Point Park student Kevin Stiller operates the Steadicam on the set of Shane Dawson's film, part of The Chair docuseries.
The Point Park-produced documentary series, The Chair, made its debut on Sept. 6 on Starz as the channel’s first original unscripted series. The 10-episode series airs at 10 p.m. on Saturdays throughout fall 2014.
More than 100 Point Park students and alumni from a variety of majors supported the TV series and two feature films as interns, employees and through class projects. Additionally, production offices were located on Point Park University’s campus in Downtown Pittsburgh. In a recent article, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called The Chair “a love letter to Pittsburgh.”
“Point Park is proud to be a partner on The Chair, and we are excited for Starz viewers to see a finished product that employed a number of University students and alumni,” said President Paul Hennigan. “This project acts as an economic driver and incubator for original entertainment that boosts the local economy while giving our students the kind of experience they need to thrive in the real world.”
Behind the Scenes
“Point Park is extremely excited that Starz is distributing and airing The Chair. It is a terrific opportunity to see the University profiled, to see the ways the city was utilized for the films, and to see the efficient and hardworking crews in action,” said Nelson Chipman, associate professor of cinema arts and University liaison for the production. “We are excited that the start of the show coincided with the start of our new academic year. It’s thrilling to not only see Point Park and Pittsburgh profiled on the national stage, but also a great way to highlight all the work current students and alums have done on the project," he added.
The docuseries follows two up-and-coming directors, Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci, as they compete to make two separate feature films from the same script by Dan Schoffer. The plot is a coming-of-age comedy about a group of former high school classmates who return home from college for Thanksgiving.
Both directors have the same budget and, through multiplatform voting, the audience will determine which director will be awarded $250,000.
Dawson is currently one of the biggest stars on YouTube as a result of his comedy channel. He recently sold a half-hour sitcom based on his life to NBC. Martemucci is a writer, actress and producer, often assuming all three roles for a film. She’s best known for Before After (2010), Periods (2012) and Breakup at a Wedding (2013).
The Chair is produced by veteran Hollywood producer Chris Moore, and Pittsburgh native and renowned actor, Zachary Quinto, and his production company, Before The Door Pictures. “Working in Pittsburgh with the support of Point Park was an invaluable component in creating this show and these two films,” said Josh Shader, who produced the two films. “Watching the passion and drama that goes into making a feature film is something I believe will truly engage audiences this fall.”
“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,” Starz Managing Director Carmi Zlotnik said.
Moore has served as producer or executive producer on such films as Good Will Hunting, Glory Daze, Best Laid Plans, Joy Ride, American Pie, Waiting and Reindeer Games. He formed LivePlanet alongside Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Sean Bailey, and was the creator of Project Greenlight. Since 2005, Moore has directed or produced American Reunion, The Adjustment Bureau, The People Speak, The Last Resort, and Promised Land, which also was filmed in Pittsburgh. He is the co-founder and managing director of The Media Farm.
Quinto graduated from Central Catholic High School and Carnegie Mellon University. His television roles include Adam Kaufman on the Fox series 24 and Sylar on the science fiction series, Heroes. He also played Spock in the remake of Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek into the Darkness (2013), and recently starred on Broadway in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. His production company, Before the Door Pictures, produced the Academy Award-nominated film, Margin Call, in which Quinto also starred.
Jonathan Joseph (COPA ’08)
Line Producer, The Chair
A native of Phoenix who earned his degree in cinema and digital arts (with a producing concentration) in 2008, line producer Jonathan Joseph was involved in all three facets of The Chair Project: both narrative films and the documentary series. Working professionally with Point was exciting, he said. “It’s great that Point Park is creating opportunities for their graduates to work professionally in their field of study.” In addition to this project, Joseph started his own production company called Counting Sheep Productions and has been producing commercials and promotional mini-documentaries. He also produced a low budget indie feature called Progression, shot in Lawrenceville. Joseph said he appreciated Point Park’s “strong emphasis on practical, hands-on production. Being on set and having to actually produce a large amount of work while in school really helps to prepare you for real world production.”
Missy Haught (COPA ’09)
Intern Coordinator, The Chair
Melissa (Missy) Haught earned her degree in cinema and digital arts (with a producing concentration) in 2009, and supervised more than 30 students in her role as intern coordinator for The Chair. She previously worked in casting the films Unstoppable, The Next Three Days and Love and Other Drugs, and has worked on feature films with such studios as DreamWorks, Fox and Warner Brothers. Haught has done reality shows, commercials, pilots, television series work, features and shorts, and recently had the opportunity to be the wardrobe coordinator of the film Out of the Furnace. “When you are making films constantly, which you do at Point Park, there are a myriad of lessons being taught … Those lessons, which have become instincts, have come in handy on every single film I’ve worked on,” she said. “The cinema professors stress the importance of learning by doing. I am proud to come from a school that taught me how to make films, rather than just how to talk about them.”
Photos by Sarah Cunningham, Point Park photojournalism student
Additional reporting by Abby Mathieu (COM '14), Point Park journalism student
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University.