In Starz’s competition series The Chair, two filmmakers are given the same script and the same budget—then challenged to make two different movies. YouTube star Shane Dawson is one of those directors. The trailer for his movie delivers just the sort of comedy his fans might expect, with sight gags aplenty. But Dawson also tells EW that he also tried moving away from his typical mode of comedy, using the feature film timeframe and budget to focus more on his characters.
Using a screenplay by Dan Schoffer titled How Soon is Now, Dawson’s take (which has been retitled Not Cool) follows a group of college students who return home for Thanksgiving. Dawson said that the film’s title comes from the experience he and many of his peers felt after leaving high school and realizing the rules of popularity don’t matter anymore. “The movie is about how important ‘being cool’ is when you’re in high school,” he said, “and the realization you have after you graduate that maybe it doesn’t matter that much anymore.”
After auditioning several actors, Dawson decided to cast himself in the main role of Scott because he understood the character on a deeper level. “Scott is obsessed with the past and can’t seem to move on with his life, which I have felt for the last few years on YouTube,” Dawson said. “And like Scott, I’m ready to take a plunge into something different and dive into the future head first.”
The film was shot on location in Pittsburgh, and Dawson had a $900,000 budget. Thanks to The Chair, he also had help from film experts and the chance to refine his work over a longer period of time—something Dawson hasn’t been able to do in his eight years of making video online. ”We had 20 days to shoot the movie, which was amazing, considering on YouTube you only have one or maybe two days max,” he said.
Not Cool will run against filmmaker Anna Martemucci’s project, Hollidaysburg, which Starz plans to release details on at a later date. Dawson has only seen “bits and pieces” of the project—not enough to fully evaluate it, he says—but he does know that Martemucci is taking a much more “realistic” tone. Both finished films will air on Starz and in theaters, with the winner of the $250,000 prize being determined by viewers’ digital voting and ticket sales.