Lights, camera, action are the three infamous words many film nerds like myself have imagined saying on high budgeted Hollywood films. Sadly, most of us will never get the opportunity to live out such dreams, but are perfectly capable of putting out well-crafted short films to the cinephile world. But is money the most important element of the filmmaking process? The answer is no. It doesn’t take an expensive studio, top-notch writers and directors to make an excellent film. Many movies of my generation, such as Evil Dead didn’t have large budgets to make an imprint on the industry; they stuck to their guns and made movies that they enjoyed. Eventually, the rest of the world caught on, and the independent films are still being watched and made every day. The new Starz docu-series titled The Chair asks the audience this same question behind the eyes of two aspiring movie directors. Shane Dawson is a familiar face surfacing from the YouTube world with over 10 million followers with his eccentric and potty mouth sense of humor. On the other hand, Anna Martemucci is a former New York University writer turned director who wants to take her ideas to the big screen.
This isn’t another regurgitated reality series, but something special and contemporary. From the beginning of the show where these two individuals are taking a large leap into the directing chair, the audience becomes slowly addicted through the filmmaking journey. The series takes a meticulous and comprehensive approach in the docu-series format with in-depth interviews from the directors, writers, producers, and production companies. Zachary Quinto is a familiar face in this series and is no stranger to the filmmaking process with his production company, Before the Door. From professionals like Zachary Quinto and producer Chris Moore, the audience gets an in-depth analysis on the pros and cons of each director. As they tackle these cinematic hurdles each week, Shane and Anna start to wander off onto their own journey. The first part of the series is a lethargic experience as they pour coffee and discuss the business side of the film that includes the financing, casting, and the crew. But when the pieces of the puzzle start to get put together, Anna’s Hollidaysburg and Shane’s Not Cool are films that touch on the directors’ personalities and come through with the final product. In the frozen tundra and steel driven city of Pittsburg, each director’s adaptation of the given script, takes on a life of their own with a budget of 600,000. Since, each director had “final cut” which means they can take the overall concept and can make the story all their own, one-director triumphs from this more open creative process, where the other director doesn’t come through with a well-polished product. The Chair was an exquisite docu-series voyage that brings the audience along for the ride. I believe this show will open up the eyes of the skeptics and really show how much hard work, stress and pain go into making a film. Overall, this displays that making a movie isn’t just about creating a piece of art, but it’s also the joy ride from start to finish, where it can bring success to a film making team, and defeat others.
I got to sit down with the mastermind producer behind the Oscar award winning film, Good Will Hunting. And my favorite adolescent coming of age series, American Pie. Chris is the creator of this new Starz series and wanted to put together a show where two determined individuals make a film based off the same script. He is no stranger to the industry and has seen the shift of the filmmaking process over the past decade with the use of technology and the eruption of the internet. From watching The Chair series and viewing the Chris Moore interviews, you can tell he is a focused and talented writer/producer that knows how to make a superb film. As we discussed this specific series, Chris shared some of his thoughts about the movie business, and how using an original docu-series premise can reach a broader audience. The overall goal is to reach an audience that is not overall familiar with independent films, but also show them how an individual can take a concept, and make it into a world of their own. It was my pleasure to pick Chris’s brain and get his overall thoughts on making a movie and what it takes to make it in the film industry today.
Nerdlocker (NL): How did you get involved with this project?
Chris Moore (CM): I wanted to do something like this and people never get the chance to see the storytelling process, and the decisions that go into the movies they watch. We wanted to put two directors together with the same underlying material, so people can see how many decisions have to be made. The tone, wardrobe, setting, cast, and it really affects the movie. We have two wildly different versions of the movie. For me, it was really exciting, and that we pull it off.
NL: From the success of Project Greenlight, how does “The Chair” differ, and was it a more complicated process putting this reality show together compared to PG?
CM: They were both very complicated and different concepts. The idea here is to get two struggling directors who are facing creative struggles with lack of money and starting with a group of characters from an original script. So, in some ways, it’s very difficult because had to document two films being made, compared to Project Greenlight, which was one movie. By definition, that makes it intent, but the other thing was the editing of the show, make people realize who these directors are going through in a comparative way. As the audience, you want to see the struggles of making a movie and when seeing the eyes of two people, it’s a complicated story telling journey.
