PITTSBURGH (AP) — Viewers of a new reality show will soon find out what happens when two fledgling directors are given $850,000 to direct their own movies from the same script.
“The Chair” debuts Sept. 6 on the cable network Starz and documents the making of both movies. The show will be followed shortly after by the theatrical and digital releases of the two movies at the center of the docuseries.
The 10-week series will air in one-hour installments each Saturday through mid-November. It’s the brainchild of Chris Moore, who produced “American Pie” and “Good Will Hunting.”
Both movies in the docuseries are based on a script by Dan Schoffer called “How Soon is Now.” They’re coming-of-age stories about friends who return home to western Pennsylvania during their first Thanksgiving break in college.
Shane Dawson’s adaptation, “Not Cool,” is a broader comedy similar in tone to “Superbad” and other teen films, he said. Dawson, a 26-year-old Los Angeles filmmaker known for his YouTube shorts, stars in his version.
The other version, “Hollidaysburg,” is a more “thoughtful, introspective and grounded” approach, said Anne Martemucci, a 32-year-old screenwriter and actress who makes films with her husband.
Her movie is named for a small town near State College, where Martemucci spent the first 20 years of her life.
“It was really important for me to make a teen movie that was based on my experiences,” Martemucci said. “It was just too good that I got to make a coming-of-age movie in the place where I came of age.”
Setting the movies in and around Pittsburgh wasn’t just a matter of artistic license. The project was based there because a key partner on the project is Pittsburgh-bred producer Zachary Quinto.
Quinto and partner Corey Moosa’s production company, “Before the Door,” have networked with the western Pennsylvania’s burgeoning film industry, including movie incubator Steeltown Entertainment and Point Park University.
More than 100 Point Park students and alumni worked on the series or one of the two movies or served as paid interns.
“You really can’t recreate that any more than you can recreate a play in the classroom,” said Ronald Lindblom, the vice president and artistic director of Point Park’s Conservatory of Performing Arts. “They spent several weeks, hands-on, in a day-to-day operation.”
The final two episodes will include audience reaction to the two movies, as well as behind-the-scenes information about the movies’ release and marketing.
While Moore expects the show will serve as a promo for the movies, and vice versa, he also expects some moviegoers will see both films without realizing they’re part of this grand experiment.
“They’ll be like, ‘Is that allowed? Are you allowed to release two movies with the same plot?'” Moore said.
Viewers can vote on which film they like better by completing an online survey. The winning director will get $250,000, but both say the experience and exposure were invaluable.
“My whole goal was just to get my first movie made — whether it was terrible or whether it was amazing,” Dawson said. “Luckily, the movie’s great.