10:57am PT by Paige Phelan
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck Tout 'Project Greenlight' at L.A. Premiere
After nearly a decade on hiatus, Project Greenlight is back, as the HBO filmmaking reality show descended upon downtown Los Angeles’ lavish Ace Hotel for the premiere of season 4 victor Jason Mann’s finished film, The Leisure Class. Greenlight executive producers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck joined Mann and the cast and producers of the film to celebrate.
"It’s a wonderful thing to document because really interesting stuff happens on sets when you are making a movie," explained Damon, noting that his interest piqued in behind-the-scenes filmmaking after working on a film with Francis Ford Coppola and his wife Eleanor (who did the Apocalypse Now documentary, Hearts of Darkness). "Our argument always was that any movie would be interesting if you documented it because there’s just so much [behind the scenes]. There’s a lot of decisions that have to be made quickly and there’s a lot at stake creatively with each of those decisions."
With the support of executive producers Damon, Affleck and Marc Joubert of Adaptive Studios, the newly resurrected Project Greenlight, which ran for two seasons on HBO and one on Bravo in the early 2000s, returns to HBO this September and follows the journey of an amateur filmmaker (Mann) as he attempts to complete his first feature film with the help of mentors, Damon, Affleck, The Farrelly Brothers and producer Effie Brown (Dear White People). Of course, the entire process, from casting and filming to, yes, even the red carpet of the premiere, is all caught on camera.
"You see this little microphone right here," said Brenda Strong (Dallas), who plays the matriarch of the dysfunctional family at the center of The Leisure Class, pointing to a boom mic hanging over the interview. "It makes you hyper-vigilant about being on good behavior — for the first week, and after that you just kind of throw in the towel."
Both Strong’s co-star Ed Weeks (The Mindy Project) and overseeing producer Brown echoed those sentiments. "You’re really aware of the camera for the first day or two and then all of the sudden you forget, and then you wish you were more aware of the camera," Greenlight mentor Brown recalled, laughing, "I curse like a truck driver, I’m eating all the time, I’m eating my feelings, and I forget that ‘Oh shit, there’s a camera’ and I’m stuffing my face with a bagel."
Mann beat out a competitive field of applicants for the opportunity to make The Leisure Class. Along with Strong and Weeks, the dysfunctional family comedy, which takes place in the 24 hours before the wedding of the family’s socialite daughter, also stars Bridget Regan (Jane the Virgin), Bruce Davison, Tom Bell, Scottie Thompson, Melanie Zanetti, Christine Lakin and Rory Knox Johnston.
"It is really great and inspiring to see an artist like Jason and his journey ... to see the tenacity of someone who has not really been in the spotlight before, how he deals with all the stuff and how he keeps his vision in the face of resistance," The Mindy Project’s Weeks said of working on the film. "It’s a real sort of triumph of the will of the creative will and hopefully that is going to inspire young filmmakers out there."
Walking the red carpet with Mann, Damon explained that, despite the ten-year gap, Project Greenlight is still mostly the same show. "The biggest change is that HBO is putting out [both] the movie and the show now, which is a much better way to do it."
Noting that previous winner’s films had trouble reaching broad audiences, the Martian and Bourne actor stated that benefits of such are two-fold: "[HBO’s] a great place to make a movie, and they’re not afraid of things creatively. That makes them an awesome partner to have, but also, [viewers will] be able to see the show, [and] can get invested in what it was like behind-the-scenes on this movie, and then go right into the movie [the next night]."
The season 4 premiere of Project Greenlight airs Sunday, September 13 on HBO.