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Project Greenlight is returning, with Issa Rae as mentor to a female director

Project Greenlight is returning, with Issa Rae as mentor to a female director
Issa Rae, who's bringing back Project Greenlight, in season four of her scripted HBO series Insecure. (Photo by Merie W. Wallace/HBO)

HBO Max is bringing back Project Greenlight and reinventing it with Issa Rae, who will be executive producer and mentor to a female director, whose movie will eventually air on HBO Max.

Project Greenlight was one of the first shows produced by Magical Elves, and one of the earliest prestige unscripted shows. It first aired in 2001, and in its four seasons, failed to produce a commercially successful film, but usually succeeded in producing entertaining, dramatic, and insightful television as it followed first-time writers and directors try to put together a film.

A-list actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were involved in the first four seasons, but it was their Good Will Hunting producing partner Chris Moore who became the break-out star, thanks in part to his profane pronouncements and blunt advice.

People who’ve appeared in the series have gone on to other success: Its second season’s film, The Battle of Shaker Heights, starred Shia LaBeouf; its third season’s writers, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, took over the Saw franchise.

Nine years after season three aired on Bravo, Chris Moore created The Chair on Starz, which had a very similar concept, except two directors each produced their own film based on the same script. (In late March, I rewatched all of The Chair, in part to pitch it for Extra Hot Great’s television canon. I think it’s still flawless reality TV, in part because of the way it illustrated the creative process and how different that was for its two directors.)

Project Greenlight was revived by HBO in 2015, and that season began with Matt Damon interrupting Effie Brown, the film’s producer and a Black woman, in order to lecture her about diversity. Instead of choosing one of the directors Effie Brown was advocating for, the producers ended up selecting a petulant man-child who made a shitty movie. But the show itself remained interesting, in part for exposing how white men like Matt Damon wield their power.

HBO Max’s revival does not involve Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, or Chris Moore, nor Magical Elves, which produced the first four seasons.

Instead, the eight-episode series will be “a reinvention of the critically acclaimed original Miramax and HBO series” that is “focusing on the next generation of talented female filmmakers who are given the chance to direct a feature film,” according to a press release. Issa Rae “will appear in every episode” it noted, “providing guidance and mentorship to these aspiring filmmakers.”

HBO Max’s Jennifer O’Connell said in the press release, “At HBO Max, we are committed to providing a platform for diverse, up-and-coming talent. Issa is uniquely skilled in this space, and we are thrilled to be partnering with her and Miramax as a promising group of filmmakers is inspired and challenged with their biggest opportunity yet.”

It will be produced by Miramax television and Issa Rae’s production company, Hoorae, which also produces Insecure and A Black Lady Sketch Show.

Eight episodes have been ordered, but HBO Max did not specify any kind of dates to suggest when the show would go into production or ultimately premiere on the streaming service.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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