Starz is embarking upon a new type of competitive documentary series with The Chair, an original filmmaking experiment that was first announced in April. The idea is that two first-time feature filmmakers will receive the same screenplay (a coming-of-age story which was originally sold to MTV, who unfortunately closed their movie department), location (four weeks of shooting in Pittsburgh), and budget ($940,000 each, of which $600,000 is discretionary for the directors), and the series will document how each approaches the project, from creation to marketing to reception of a feature-length movie.
The movies are due August 1st, and both directors (Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci, who had not met before today) report finishing sound and color at this point. There will be a limited theatrical release of the "R-rated or less" films (Dawson's Not Cool and Martemucci's Hollidaysburg) the first week of September before show premieres, and both will later air on Starz. Voting will be done across multiple platforms (beginning episode eight), and the audience determines who wins $250,000.
That's where things get tricky. Dawson's background is in YouTube comedy while Martemucci does independent films, as a writer, director, and filmmaker, so he has a significantly larger online following. On the other hand, Martemucci's formal education may trump his learn-as-you-go YouTube channels. Fortunately, both will receive mentorship from Zachary Quinto, Chris Moore, and Josh Shader (the script's original producer), so comparing how each approaches every step of the process should prove particularly interesting to anyone in a similar field.
Tune in for The Chair on Starz, where the first of ten episodes will air Saturday, September 6th, at 10pm ET/PT. Starz can be found DirecTV 527/528, DISH 350/351, FiOS 340/855, U-Verse 902/903, Xfinity 534, and on other carriers.