YouTube superstar Shane Dawson is taking home $250,000 from Starz after his feature-length movie “Not Cool” won the vote in the premium cabler’s reality series “The Chair.”
“The Chair” concluded Saturday night with the reveal of Dawson as the winner. For the series, producers picked Dawson — who has some 12 million fans on YouTube across multiple channels — and filmmaker Anna Martemucci to each create movies based on the same script penned by Dan Schoffer. The series documented the production of each film, and invited viewers to vote on the winner.
But there’s a difference of opinion about whether Dawson’s film deserved the prize.
Starz declined to reveal the actual vote count. The network, which used SurveyMonkey to tabulate the vote, said reviewers gave Dawson’s “Not Cool” an average score of 63 out of 100, compared with 58 for Martemucci’s “Hollidaysburg.” About 39% of those who attempted to vote were disqualified because they failed to prove they had seen both movies by answering questions about key plot points; voting ended Nov. 2. The movies were released theatrically and via digital services.
Executive producer Chris Moore, who previously worked on HBO’s “Project Greenlight,” said the difference in the movies from Martemucci and Dawson boiled down to an “arthouse versus mainstream” sensibility, with the latter prevailing.
“I feel very confident the movies were judged as movies,” he said. “It’s a thinking man’s reality show. It’s complicated.”
But prior to Dawson being announced as the victor, Zachary Quinto (“Star Trek Into Darkness,” “American Horror Story: Asylum”), who was enlisted as producer for “The Chair,” expressed a preference for Martemucci’s film over Dawson’s version. He called Dawson’s movie “ultimately a vapid waste of time.”
“I’m glad Shane won — he set out to what he wanted to do,” Quinto said. “But it’s not my cup of tea. [Martemucci] made a better film, from a technical perspective… That, to me, is not subjective.”
Critics panned “Not Cool,” nominally a comedy. The movie is “so poorly executed and so unfunny that no one involved with it should ever be allowed to work in the movies again,” wrote the New York Times’ Neil Genzlingersept.
Said Dawson, “I made the movie I wanted to make.”
To Dawson, the audience vote in favor of his movie “was a validation… People are out of touch with what teenagers are interested in. I wasn’t making a movie for middle-aged people writing about TV.”
Exec producer Moore conceded that while Dawson is popular on YouTube, neither the TV series nor the movie attracted big audiences. “We didn’t break box-office records, we didn’t break ratings records,” Moore said. “Shane is a big star on YouTube but it didn’t travel well.”
Starting next Monday, Nov. 10, Starz plans to launch electronic sell-through purchases of the 10-episode season through Apple iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play and other digital platforms. According to Starz, it’s the earliest the premium cabler has made an original series available to purchase and view following its broadcast.
The two films documented on “The Chair” –- “Hollidaysburg” and “Not Cool” — have been available for rental and purchase for several weeks.
Dawson said he’s planning to stay on YouTube, although, he added, “I don’t think I’ll be doing daily videos forever.” He’s also thinking about his next movie, which he’d like to be a “teen horror comedy.”
“The biggest thing I learned,” he said, “is directors don’t make a lot of money on a movie.” Memo to Mr. Dawson: It depends on the contract you wrangle.
Both Dawson and Martemucci are repped by UTA.