Ugh. This is getting to be a slog, huh? In its fourth season, Project Greenlight has become more important than it’s ever been, but that doesn’t mean it’s any fun to watch. Last week’s episode ended with an uncomfortable scene where Peter Farrelly abruptly quit because Effie Brown challenged his authority as mentor… to undermine her authority as producer. Thankfully this week wasn’t quite so crushing, but it took a while to get past the fallout of Farrelly’s departure.
When we open, it’s ten days before shooting is set to begin. Both Farrellys have quit — Peter and Bobby, the one we never see. According to Marc, Peter said, “I can’t be myself around her,” which is coded language if I’ve ever heard it. Everyone wants Effie to apologize, but as a producer trying to keep control of her project, she hasn’t done anything wrong. She hasn’t even raised her voice. (Of course, on reality TV, it’s always possible that we’re not getting the whole story. Perhaps Effie has said or done things that HBO chose not to include in the show — although I don’t know why they would omit them. They want good TV and, presumably, they also want evidence that something besides racism and/or sexism is motivating their team’s behavior.) “I will not be painted as the angry black woman,” Effie says. Instead of apologizing, she compares Peter to a child having a tantrum over toys and decides, “I’m gonna do nothing.”
The conflict doesn’t end there. After word spreads that the Farrellys are finished, the team closes ranks. Matt Damon is back to render yet another groan-worthy opinion: that Peter “shouldn’t have to deal with this” — “this” being, again, a producer doing what producers do. Jason Mann, Greenlight‘s director, wonders aloud, “How could you not get along with Peter Farrelly?” He also mentions that he feels “unsafe” (more coded language) and worries that “Effie doesn’t have my best interests for the movie in mind.” To review: Jason trusts the guy who made Shallow Hal with his artistic vision over the woman who produced Dear White People.
The closest we get to a voice of reason on the Effie-vs.-Peter issue is Ben Affleck. “Effie’s job is to be a hardass,” says Ben, who also makes it clear that he has no intention of admonishing her, when he and Jason meet. This may not be totally obvious to people who aren’t familiar with how roles break down behind the scenes of a film, but it important to understand: Producers, and especially line producers, are professional buzzkills. That is what they do, because they’re the ones charged with translating a filmmaker’s impossible dream into an achievable project — and it ain’t easy.
Anyway, before the meeting is over, Ben sort of undermines Effie too. He reveals to Jason that he and Matt Damon will each surrender $100k of their Greenlight fee, and HBO will kick in the remaining $100k, so that the auteur can shoot on film.
It’s Len Amato who breaks this news to Effie, who obviously isn’t thrilled. “It’s embarrassing,” she says, having movie stars and industry bigwigs tell you how to do a job you’ve been doing since the ’90s. And though the Greenlight team gives Effie, Marc, and Jason the option to use the additional $300k for extra days of shooting — something everyone agrees they could use, considering how rushed their schedule has been — Jason of course insists on film. Time to review again: While Effie, with all her years of experience, has been painted as difficult and asked to apologize for simply doing her job, Jason, who has never made a feature before, is being rewarded for his naive stubbornness with exactly the unnecessary concession he wanted.
Well. The good news is that things improve substantially from there, even if there are a few hitches. After production designer Cecil undermines location manager Alison by shooting a country house location that Jason actually likes (“I’m exercising so much self-control right now that I think my abdomen is tightening up,” says Alison), they visit the place and realize the interiors won’t work. Finally, Jason agrees to settle on the famous Douglas Fairbanks house — which he’d already rejected weeks ago. “The fact that this house was literally one of the first places Alison showed us pisses me off,” says Marc.
This seems to be part of what catalyzes a heartening truce — and even a fairly light, positive rapport — between him and Effie. Marc finally shows signs of catching on that Jason is the unreasonable, difficult member of the team. He’s also all but blown away by the director’s weird, unprofessional refusal to let Pete Jones leave once his budgeted time as cowriter is up (“He’s his fucking spooning partner,” Marc says).
We leave the crew 48 hours before shooting begins. They’ve managed to wrest Ed Weeks away from The Mindy Project, and Jason is, predictably, driving everyone nuts nitpicking things like costumes and hair. He’s also still whining about being separated from Pete; “I’m just so mad that you’re being forced to leave,” he says, heavily implying that his departure is Effie’s fault, too, and that she’s doing the film a huge disservice by making a budgetary decision that shouldn’t have been up for debate in the first place. (For his part, Pete seems to thoroughly understand why it’s time for him to leave.)
“I want him to feel like I’m on his side,” says Effie at the end of the episode. If he doesn’t, it should make for even more gripping TV, but if he does, The Leisure Class just might have a shadow of a chance. Presumably we’ll get to filming next week, and see what happens — and whose side Marc ends up taking — when they’re all on set together.