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Issa Rae Empowers Aspiring Female Directors in Revamped 'Project Greenlight' Series

by Kyla Cruz

Image Credit: AM PR Group / Contributor / Getty Images

Issa Rae, the brilliant mind behind "Insecure," is on a mission to champion aspiring women directors and provide them with the support they need to thrive in the male-dominated film industry. Through the reboot series "Project Greenlight: A New Generation," which premiered on Max this month, Rae aims to showcase the immense talent of female filmmakers who have often been overlooked and underrepresented.

"Project Greenlight," initially launched in 2001 on HBO by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, centered around unproven filmmakers directing a feature-length movie. However, the series faced controversy and was canceled after a tumultuous fourth season, which included a heated discussion about diversity between Damon and producer Effie Brown.

Now, Rae has breathed new life into the series, focusing on the next generation of women directors who are given the opportunity to direct a full-length film. As a mentor in the series, alongside actor Kumail Nanjiani and director Gina Prince-Bythewood, Rae aims to break barriers and empower women to succeed in the competitive world of filmmaking.

Observing Greta Gerwig's tremendous success in directing the big-budget "Barbie" film, which broke opening weekend records for a film directed by a woman, Rae was inspired to create a platform for aspiring female directors. She believes that with proper resources and opportunities, women can deliver remarkable work that rivals their male counterparts.

The decision to revive "Project Greenlight" and focus on women directors was presented to Rae by Montrel McKay, President of Development & Production at her production company, Hoorae Media. After the idea to highlight first-time female directors was pitched to Max, the streaming service eagerly gave the green light to the project.

Out of 10 finalists, Meko Winbush, a talented writer-director with experience in trailers and short films, was selected to be featured in the 10-episode series. "Project Greenlight: A New Generation" provides an intimate look into the filmmaking process, showcasing the challenges faced by each team while guiding Winbush, who is a Black woman, in bringing her vision to life.

Prince-Bythewood, a renowned director known for films like "Love & Basketball" and "The Old Guard," emphasizes the importance of this reboot in highlighting female directors who were previously underrepresented in the original series. She recalls that the previous winners were predominantly "white men," and the absence of women or people of color in the running went unquestioned. This reboot, however, aligns more closely with the diverse reality of the industry.

Throughout the series, Winbush faces pressure and struggles to execute her vision within a limited timeframe. Despite initial reservations, Rae commends Winbush's ambitious spirit in creating a genre movie with a constrained budget and schedule. As a mentor, Prince-Bythewood provides valuable guidance, aiming to instill confidence and leadership qualities in her mentee, Winbush.

Rae sees the entire process as beneficial, even beyond the final outcome of Winbush's film. She hopes for a second season that will further introduce more female directors, including women of color, and provide them with a strong support system to thrive in their directorial journeys.

With the success of "Project Greenlight: A New Generation," the series stands as a testament to the importance of providing opportunities and platforms for women directors in an industry that has historically favored male talent.

Issa Rae's dedication to empowering women and diversifying the filmmaking landscape is a beacon of hope for aspiring female filmmakers everywhere. As this reboot continues to break barriers, it not only showcases the talent of women directors but also demonstrates the power of mentorship and support in shaping the future of filmmaking.


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