Sept. 04--PITTSBURGH -- Joking about the need to wear five layers of clothing, Los Angeles filmmaker Shane Dawson braces for a Siberian-like winter as he packs his bags and heads to Pittsburgh to compete in "The Chair."
Given last winter's persistent bone-chilling, Dawson's fears proved to be somewhat founded, and indeed, it's an icy-looking Pittsburgh that viewers coast-to-coast will see on Starz' reality show "The Chair," which debuts at 11 p.m. Saturday.
Though as always, the camera loves Pittsburgh, with the city's skyline, rivers and bridges radiating beauty and visual intrigue throughout the debut episode and a subsequent one of "The Chair" that Starz streamed for entertainment writers.
"It's a gorgeous, unique city," the show's executive producer Chris Moore ("Good Will Hunting" and "American Pie") says in the premiere during one of his several standalone interviews typically given while wearing a Point Park University hoodie perched beside the window of a high-rise office with a great view of the Golden Triangle.
Moore tells viewers Pittsburgh is a coveted spot to shoot movies because it can double for many other places, "but in and of itself, it's a really cinematic city."
One of the region's native movie stars, Green Tree'sZachary Quinto (Spock from "Star Trek") makes periodic appearances, sometimes by Skype, where he encourages Dawson's competitor, State College, Pa., filmmaker Anne Martemucci, in a contest to see who can make a better, Western Pennsylvania-set movie starting out with the same script and budget ($850,000). Both films will enjoy limited commercial release prior to airing on Starz, whose viewers will select the $250,000 prize winner.
Though it remains to be seen if viewers embrace "The Chair," which starts out at a slow, artsy pace and is heavy on movie industry talk. It's not as loud, splashy or trashy as reality shows in the Bravo-VH1-WE-E! universe.
Though if viewers show patience, they'll find a rooting allegiance between YouTube sensation Dawson, a frank-talking and broad-humored director, and the more mature and relaxed-humored Martemucci.
"The Chair" already has been an economic boost to Point Park University, whose alumni were paid $230,000 in salaries to work on the sets. More than 100 alumni and current students supported the series as interns, employees, and through class projects, with production offices located on the college's downtown campus.
"I'm pleased to report that Pittsburgh emerges the ultimate winner -- putting us front and center before millions of viewers as a leading regional production center," predicted Carl Kurlander, CEO of Steeltown Entertainment, an agency that supports Pittsburgh film and TV projects, and helped produce "The Chair."
Kurlander said "'The Chair' has sparked interest from "key entertainment industry decision-makers."
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