Who'll Get To Sit In "The Chair"? Review

I think it's a cool idea.

Chris Moore, the producer of Good Will Hunting (1997) and many other major films, had an idea to make a television show following two directors who create a film from the same original script. In a world of many disgusting "reality" premises, this one promises to be genuinely interesting and informative of the creative process. And so, for the most part, The Chair (2014) delivers on that promise. They choose Shane Dawson, a YouTube grinder who makes daily, whacky videos for his 10 million subscribers, and Anna Martemucci, a screenwriter with whom the show's producers have made films in the past. So, the show brings a level of meta-realism in the two paths to the director's chair: popular band-wagoning and semi-justified favoritism. Incidentally, at the end of the series they "America" vote for their favorite and the winner gets $250,000.

If you're interested in interviews and behind-the-scenes featurettes on your DVDs and blu-rays, you're going to love The Chair. The whole series follows that model for ten hours and gives you much more insight into the process and the personalities involved. Chris Moore lines up the funding for both projects and that isn't easy. Dan Schoffer is the writer of the original script and tries to serve two masters with the rewrites and that is both difficult and humiliating. There are three additional producers that try to serve the creative desires of both directors (while also maintaining their own sense of taste and process). Then you add the different crews, actors, and meta-TV crew that captures everything, and that all makes for interesting television.

In one episode, Martemucci points out the massive conflict of interests at the center of the process. The same people that are making both films (a tough process on its own) are also producing a television program that feeds on conflict and complication. Thus, one might ask whether the show's preoccupation with Martemucci's struggles with confidence (and her male supporters' borderline-condescending submissiveness) is as justified by reality as the producers' perception of the perception of reality. That said, Martemucci's complexity and maturity are easily the most interesting non-technical aspect of the show. As a voyeur, it's a lot of fun to watch Shane take every criticism as a personal attack and translate it into the failure of his critic to "get it". But if you want the experiment to rest on its own, it's going to take something else.

Within twenty minutes of the show, I feel fairly certain that I'm going to hate Shane's movie and might like Anna's. The two have such distinct visions that the taste of the audience is going to have more impact on their preference than the technical or storytelling abilities of their directors. What really needs to happen is further seasons of The Chair that take on different genres and don't rely on clearly drama-baiting choices like picking an immature YouTube hit to make a feature film. The Chair lends itself to being categorized and labelled by those involved--the guys who brought you American Pie (1999) vs. the guys who brought you Margin Call (2011). I hope the next time, they can find two voices nearer the midpoint of those tastes where the little choices get more airtime than glory holes vs. quirky realism. But more than anything, I hope there's a next time.

Bonus features

Both resulting films: Hollidaysburg (2014) and Not Cool (2014)

"The Chair" is on sale February 17, 2015 and is not rated. Documentary. Directed by Tony Sacco. Starring Anna Martemucci.

Jun
12
2015
Jason Ratigan • Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.

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