Lights. Camera. Action …
After more than 10 years off the air, Project Greenlight is finally back to give another behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process — this time tracking the pre-production, casting, post-production, and more of first-time director Jason Mann’s dark comedy The Leisure Class. Now in its fourth turn, the reality-documentary series from executive producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon promises a director with an eye for the particular and especially high risks.
Greenlight aired seasons 1 and 2 on HBO and season 3 on Bravo in the early 2000s, and with any show returning after a long time away there’s the question of, “Why now?” For Damon, the technological progress that has occurred in the show’s decade-long absence, and talent that he believes has increased as a result of more access to new technologies, was a big motivating factor.
“Because of the advent of the iPhone and the fact that we’re carrying all these video cameras around now, understanding how to tell stories visually [is] beyond what it was 10 years ago,” Damon told EW at The Leisure Class’ August 10 premiere at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. “That’s one thing that gave us a greater group of people to choose from this time around.”
Marc Joubert — also an executive producer on the show, and co-founder of Adaptive Studios, one of the production companies behind Greenlight — echoes Damon’s sentiment. “Pete Jones — I can bust his balls because we’re friends — won season 1, [but] he wouldn’t have made the top 100 this year,” Joubert says. “What young filmmakers have access to today is unbelievable. Social media and digital outlets like YouTube and everybody having access to a camera today has elevated what filmmakers can do.”
Back to Mann, who won the competition to be at the center of season 4, which will see Peter and Bobby Farrelly and Effie Brown as mentors in addition to Damon and Affleck. His Leisure Class (see a behind-the-scenes shot above) follows a couple in the 24 hours leading up to their wedding when lots of dirty laundry is exposed. It stars Ed Weeks, Bruce Davidson, Brenda Strong, Bridget Regan, Tom Bell, and more — and Damon believes it to be the best film in Greenlight history, sure to launch a successful career for its maker.
Joubert is equally complimentary of Mann. “His style is unbelievable,” Joubert says. “He is far beyond his years. He knew what he wanted on every frame of this movie before we shot one frame.” Joubert also hints, however, that the getting there was not so easy, and that Mann most definitely stirred the pot: “He’s a stubborn S-O-B, and you will see that.”
Perhaps that’s why Affleck called season 4 the “riskiest season we’ve ever done” in its teaser trailer. Damon attributes that remark, at least in part, to the film going through two different scripts while under major pressure. “[The film] ended up being completely different than what we thought we were going to make and we were under a huge time crunch so there was way more opportunity for things to go wrong,” Damon says.
But Joubert counters Affleck, saying the show has always been risky, what with giving upward of three million dollars to an unknown filmmaker and telling them to go for it. “The show was fantastic, [but] the movies never made money and I think that concerns Matt and Ben,” he says. “They’re putting their necks on the line for these filmmakers and I would have to say it falls on them if it doesn’t succeed.”
In any case, riskiest season or not, Mann’s filmmaking process is sure to keep things interesting. “HBO has created a pretty phenomenal tagline [that] says ‘Go inside the drama of making a comedy,’” Joubert says, “and that’s pretty accurate.”
Project Greenlight premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.
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