Yesterday, HBO kicked off the fourth season of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s passion project “Project Greenlight”.
Before we get into Season 4, some Project Greenlight history for those who didn’t follow it the first time around: The show debuted on HBO in 2001 as a collaboration between Damon, Affleck, their production company LivePlanet, producer Chris Moore, and Miramax.
In the episode, Damon, Affleck and the producers are discussing possible directors for the comedy film they’ll be making this season, Not Another Pretty Woman.
Matt clarified his comments, saying that he wanted to award the position to the directors on their qualifications. Brown, who’s produced several Hollywood features, including “Dear White People”, looks stunned, responding: “Wow. OK”.
When diversity isn’t displayed behind the camera you get only 16.7 percent of movies with non-white leading characters, and 7 percent of films having women directors.
“Which is worse, Matt Damon whitesplainin’ to Effie, or not letting Effie voice her opinion as he did the others”.
He doesn’t seem to grasp the concept-and stay with me here, because this is a CUH-razy idea-if you hire diverse filmmakers, the movies will probably end up being diverse.
So while it feels like the new Project Greenlight champions the drama of reality TV over the artistry and craft of filmmaking – at least in this premiere episode, which may be unavoidable given the nature of the premise – it’s still entertaining.
Enter Professor Damon of WhiteSplaining University, who interrupted Effie repeatedly before launching into some good ol’ privilege logic.
Ironically, Brown actually was arguing about merit, positing that a female director like Kristen Brancaccio might work harder to not slut-shame a sex worker character.
Damon was quick to interrupt, to Brown’s apparent shock.
Damon later said in an on-camera confessional, “I’m glad Effie flagged the issue of diversity for all of us”.
Damon’s comments only reinforce the massive disparity that exists in Hollywood when it comes to gender and race. In the micro, Damon’s calculation was correct, that with a dozen finalists remaining, you really do need to go with the best filmmaker (minutes before selecting Sergei Eisenstein to direct a cinematic fart joke, but still).
As this USC study noted, only 28 women have been directors on the 700 top films released between 2007 and 2014… and only three of them were African-American.