The duo joyously spoke to press about the process of reviving the series, which first aired on HBO in 2001, and how it feels giving a new generation of filmmakers a shot at fame.
“There’s a long, boring business story behind it,” Affleck said of how the fourth season got started, 10 years after its predecessor. “Matt and I sat down and thought the technological opportunities that are available now, really weren’t available to us then, and could help us make the show and the process better and more interesting.”
Along with the Farrelly brothers, who will be serving as advisers to the winner, Affleck and Damon began accepting new submissions in June, narrowed them down to 13 finalists and announced the winner at the Friday night event.
“Not everyone agreed on what the No. 1 choice was,” said Bobby Farrelly, adding that it was incredibly challenging being among the judges deciding who made the final cut. “There’s so much good competition. Only one guy gets it but 12 don’t and you’re just heartbroken because it’s so close and they’re all so talented.”
But, as Peter Farrelly added, being in the competition in the first place affords filmmakers a unique opportunity to find an agent or make other connections helpful in breaking into the movie biz.
“It gives them a chance,” he said. “It’s not easy to be a movie-maker, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for young filmmakers.”
That’s something Len Amato, president of HBO Films, agrees with. “Project Greenlight” means everything for both filmmakers and HBO, he said. “Because you have to invest in the next generation, and there’s a lot of talented people out there who don’t have access.”
Getting the project going with HBO once again was easy, said Damon. “We started our pitch – we had a whole pitch planned – and I don’t think we got the first sentence out,” before the premium cabler jumped at the chance to revive the series, which follows the process of naming a winner through the completion of their film.
“We wanted to go back home to where it all started,” he added, praising the caliber of today’s young directors.
“Directors who’ve never even worked in this business are way more proficient than they used to be, because the democratization of access to the materials to make films has progressed exponentially,” exclaimed Affleck.
“And that was not the case 15 years ago,” added Damon. “The world of TV and film has changed. Now HBO is going to show the movie, which is a huge win,” as opposed to budgeting the film with a traditional commercial marketing plan in mind.
Working with the duo, is great, said Amato, thanks to their passion for movies and the work that goes into creating them. “You want to work with people who love movies,” he said, “and also, they’ve been through it,” noting their experience writing “Good Will Hunting.” “It’s like a great success story and an inspirational role model for young people who want to get into the movie business.”
“I think we’ll see as we go along how we can be helpful,” said Damon. The two will continue their role of advising and supporting the winner through the process of producing their film, and are eager to see how the experience will be different, now with ten years of acting and directing under their belts.
“We have an enthusiasm and commitment for it the same way we did before,” said Affleck. “We’re benefiting from new technologies — we want to be helpful and foster this process along, but a big part of it is saying ‘Okay, you believe in yourself as a filmmaker, we’re going to give you the resources and we’re going to support you, so go get ‘em.’”
At the party, Jason Mann was announced as the winner. Mann’s recent short film “Delicacy” premiered at the Telluride, Tribeca and Austin film festivals in 2012 and 2013. His other recent short film “The Leisure Class” premiered at Raindance in London in 2013. He attended Columbia U. and Loyola Marymount U.