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Producer Effie Brown on Being ‘Smacked Down’ By Industry After 2015 ‘Project Greenlight’ Incident With Matt Damon

CEO of Gamechanger Films says she was stigmatized after her on-screen argument with Damon over diversity

Producer Effie Brown detailed the “huge” industry backlash she faced five years removed from her on-screen argument about diversity with Matt Damon on the series “Project Greenlight.”

In a column published in THR, Brown, who is now CEO of Gamechanger Films and is the chair of the Inclusion Advisory committee for the Academy Museum, said that she did not work for some time and was seen as difficult by her peers.

“After I did ‘Project Greenlight’ — and this is no secret — I suffered a huge backlash. I didn’t work for a while,” Brown said. “People didn’t want to work with me because I spoke truth to power. People who speak up are usually marginalized and pushed back, called difficult, confrontational, you name it. I spoke up and got summarily smacked back down. I did not get embraced with open arms, nor did it work in my favor … at first.”

Brown said she eventually got a call for a job offer from Lee Daniels, but even the studio at the time was hesitant to offer her a position until Daniels doubled down.

“That’s what often needs to happen, you need someone with power and the courage of their convictions to help. That’s what Lee did and so did my allies and Black Twitter — they had my back 1,000 percent,” Brown said. “It took five years to be released from that stigma.”

Brown had a viral moment back in 2015 on the reality show “Project Greenlight,” a competition series that showed first time directors fighting to get their films made. When she raised a concern about one of the project’s lack of diversity, Damon responded by saying that diversity is for “the casting of the film, not the casting of the show.”

Brown said that these microaggressions against people of color happen everywhere and still happen in Hollywood to this day. She said she now feels there is a multicultural “reckoning” about diversity in the industry and giving people of color a voice, and in looking back now she’s grateful that there were cameras there to call attention to the problems we see widely.

“Take Matt Damon out of it, this is happening every day. People just saw that one conflict, but there were others,” Brown said. “I was the creative producer in charge and yet, I was still viewed as something less than my title, experience and treated as such. I’m grateful to the producers, Magical Elves, who let that part of the story and the conflict stay in the series. I think they thought people would get it and hear how bad it can be when you’re the “lonely only” one in the room.”

Read Brown’s full column here.