A native French speaker helped me understand this elegant phrase that has a clumsy English translation: “reculer pour mieux sauter,” or “to step back to better leap forward.”
Going “back to go forward” is something, as people of color, we know intimately. The smartest of us take that time to re-evaluate, regroup and win.
That is how I would describe award-winning producer Effie T. Brown, “reculer pour mieux sauter,” and I am jotting down notes from her “how to make it in Hollywood with your soul intact” playbook.
The busy producer (“Dear White People”) is currently in pre-production with her production company Duly Noted on the feature film adaption of the “Flyy Girl” book trilogy by Omar Tyree alongside Lionsgate/Codeblack Films’ Jeff Clanagan and Quincy Newell. Sanaa Lathan recently joined the creative team as executive producer and will star. The screenplay is by “Precious” scribe Geoffrey Fletcher.
Brown and I have been Facebook friends for many years. We finally met while I was covering the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival. That was June and we had just completed a phone interview about her role in HBO’s “Project Greenlight” months before the show premiered, and she divulged truthful tidbits about the upcoming show. Having been inside many closed doors in Hollywood where sexism, classism and racism is standard fare, I knew that everything Brown shared was 100 percent true. In reviewing the audio tapes, I decided to hold the story. You know the rest. If not, just Google and use “Matt Damon.”
My respect for Brown has recently undergone a seismic shift. I nearly exploded with pride at a panel she moderated at the L.A. Film Festival, which featured panelists Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Dope”), Dede Gardner (“Selma”), Gale Anne Hurd (“The Walking Dead”) and Nina Jacobson (“The Hunger Games” series).
Recently at a New York Film Festival panel (“New Hollywood?”) alongside Gamechanger Films’ Mynette Louie, producer Ira Deutchman, writer Mark Harris, AK Worldwide executive Susan Lewis, Rose McGowan and producer Lydia Dean Pilcher, Brown shared more about Damon and HBO’s “Project Greenlight.”
Brown has publicly stated that she is “grateful” for her experience on “Project Greenlight,” but she’s hurt that Damon hasn’t contacted her [at file date] to address the controversy.
“I haven’t heard a goddamned thing,” she shared. “Starting the show, he was one of the people I was super excited to be with. He’s so smart, very thoughtful, a super cool guy.”
Reality shows are tricky. They carve out the positive and leave the mean cut that makes controversy. To wit, Brown said that what made it on to the show was “the nice cut” of their heated discussion. Duly noted (pun intended) heated discussions are part of the creative process in the film industry. It’s like trash talk on the basketball court. In the end, we get the job done and we do it well.
In closing, the passionate and successful Brown summed it up like this: “To be real about it, I couldn’t go head-on against the biggest movie star in the world. I want to work again. I’m a ballsy chick, but he has the No. 1 movie in the country and will probably win an Oscar. I’m trying to pay my mortgage so Chase doesn’t take it. That’s where I’m coming from.”
Let’s add the simple fact that the award-winning film producer is good at her job. No, she’s great at her job, and nothing and no one can or will take that from her. Brown has had her “reculer pour mieux sauter,” and it’s all positive movement toward building her own Duly Noted empire.
The season finale of HBO’s “Project Greenlight” will air on HBO Nov. 5 at 8:30 p.m.