The last time we talked about Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s HBO revival of Project Greenlight, it was about #mattsplaining and Damon’s dumb remarks about diversity hiring on a film set, which he directed at Effie Brown, an African-American producer. Now, as the show heads toward its finale, Brown has given an interview to Anne Thompson in which she talks about her conflict with Damon and her experience working on Greenlight. If you’ve watched the show, you’ve seen Brown butt heads with just about everyone involved, from Damon to Peter Farrelly to producer Marc Joubert, who was part of bringing Project Greenlight to HBO.
But Effie Brown is not being difficult. She was hired to run the production and was given specific instructions to adhere to the $3 million budget. She was explicitly told she wouldn’t get more money. So Brown, who has experience with both HBO productions and small budget indies, ran the production to stay on budget, because that was her job. The conflict with Farrelly arose over the issue of shooting on film vs. digital. A huge reason why digital has become the dominant medium is because it is significantly cheaper than film stock—Brown told director Jason Mann that shooting on 35mm would add $300,000 to the budget, money she had been told she would not get.
Farrelly ended up quitting the show/production after Brown told him she had already talked to Mann about this issue, and Mann went around her anyway, securing the extra $300,000 directly from HBO. In her interview, Brown talks about this situation:
“I was upset with how that Farrelly conversation was cut,’ she said. […] The Farrelly brothers quitting was ‘so hurtful,’ she said. ‘I get them coming at me. I never talked to Bobby, we were cool, I saw him when we had that one conversation that one time, and I made him quit? Tying it up with pretty bow? So I’m sure they were going over every angle to figure it out, which was so hurtful. Not one of them called me to say what happened.’”
From Brown’s comments—and she goes on to elaborate on having to hold out further talking-head interviews unless she could see how they were editing episodes—it sounds like they were trying to make Brown the villain of Project Greenlight. When the #mattsplaining thing happened last month, I said reality TV manufactures drama just like scripted shows do. The drama on Project Greenlight has featured a lot of Brown, DOING HER JOB. She was hired to produce a movie for $3 million and was told she wouldn’t get more money, so she can often be seen saying “no” and reining in the kind of behavior that drives productions over budget. The men surrounding her, though, have gone around and over her, undercutting her authority more than once.
Brown is right to advocate for herself—this could have real repercussions on her career. She isn’t a movie star with a franchise waiting in the wings to catch her if anything goes wrong; producing is her livelihood. When Joubert hires her, he asks about her ability to say “no”, because someone on a movie set has to be able to say “no”. Her response? “I'm not afraid of saying ‘no’ and holding a tough line.” She also says, “These are the movies I’ve made. I’ve never gone over budget or schedule. I have always delivered a quality movie. My crews look like America, everyone is qualified.” They hired her to keep the production in check and get it done on budget. Then they proceeded to villainize her for doing the job she was hired to do. Some of that is the reality TV machine, but some of it is a group of men who seem unwilling to take orders from a woman—although, somewhat surprisingly, she does note that Ben Affleck was the one who “had her back” throughout the production.
Brown’s interview is very candid and well worth a read. It’s a great insight into how women are treated on film sets, which are predominately male, and it dovetails with Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on no longer playing nice and worrying about how others think of her. In Effie Brown you can see that “I don’t care if I’m not cute” attitude in action. She’s a professional doing a tough job, trying to balance dozens of personalities and issues at once, and she gets sh*t DONE. As for her relationship with Damon?
“Word on the street is I’m not his favorite person,” she says. That’s okay, Effie. He’s not really our favorite anymore, either. But you? Lady-crush #1.
Click here to read the full interview. It’s well worth your time.