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How The Chair is trying to prevent a popularity contest for its $250,000 prize

How The Chair is trying to prevent a popularity contest for its $250,000 prize

Besides being an exceptional documentary reality series (and if you are not watching, fix that immediately), Starz’ The Chair also a contest. The two directors, Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci, are competing for $250,000, and voting is open until 12:59 p.m. Sunday.

So how do you have a fair competition between a director with 6,515 YouTube fans and one with 6,223,453? Or between one who has 3,182 Twitter followers and one who has 2,235,384?

This summer, executive producer Chris Moore told TV critics that social media success doesn’t necessarily translate to success as a filmmaker. “If it were as simple as whoever has 10 million fans on YouTube is going to turn into a massive filmmaker and all those people are going to go out and buy tickets or buy DVDs, the world would be a totally different place. So far, in all fairness to the YouTube people, none of them have translated into mainstream real success,” he said.

Still, obviously, even if Shane’s movie isn’t a success, his fans might still vote for him because they love him. However, Moore said that “the survey is designed … to weed out the people who are just voting for no reason, and it’s about the movies. So it’s going to be an algorithm–that much smarter people than me are working on–to weigh it in ways of what’s more important.”

Voting opened last weekend, and the process by which he’s trying to do that has mostly been revealed. While it’s not clear how the survey questions will be weighted, the survey itself doesn’t make voting quick and easy; this is not American Idol.

To start, voting requires registration, which requires a person’s full name, e-mail address, and zip code. The rules say:

“This is a survey designed to find out who made the best movie and who deserves the money to continue pursuing their career as a director of feature films. We have purposely made this survey difficult to sign up for and complete as we want only people who really want to participate to fill out the Final Survey.”

Completing that registration generates an automated e-mail message from Chris Moore which says, in part,

The only rule? You need to have seen both films. That’s right. Both films. Not only are you going to be asked to critique Not Cool and Hollidaysburg, but you’re also going to be asked about your knowledge of both films.

Your results will only be counted if you prove that you’ve seen both films.

In case you’re not noticing a trend, the link in the message leads to a SurveyMonkey survey that starts with a video of Chris Moore who says, in part,

“The most important thing … you have to watch both movies. It’s not a suggestion. You have to. We have random questions. You’re not going to have your friend be able to tell you what the answers are. … Please don’t continue if you haven’t watched both movies.”

Obviously, the show is trying to ensure that this isn’t just a popularity contest. Will that put Anna and Shane on a more even playing field? Perhaps, but considering reactions like this one (“About to watch @shanedawsons movie #NotCoolMovie and the other one that I won’t be voting for!”), it may just mean that superfans have a slightly higher hurdle to jump over than usual.

Maybe the process of watching both films–they’re both viewable online (Anna’s Hollidaysburg, Shane’s Not Cool)–and then being asked questions about them, will cause those superfans to change their allegiance?

Then again, social media following and a win is not necessarily a given. Just ask Frankie Grande, who didn’t even place third in Big Brother‘s popularity contest.

Update, Nov. 2: After watching both films, I took the survey. It’s long and asks detailed questions. First, there are seven quiz questions about both films; it seems as though the survey wouldn’t allow you to proceed if you get a certain number of questions wrong. The survey asks the same questions for each film, starting with how you rate the film overall. It then goes on to ask specific questions about the main actors’ performances and also things such as the dialogue, the characters, the set design, the costume design, the soundtrack, the editing, the cinematography, and the film’s tone.

What isn’t clear, again, is how the answers to these questions will be weighted to determine who wins the prize. But it’s a very comprehensive and thorough method of trying to determine whose film audience members liked the most.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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