As you may have heard, Season 4 of Project Greenlight premiered its first episode Sunday on HBO, and in the course of that premiere, producer Matt Damon said some things that set off an internet firestorm.
Over the course of the premiere episode, the show introduced producer Effie Brown (Dear White People), who would be part of the production process for this season’s key film — Not Another Pretty Woman — and while in the thick of discussions about the film with producers (including Damon and Ben Affleck), Brown brought up this concern.
So, Brown is clearly hoping that by introducing the possibility of a diverse directorial candidate they could bring some sensitivity to the handling of Not Another Pretty Woman’s single character of color and prevent “Harmony” from being more than a mistreated cliche. Not only did Damon’s response to this come off as quite tone-deaf, the fact that he didn’t let the single producer of color finish her thought uninterrupted didn’t help matters.
Obviously this issue is more complex than a 30-second clip from an HBO show can explicate, and involves a number of players, but the backlash generated by the comment did eventually force Damon to issue a somewhat wishy-washy apology:
“I believe deeply that there need to be more diverse filmmakers making movies. I love making movies. It’s what I have chosen to do with my life and I want every young person watching Project Greenlight to believe that filmmaking is a viable form of creative expression for them too,“ He told BuzzFeed. "My comments were part of a much broader conversation about diversity in Hollywood and the fundamental nature of Project Greenlight which did not make the show. I am sorry that they offended some people, but, at the very least, I am happy that they started a conversation about diversity in Hollywood. That is an ongoing conversation that we all should be having.”
It’s hard to tell where this "conversation” Damon claims to have started will go next, but at least he’s trying. And yet, the fact that he didn’t see the problem with both his statements and how they were portrayed in a show that he produces — so he absolutely would’ve had the chance to override any editorial shenanigans that might’ve misrepresented his views on diversity — show that Hollywood and those who work in it still have a long way to go.