'The Chair' producer Chris Moore on Shane, Anna and the finale
Starz's terrific reality series "The Chair" — in which two first-time filmmakers are picked to direct their own take on the same script — just concluded, with an hour looking at the premieres of both films and with the winner of the $250,000 prize being announced. I spoke with Chris Moore — the "Project Greenlight" alum who dreamed up the series and served as a backer and producer of both the show and the films — about the results of the contest, the transparency of the project, Zachary Quinto (whose production company helped fund both films) hating one movie so much that he took his name off it, and more, coming up just as soon as I identify all the TCA members shown on camera...
So, as pretty much everyone — with the possible exception of Chris Moore himself — figured going in, Shane Dawson's gross-out comedy "Not Cool" ended up beating Anna Martemucci's "Hollidaysburg" for the grand prize. When you're doing an online poll involving one contestant who has over 6 million YouTube followers, and one who... does not, it's going to be very hard to get a different result, even if Moore and company instituted safeguards that required knowledge of both films to make votes count. And that is, of course, where I started when I got on the phone with the always-talkative Moore.
Let's start with the results. I assumed going into the series that Shane was going to win, but I'm told the results were "close."
Chris Moore: It was closer than I think all of us (expected). And I'm one of the people who didn't think it would be that obvious, or I wouldn't have chosen the two options. I felt like the effort we put into making it hard to take the survey, the effort that we put in to creating questions to make sure you watched both movies, would make it a fair thing. I don't know how to answer that question, because I was not one of the people who thought Shane automatically would win. In fact, I thought there might be a backlash — which certainly, there was. I'm not really a believer that there's a lot of those YouTube fans who really travel. I think they usually stay on YouTube. I'm not surprised that Shane won, but he made a movie that panders to a larger audience. It's a broader comedy. I think the audience saw both movies and decided for whatever reason that Shane won. I don't think it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to win. He also could've made a dog shit movie.
Well, there's shit in the movie...
Chris Moore: That's true. It's not dog shit, though.
Can you tell me how close it was?
Chris Moore: We don't actually have real numbers yet. They're still tabulating the specifics of it. It's two surveys, so the way we balanced it was the average of the two surveys — who got the higher score. We know which surveys got the higher score, but that's not the way to tell how close it was, meaning which surveys were really close, and which weren't. Hopefully, I'll have all of the numbers by next week some time. But in general, it was closer in the sense that had all of his pre-existing fans showed up, it would've been a wipeout. And it was not a wipeout.
What impact do you think his success and the show in general is going to have for him, and for Anna, in terms of what they can do next in the business?
Chris Moore: I think there's two answers to the question, and I tried to get it across in the doc. You phrased it very specifically: "What's next for him in the business?" In the business, he's made a movie and she's made a movie. They have a resume thing to talk about, and they have people they know like me and Zachary Quinto and Neal Dodson and Josh Shader and Starz, who know them now and who will be part of their resume forever. Zach obviously has a strong point of view, and Neal, about Shane's movie. I think there are a lot of industry people who watch the show and understand what they're good at and what they're bad at, and are interested in meeting them and talking to them about what they're interested in doing next. I think both of them showed they can execute making a movie, so in the business, they've made themselves directors. People have opinions either way, but they've gone from being "I would like to direct my first movie" to "I am a young director in Hollywood." They both have agents and managers and PR people. They have a system to be in place to make that happen.
I think the other answer is what happened in the audience. They probably have more people wondering what their second movie is going to be than probably anyone else on the planet right now. It's very hard to get a lot of attention as a filmmaker early in their career. Like, "What's the next Wes Anderson movie going to be?" One of the things we've been researching was the guy who made "Beasts of the Southern Wild." That movie couldn't have gotten a better response, and you haven't seen another movie from that guy yet. I just wonder why, and would probably watch it if he made another one. But there's not a lot of young directors that I could name off the top of the head where I'd go, "Yeah, I want to see that guy's next movie." I'd certainly like to see Shane and Anna's next movie. I'd like to see what idea they chose, what story they decided to tell. I, obviously, having done all the "American Pie" movies, am probably much closer to Shane's sense of humor than some of the other producers we worked with on the show. But in my opinion, that's just a matter of taste.
Beyond opinions on his movie, there was a sense late in the season that Shane was shutting down any attempt at feedback, and any attempt to change his movie in any way that would make it the slightest bit more appealing to people beyond his — admittedly already large — pre-existing fanbase. Do you think that might be a hindrance to him, or will people just look at the raw numbers and not be concerned about that?
Chris Moore: It's a hard question. If Shane has a property that somebody thinks they can make a lot of money off of, Hollywood has a lot of whores. We're all whores. We want to make the most money for what we do. If Shane is just out trying to get hired on someone else's movie? Yeah, maybe they'll say they don't want to deal with this guy, and make the movie they want to make. That's sort of true of every director. But I would also say he said that in some of his most vulnerable moments, when he thought the movie was finished, and I've had that conversation with some of the sweetest directors, too. They sort of run out of steam at some point. I think it's also very well-known that some of the greatest and most successful directors of all time weren't easy people to work with. With that said, Shane was really easy to work with. I had a great time and would work together with him in a second. I think he is still deciding inside himself on whether his next project should be going after his same audience or whether he should try something else. But on this movie, he was trying to get that audience to come out, and he decided to dress up in drag, and he cast himself in the lead, and he did that kind of stuff. And all that is because the guy's got 6-8 million subscribers. That's pretty good!