosen director and his production team.

Affleck and Damon hand-picked 10 finalists from all corners of the country from the pile of short film entries, who were all then given the exact same scene from the film they are vying to direct, titled Not Another Pretty Woman. To gauge each director’s skills, creative decision making, and tonal fit with the project, they were given $1,000 and a month to shoot the scene.

The contestants were then flown to Los Angeles to meet Affleck, Damon and the Farrelly brothers, along with various producers and executives from HBO and Pearl Street Films (Affleck and Damon’s production company) and asked to discuss their 3 minute clip and their vision for the film. Most finalists were very humble but firm in their vision, but one contestant, Jason Mann, was rather cocky and put off by the script. He didn’t really show the hunger and desperation to land the job like the others, and was lukewarm on the script; his interview was basically one really long shrug.

This split the panel: on one hand, he was the most talented director and filmmaker there, but on the other, it was clear he was uninterested and would probably be difficult to work with. Against some of the panel’s wishes, Mann was announced as the winner.

Like clockwork, as soon as Affleck, Damon and Mann were off the announcement party stage, he ambushed the two actors to discuss a list of demands: He wanted to shoot the movie on film instead of digitally, and he wanted to fire the writer (season 1 winner Pete Jones) and replace him with the writer of Boys Don’t Cry, a tragic movie starring Hilary Swank as a transgender male in Nebraska. As one of the producers points out, that writer is not exactly known for comedic writing. Alas, the first of what is sure to be several creative disagreements.

Jason Mann was picked on the strength of his creative and ingeniously dark take on the material. It was unusual and intriguing and had the promise of being something truly unique to HBO. Despite the potential for drama and stubbornness, Affleck and Damon wanted to choose the best filmmaker out of the lot and, perhaps unfortunately, Mann was just that, and it looks like we’re in for a bumpy ride to the red carpet.

New episodes of Project Greenlight air Sundays at 10pm ET on HBO through November 1, and are available – along with the first two seasons – shortly after their premieres On Demand.

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