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Project Dysfunction

As much as I detest reality TV, I have to admit that “Project Greenlight” became a guilty pleasure. The HBO series chronicled the making of an independent film by first-time filmmakers chosen by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Although it was easy to dismiss as a blatant promotion for the movie, “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” which opened on the heels of the series finale, the show did provide a brutal and riveting glimpse into how people work together — or more often don’t.

As much as I detest reality TV, I have to admit that “Project Greenlight” became a guilty pleasure. The HBO series chronicled the making of an independent film by first-time filmmakers chosen by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Although it was easy to dismiss as a blatant promotion for the movie, “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” which opened on the heels of the series finale, the show did provide a brutal and riveting glimpse into how people work together — or more often don’t.

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This was an anatomy of the ultimate dysfunctional project team, with characters as unlikable as they were recognizable: the arrogant, passive-aggressive directing team of Kyle and Efram, who proved to be rather skilled actors themselves whenever they appeared to be listening to others’ ideas; the disillusioned Midwestern screenwriter Erica, who could barely bring herself to watch what the directors did to her coming-of-age story; and the world-weary producer Chris, who teaches the newbies the hard lessons of Hollywood (lesson No. 1: the only audience that really matters is the studio’s marketing department).

As Hank Stuever wrote in Saturday’s Washington Post, “Nearly everyone has worked for a Kyle. Or an Efram….These are complicated, micro-managerial babies, with Banana Republic wardrobes. These are the assistant vice presidents and supervisors who go behind colleagues and higher-ups, yet their subterfuge is always pure in intention – coming from a visionary, renegade mind-set.”

If Kyle and Efram’s creation is as bad as critics claim (“Gigli” is Oscar-worthy by comparison), I’ll be surprised if HBO gives this revealing series the green light again.

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About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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