HBO’s fourth season of Project Greenlight snagged headlines when it debuted back in September chiefly for the clashes between Matt Damon and Dear White People producer Effie Brown on diversity in filmmaking. But almost as fascinating has been the tense working relationship between Brown as producer and director Jason Mann, who not only swapped scripts to a story he wrote called The Leisure Class but also went behind his producer’s back to secure additional funding to shoot on 35mm film.

And in the last few months there’s been a lot of chatter about Mann’s frustrating demands early in the season and whether they signaled strong artistic convictions or petulant obliviousness. Now reviews for The Leisure Class, which debuted last night on HBO starring Ed Weeks (The Mindy Project) and Bridget Regan (Agent Carter, Jane the Virgin), have added the film to the pile of previous failed Project Greenlight endeavors. It’s clear now that whatever happened in preproduction or in the filming of The Leisure Class, the revival of Greenlight had in Jason Mann a character to mold into a reality show villain, and he’s getting the according amount of press.

But though Mann has made passing references to his early artistic endeavors, nobody has excavated his earliest work in Bay Area rock bands. (In the interest of full disclosure: I attended elementary and middle school in the same class as Mann’s younger brother.) Thankfully, through the magic of YouTube, remnants of those early bands still exist, so we dredged them up. Here’s a sampling of the early punk roots of Project Greenlight’s Jason Mann.

What Life Makes Us

Mann sang vocals in this loud, aggressive band while he was still a high school student in Burlingame, south of San Francisco. They were active until at least the end of November 2004, when they played a particularly raucous final show in Redwood City. Note the close quarters, and audience interaction, which Mann cited as the appeal of these genres in a Washington Post interview.

Optimus Prime

Even though he was a vocalist in What Life Makes Us, Mann is also an accomplished drummer. The future director sat behind the kit with his next band Optimus Prime, which had a bit more of a ska bent, even occasionally employing horn players onstage. Though there’s no trace of studio recordings online, the band did reunite for a party as recently as 2010.

The Burmese Crowd

By far the most professionally accomplished of Mann’s musical projects, The Burmese Crowd released a self-titled album in 2005 while Mann studied film at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. As opposed to the hardcore punk sound of What Life Makes Us, this band is a bit more in line with the straightforward pop/punk of a decade ago.

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The Punk Origins of Project Greenlight Director Jason Mann