New Pittsburgh-filmed reality series will focus on film directors
What if Orson Welles had directed “Gone With the Wind” instead of Victor Fleming? Frankly, my dear, Hollywood producer Chris Moore gives a damn.
Moore plans to answer that question, sort of, through a Pittsburgh-based reality TV series called “The Chair” that he's producing along with home-grown producer Zachary Quinto and Quinto's partner, Corey Moosa.
Moore, who produced “American Pie” and more recently “Promised Land,” a drama starring Matt Damon that looks critically at the gas-drilling boom in Pennsylvania, said he got the idea when he took over production of another Damon movie, “Good Will Hunting,” released in 1997. Mel Gibson was originally set to make the picture, something Moore believes would have resulted in quite a different movie.
Fascinated by that “What if?” scenario, Moore and the others are giving two little-known directors about $850,000 each to produce a theatrical film from the same script. The production process of both films will be chronicled in the 10-week series that Moore hopes will air this fall on a still-to-be-determined pay-cable TV movie channel.
“I think it would be really cool, and it's fascinating to me, this idea of what happens when two different directors set out to make the same movie,” Moore said Jan. 13. “The Chair” is being shot in Pittsburgh because Moore and the “Before the Door” production company owned by Quinto and Moosa have developed a relationship with the local film industry — especially Steeltown Entertainment, which facilitates Pittsburgh-area movie projects, and Point Park University. The private liberal-arts school will place several of its students in production internships with “The Chair” or one of the movies being filmed simultaneously as part of the project.
“This project is bringing in, in essence, two film crews and one television crew,” said Nelson Chipman, chairman of Point Park's film department. “So, it's like the equivalent of bringing in three shooting crews at the same time.”
Although production begins this month, much of where and how “The Chair” ends up remains to be seen.
The producers are still negotiating a deal to have the show air, ideally in one-hour weekly episodes from about Labor Day through Thanksgiving. That timing is key because, though the movies don't have working titles, both will be based on the same coming-of-age script — about a group of Pittsburgh high-school graduates, some of whom go off to college, and their first Thanksgiving break returning home.
The movies are being directed by Shane Dawson of Los Angeles and Anna Martemucci, a writer and actress from State College, whose most recent project was “Breakup at a Wedding” an independent film produced by Quinto from a script she wrote.
“Shane has quite a YouTube following, so I asked him to read the script. It's a natural way for him to get to direct his first movie,” Moore said.
If all goes as planned, the movies and nearly all of the television series will be in the can by July. The movies will both be released theatrically — also subject to still-pending deals — while the television series airs, with some kind of finale in which audience members will vote for their favorite of the two.
“I have two larger goals in the project,” Moore said. “One, I think it's a fun thing, and I'd like to do it every year, and I'd like to launch a couple of director's careers.”
Joe Mandak is a staff writer for the Associated Press.