Chris Moore, the executive producer of Oscar-winner Good Will Hunting and HBO’s Project Greenlight, is back with a new filmmaking competition series with a twist. The Chair, which Starz has ordered as its first original unscripted series for 10 episodes to air in fall 2014, follows two directors as they take their first feature film to the big screen. The catch: Each director is provided with the exact same screenplay to transform into his or her own distinct movie.
Both finished films will air on Starz and in theaters, with the winner of the $250,000 prize being determined by viewers’ digital voting and ticket sales. “It’s a popularity contest. It’s just like every movie we make as producers — at the end of the day we are judged. It’s a fascinating moment in time right now to really figure out what the audience cares about,” Moore told EW, pointing to initiatives like Kickstarter and the power of social media.
“We are thrilled to be teaming up with Chris Moore on The Chair, a truly unique and compelling project that gives viewers an inside look at the filmmaking process and allows them to weigh in on the final product and see how creative minds can interpret the same material in different ways,” Carmi Zlotnik, managing director of Starz, said in a statement.
The movies, which each have a $900,000 budget, were adapted from the screenplay How Soon Is Now, “a coming-of-age comedy that chronicles the first homecoming on Thanksgiving weekend by a handful of college freshmen who are fumbling towards adulthood.” The script was written by Dan Schoffer and produced by Josh Shader, with the films shot in Pittsburgh. “It had to be a genre people are used to watching,” Moore said. “Every human on earth has seen at least one coming-of-age movie.”
But they will not be films you can take the kids to see. Moore said both movies are rated R and feature nude scenes, which posed a challenge for the directors, who had trouble finding people willing to shed their clothes. “That’s the part what makes it really interesting. They run up against similar things and handle it very differently and solve it very differently,” Moore said.
The directors — YouTube star Shane Dawson and writer, actor, and filmmaker Anna Martemucci — were chosen from a batch of 15 to compete and will be solely responsible for the casting, all rewrites, hiring crew, and naming the film. Both films will be shot using locations in the exact same city, though Moore said the two have had very minimal contact during the process.
Anna and Shane could not be more different (he is a digital star and she a classically trained NYU grad), according to Moore. “It’s possible people won’t even know they started with the same script,” he said.
Asked if the project contains any guest spots from Hollywood stars or Project Greenlight alums Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Moore wouldn’t comment. But actor Zachary Quinto and his production company Before the Door Pictures play a significant role in the film and the docuseries.
Because they are still shooting, Moore couldn’t quite pinpoint how prevalent his role will be, but don’t count on him being the breakout star he was in Project Greenlight. “In Greenlight, I became a character, I guess because I was character. I was embarrassed by it then, and I’m sure I’ll be embarrassed by it now,” Moore said. His persona was such a fan favorite that Ben Affleck’s video impersonations of Moore went viral.
Here’s Moore in action from Project Greenlight: