Director titles movie after local town for reality competition series

Anna Martemucci has taken the small-town essence of Hollidaysburg, and its name, to the big screen.

The writer, actor and filmmaker, who lived in State College from age 8 to 20 and attended Penn State University, is one of two directors competing in the original documentary series “The Chair,” premiering on Starz in September.

Billed as a “filmmaking experiment,” the show created by Chris Moore follows Martemucci and Shane Dawson, best known for his popular YouTube comedy series, as they each go through the process of directing a feature film for the first time. Martemucci’s film is named “Hollidaysburg.” The directors are each given the same original screenplay, a budget of $600,000, a couple rules and a chance at winning $250,000. Viewers pick the winner through voting.

Moore, the executive producer of “Project Greenlight,” the Emmy-nominated documentary series on HBO, along with Before the Door Pictures founders: actor Zachary Quinto, Corey Moosa and Neal Dodson, and the script’s original producer Josh Shader, served as mentors to Martemucci and Dawson.

To make their films, each contestant had to follow the story’s premise, keep the main characters’ first names the same, and shoot in and around Pittsburgh, Martemucci, 32, said, speaking to the Mirror recently from her Los Angeles home.

The original screenplay Martemucci and Dawson got to work with follows freshmen who return home for their first Thanksgiving break from college and is titled “How Soon is Now,” written by Dan Schoffer, according to a Starz press release.

“Both directors were given creative leeway to develop their respective films using their own ingenuity and distinct experience,” it said. “Screenplay rewrites, the casting of actors, hiring of crew members – even the name of the film – was ultimately at the discretion of the directors and documented in the series.”

Martemucci changed the script setting from Pittsburgh to Hollidaysburg, she said.

“Just because I wanted to tell a small-town story and I knew Hollidaysburg a little bit, having grown up 40 minutes away. And I thought it was a great title for that premise, you know what I mean? It’s almost like too good to be true,” she said.

Altoona receives “some shout-outs” during the film, she said.

“I of course would have preferred to shoot more of the movie in the actual Hollidaysburg/Altoona area, but we couldn’t because we simply didn’t have enough money to split the shoot up,” she said. “However, we did do a special trip to get some footage in Hollidaysburg and Altoona so we wouldn’t be totally faking it. And we love it there. And we hope you guys like the movie.”

She and Dawson shot in Pittsburgh last winter, she said.

“With ‘Hollidaysburg,’ I really wanted to make a coming of age movie that was rooted in the truth of my experience of being a teenager in Central PA,” Martemucci said.

“I would say Central Pennsylvania and my experience of being a teenager there was my biggest inspiration while making ‘Hollidaysburg.’ I had to educate my co-writers about pierogies and grilled stickies and all that good stuff.”

Martemucci embraced Central PA through music in the film, too.

The songs “Words” and “Drinkin'” from the newly released album “Miles,” by duo Jmac and Junior, otherwise known as Jason McIntyre and Jason “Junior” Tutwiler,, are used in the film’s soundtrack.

McIntyre, a singer/songwriter who still lives in the State College area, said Martemucci, who attended State College Area High School with him, contacted him about music for the film.

“I was honored,” McIntyre said of how he felt about the songs getting featured. “And it’s opened up some other doors to some future opportunities, so we’re very appreciative.”

Martemucci dedicated the film to the memories of Peter Schneeman, who taught fiction writing at PSU, and Christian Goodall, her State College neighbor and classmate who helped her realize her love of film.

Martemucci majored in English and film at Penn State, where she took a screenwriting class and wrote “Born to Run,” the story of “a girl who runs on a treadmill and obsessively listens to Bruce Springsteen,” she said. A fellow student did a “great job” starring in and directing the short film, she said.

“Born to Run” is still shown to film students today, a fact Martemucci shared excitedly, having learned about it last year, and said she feels “so flattered” about.

Martemucci received a scholarship for screenwriting to attend New York University and finished her schooling there. She interned at Focus Features, and with writer, director and producer Wes Anderson.

Martemucci and husband, Victor Quinaz, founded Periods. Films, a short film series, in 2010. The Huffington Post, and others have featured the series found online at Periods. Films gave their careers a push, Martemucci said.

After about three years of making short films, Quinaz directed the company’s first feature film “Breakup at a Wedding.” Martemucci played a role in the romantic comedy she also co-wrote and co-produced, along with Quinaz and the partners of Before the Door Pictures.

Thhe movie was also how Moore caught wind of her ambitions, Martemucci said.

“This was my opportunity to direct a movie. It probably would have been quite a long time before I saw that opportunity again if I didn’t take this one. It was kind of like the price I had to pay was being filmed constantly for the show,” she said.

The experience was scary and crazy, she said.

“It’s even hard to explain to people. It takes like half an hour to get it all out because it’s such an involved, kind of wacky experience,” she said.

Martemucci found it overwhelming on the other side of the camera while she was getting her footing as a director and having personal relationships captured on film. Her husband helped write the film, two brother-in-laws and a good friend were producers.

“But at the end of the day it was a really positive thing and we’re all so thrilled that we got to make a movie together because that’s really our passion, that’s what we all want to do with our lives, so it was cool,” she said. “It was hard to trust the cameras, though, but it was cool.”

Molly Dondero, who has recently moved back to State College, was roommates with Martemucci at Penn State. The two have remained close friends.

“I’m just so excited for her and I think it’s a really cool concept, the show; and I know that the other director and she had very different visions, so it’ll be really interesting to see how it plays out,” Dondero said. “But, no matter what, I think it’s great for her to get that experience under her belt and I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll see of her in the directing world.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.