NL: This show focuses on two up and coming directors, the film making process with the identical screenplay, How Soon Is Now. Do you think this made the competition more difficult?
CM: It depends on what your goal of the competition is. The irony of the show was we weren’t sure if wanted to just document the process or we could make it a competition and throw in a prize. All of us in the entertainment business are at the mercy of the consumer. We all have to go out there and figure out how to get it done. We wanted to also show in The Chair how hard it is for people to see your movie in 2015. There is a huge difference in movie making now compared to 2005, with so much content hitting the internet with people putting out YouTube videos each day. The point is you don’t have to make a movie, but you have to think about the marketing, the demographic, the script, the posters, etc. In this case, where it’s an independent film with no name actors, how are you going to get that film out to the audience? I think that part was utilized well in the last few episodes of this show and to me; the contest was another way to get people’s attention to see these independent films. They are both wonderful movies and a great viewing experience. We are excited to put out the box set where you can see all that happens and the final product, which are the two films directed by Anna and Shane. One of the best parts of the film making process is to learn about it and see it.
NL: I read an article on the Variety website, where you stated the two films were different in their execution. It was an Arthouse vs mainstream film. What did you mean by that statement?
CM: I think what we are given and talking about is between the filmmakers and the audience. Genres were created so you can direct certain audiences to the feature film for horror, action, comedy, etc. Under horror, there is slasher, found footage, etc and the point is that we are making a coming of age rated R comedies. The difference between the two films, Anna’s “Hollidaysburg” which is the arthouse film I was talking about in the Variety article. Which means it’s thoughtful, less grotesque, it’s more “Perks of Being A Wallflower” compared to “American Pie.” On the other hand, Shane’s film “Not Cool” was on the opposite side of the spectrum, which is broader, and over the top. And the show starts out with the same script, but evolves into two completely different films. When you have the coming of age R Rated comedy, both of these films fit that description, and you look on-line under menu’s that have a million genres. I wanted to clarify with the audience on what genre this was focused on and what to expect.
NL: You have been in the film industry for over 25 years; do you think the power of technology has made the film making process less complicated?
CM: You can make and tell more stories with a cheaper CGI budget. There was a movie at Sundance Film Festival called “Tangerine” that was made solely on an iPhone. The technical ability to go out and make a film or TV series without heavy amounts of editing and effects is a liberating time in the industry. People can go out and tell their story for 80,000 compared to thirty million. There is a flip side, which is equally hard to manage, there were 3,000 movies submitted to the MPAA to get ratings. The MPAA doesn’t rate a movie unless it is at a minimum of a million dollars, so you are talking 5,000 entries last year all together. So how do you get a movie to the general public with a competition like this? When you have that many movies coming out in a year, it’s all about marketing, distribution, and grabbing the audience’s attention. Years ago, There were more barriers in entry, so the fact that movie was made got attention from the get go. Now, you probably know five guys making movies that didn’t need Paramount to fund it. It’s a whole new ballgame now where you can get your friends together and put together a short film in a few weeks. I am looking at the nerdlocker site right now and you pick things you want to review, correct? There are two hundred other movies you can be reviewing, but you are choosing The Chair, and are grateful you want to talk about it with me. You have to put up big movies on the site and the smaller films that we are all fighting to get attention for. I think that is the change, you can make more content, but the business aspect is a nightmare because you fight to get the money back you had invested. We don’t make movies for know one to watch them; we make movies so the audience can enjoy the storytelling and adventure.
NL: The STARZ network picked up this documentary series. Were other networks interested in this show like HBO or Showtime?
CM: Well we never actually got that far, the STARZ network really liked the idea and I made a deal with them to broadcast the first season.
NL: Do you think this reality show depicted the filmmaking process and made the audience aware of how much work and stress goes into a feature film?
CM: I do, I think we captured how hard it is to make a film, and also how important it is. It’s very personal to go out and make a movie that you put your heart and soul into it.
NL: Were you satisfied with the final outcome of The Chair?
CM: Absolutely! Everyone from the directors, to the cast, producers, writers, etc… all came together for two excellent movies that I am very proud to be a part of.
Thanks for your time Chris!
The Chair was released on DVD and VOD on February 17th.
Out of 5 Nerd Skulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 3.5 / Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3.5
OVERALL: 4 out of 5 Nerd Skulls
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