Starz Upcoming Reality Competition Focuses on First-Time Filmmakers
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Project Greenlight (2001-2005) was a window on what happens when first-time filmmakers are given the budget, support and time to make the movie of their dreams. Starz' new show The Chair, which premieres on September 6, turns it into a competition. The first season features one woman, one man, one screenplay and a roller-coaster of artistic interpretation as each contestant sets out to make two very different movies.
There's actually a throughline between the two shows in executive producer Chris Moore, who originally worked with Affleck and Damon and this time teamed up with actor Zachary Quinto and his production company, Before the Door Pictures (All Is Lost, Margin Call), to support the two productions featured in the show.
Contestant Shane Dawson is a Los Angeles resident already comfortable in front of the camera after launching a successful YouTube channel with a following in the millions (he's a ringer for Australian comedian Chris Lilley, treading territory similar to Lilley's Ja'mie: Private School Girl). His competitor, Anna Martemucci, is also an actor/writer, the product of an NYU film school education and an East Coast familiarity with the independent film business.
Polished documentary-style interviews and straightforward production video are liberally mixed with zany POV cams in moments of crisis. There's also enough agita and self doubt to keep potential train wrecks looming around the next corner, though (SPOILER ALERT) IMDb-dependents can easily cut to the chase by looking up each contestant's recent production credits online. (Hint: start with screenwriter Dan Schoffer and connect the dots.)
Although the premise is predictable, pitting the YouTube generation against film-school purists, finishing a film of any kind has its own rewards. As Moore says, the real point of the show is to explain the process a filmmaker goes through to make something worthwhile.
The Chair's premiere on September 6 is at 11 pm — late enough for film-watching and filmmaking types to be back in front of their TV sets. Check out the trailer above.