You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Project Greenlight’ Set Up Rookie Director As Fall Guy

For all the obsessing he did over the small details of his movie, director Jason Mann missed a rather large and obvious one regarding the series about its filming, “Project Greenlight” – namely, that he was being set up as an object of derision, the guy viewers were supposed to dislike.

Although that seemed evident from the get-go, Mann’s casting as the newbie director/resident punching bag became more transparent as the program progressed. Despite the lip-service paid by those in charge to admiring his quirky, uncompromising vision and talent, the young filmmaker gave away in the interview process – during which he essentially expressed disdain for the planned film, ultimately pushing to go with a script he had written – that he would be the most likely to make sparks fly in reality-TV terms.

What’s really irksome, given all that, is how HBO and the star producers danced around that fact, continuing to insist that they were really invested in this endeavor for the love of movie-making. Because when all was said and done, premiering the movie (titled “The Leisure Class”) on the pay channel eliminated past concerns about opening weekends, box office or even DVD sales, allowing those responsible to focus squarely on the TV show, with the movie as what amounted to a side dish, amortized in part by its sister production.

Mann, certainly, played the role of the entitled, clueless artist to perfection. Seemingly as oblivious to budgetary restrictions as he was to how he would come across on camera, he kept “obsessing over what I would consider minor technical issues,” as HBO Films chief Len Amato put it. That image extended to the finale, when he locked a mediocre movie that had been whittled down to 85 minutes, after saying he hoped he wouldn’t have to deal with pesky collaborators on future projects.

Throughout the series, it fell to producer Effie Brown to do everything but shake him by the lapels, while the rest of the crew reacted with grumbling and eye rolls. In the last episode, Mann weathered a barrage of notes from practically everyone who had lent their names to the exercise, including Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. The two stars seemed happy enough to sporadically parachute in for a quick hug, while once again letting the filmmaker they had so nobly championed at the outset become the foil for the unscripted drama.

With the benefit of hindsight, the strangest aspect of this “Project Greenlight” revival is the resistance that the show’s rescuer/production company, Adaptive Studios, caused by seeking first-look deals with the finalists in the competition. Because based on the way this exercise was structured, the company’s interest in making movies with any of them appeared secondary to producing a relatively inexpensive reality show. (As with many Hollywood contracts, the language likely had to do more with defensively covering one’s flank than developing young filmmakers.)

To be fair, Mann might be every bit as myopic as portrayed. But the truth is reality shows seldom offer an unalloyed view of reality, in much the same way that this series wasn’t produced or cast with an eye on what was best for the movie. So while one can understand why novice filmmakers would eagerly jump at such an opportunity, even a cursory viewing of this fourth edition of “Project Greenlight” should provide a big flashing warning sign – alerting any future participants to the potential trap into which they’re walking.

More TV

  • What | If

    Renee Zellweger and Mike Kelley on Deconstructing Fate and Consequences in 'What/If'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “What/If,” streaming now on Netflix. Writer and executive producer Mike Kelley’s latest piece of dramatic storytelling is a limited series morality tale that starts with a high-powered, wealthy woman named Anne Montgomery (Renee Zellweger) offering Lisa, a young woman with a startup (Jane Levy), [...]

  • north american lake monsters by nathan

    Hulu Orders Anthology Series Based on Nathan Ballingrud's 'North American Lake Monsters'

    Hulu has greenlit a series adaptation of Nathan Ballingrud’s short story collection “North American Lake Monsters.” The untitled series will be an anthology, with the first season consisting of eight episodes. In the series, encounters with vampires, fallen angels, and other monsters force Louisiana natives to re-examine their broken lives. Mary Laws created the project [...]

  • Women in Animation, Les Femmes s’Animent

    Women in Animation, Les Femmes s’Animent Announce World Summit Lineup

      CANNES–Women in Animation (WIA) and Les Femmes s’Animent (LFA) have announced the program lineup and initial list of speakers for the third Women in Animation World Summit, which will take place June 10 in conjunction with the Annecy Intl. Animation Festival and Mifa. The summit will feature a day-long symposium of panels and discussions [...]

  • Kanye West Slams Liberals for ‘Bullying’

    Kanye West Slams Liberals for ‘Bullying’ Trump Supporters in David Letterman Interview

    The Daily Beast today published a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West — which addresses music, fashion, West’s late mother and of course his much-criticized support of President Trump — on his Netflix show, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31. The article praises the hour-long session as “not only one of the [...]

  • Michael Portillo Making ‘The Trouble With

    Michael Portillo Making ‘The Trouble With the Tory Party’ for Viacom’s Channel 5

    On the day that British Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation plans, a prominent former politician has unveiled a two-part documentary about the troubles faced by her Conservative party. Michael Portillo is a former senior Conservative politician and leadership candidate. As the starting gun is sounded on a fresh leadership race, his documentary “Portillo: [...]

  • Nickelodeon, Starzplay, Globo-Warner Bros., BBC And

    International TV Newswire: Nick News, Apple Adds Starzplay, Globo Keeps Warner Bros.

    This week’s International TV Newswire sees Nickelodeon’s influence grow in Mexico, Navratilova host a trans-athlete debate for the BBC, Globo and Warner Bros. extend in Brazil, Apple pick up Starzplay and HBO profile a polemical Spanish soccer legend. Nickelodeon Signs Mexican Influencer Nickelodeon Latin America has signed an exclusive global representation deal with popular Mexican [...]

  • Singer Adam Levine performs with Maroon

    Adam Levine Leaves 'The Voice' After 16 Seasons

    After 16 seasons on “The Voice,” Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine will not be returning to a coach’s chair when the NBC singing competition series begins its 17th edition in the fall. Levine has been a coach on the show since its inception in 2011. He will be replaced next season by Gwen Stefani. “Voice” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content