I was minding my own business one Saturday night, flipping channels, wondering if I would ever have a love life – or any kind of life – again, when I found a show called Outlander on the Starz channel. But this isn’t about that. This is about the promos I started seeing for something called The Chair. Two first-time directors, working from the same script, get to direct a feature-length film and get final cut, which apparently is a really big deal. Then the films are released and the winner is judged by ticket sales, reviews and test screens. The show The Chair would be the documentary made of the entire process by both directors.
The two directors were Anna Martemucci and Shane Dawson. To be fair, I have heard of Dawson. Last year, a friend (an under 25 friend) gave me a link to one of his Halloween videos. It wasn’t really my thing, but it was okay. What struck me at the time was it was the kind of humor kids would love – that becomes important later.
When I realized Dawson was one of the directors and that I had heard of him, I got excited because I thought that it was a chance for a young kid to build on the audience he already had and to take a giant leap forward in his career.
Then I started watching the documentary The Chair and got hooked. First, Anna Martemucci is gorgeous. She’s also smart, talented, funny and married to a man who is equally smart, talented and funny. Damn it. Anyway, it was obvious from the first show that the two movies would be completely different and I was really interested in the creative process of both directors. Shane is not as gorgeous as Anna (sorry, Shane) but he is driven and focused and talented.
Finally, the movies came out (about 5 weeks before I was even aware they were available) and I watched them both on On Demand. (You can find them both on iTunes or On Demand or Hulu (I think). iTunes links at the end)
The movies are completely different. I mean, totally different. Only the characters names and some basic plot points are the same. Both movies have some issues – but hey, they are indie films that were made for about $600,000, there are going to be a few snags.
Because the films had such a different tone and different feel, I thought there was an obvious, clear winner. I’ve been wrong before, but I don’t know that I have ever been quite so disappointed in an outcome that really didn’t affect my life.
Remember when I said Dawson’s humor was the kind of humor kids would love? Turns out, he has millions of youtube fans and they all showed up for his premiere. He killed the box office. There was also a survey for viewers who watched both movies online or on Starz. Apparently his fans showed up there, too. The critics weighed in – Anna’s film got good reviews and Shane’s film … um … didn’t. One reviewer said anyone involved in any way in making or allowing Shane’s film to be made should never be allowed to work in the industry again. I happen to agree with that.
I won’t keep you in suspense any longer – Shane’s fans propelled him to the win, to $250,000 and to the financial ability to continue to make his tween fangirls happy with more steaming piles of shit – literally.
Throughout the series I saw producers offering Shane insight and help which he consistently said he was open to and then ignored. I watched the same producers offer Anna insight and help, which she used to make her movie better.
Today, Dawson came out and complained that he was treated unfairly. No. He got honest feedback from producers and he ignored it. He made a 90 minute cut of one of his videos, not a movie that had any kind of message – even a message of ‘go have fun’. I lost respect for him with each episode of The Chair when he devolved into a petulant teenager, who wouldn’t even go in the theater to listen to feedback from his test screen audience.
I’m old enough to know that all things even out in the end. What goes around does indeed come around. So I know that I will hear Anna Martemucci’s name again – as a director, as a writer and an actress. I am sure I will hear Shane Dawson’s name again as well – as a youtuber who once won a film competition but missed the point of the experiment.
Not Cool by Shane Dawson
Hollidaysburg by Anna Martemucci