It used to be that the gap between film production and television production was so vast that the two worlds might as well exist in separate vacuums. Whether it be actors, writers, or directors, it was once possible to remain in one or the other for an entire career. But while film was once considered the top-tier reservoir for creative talent, TV is quickly becoming the go-to place for filmmakers to experience creative freedom not often granted in movies. When you look at the recent shifts in power, it seems the revolution is only getting started. Here’s a list of seven A-list film directors who have recently dived head first into TV.
1. Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh will direct all 10 episodes of The Knick, one of the most highly anticipated new TV shows, which will premiere on Cinemax on August 8. Taking place in New York City during the early part of the 20th century, The Knick is medical drama about the lives of surgeons, nurses, and support staff at the Knickerbocker Hospital, founded in Manhattan in 1862. The series stars Clive Owen as John W. Thackery, one of the hospital’s many doctors who were pushing the boundaries of medicine during a time without the aid of antibiotics.
In many ways, the outspoken filmmaker’s decision to pursue TV says the most about the medium’s current creative landscape. After announcing that he was retiring from film directing at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Soderbergh announced the next day that he would be teaming up with Owen to make The Knick. Considering how vocal Soderbergh has been about the mounting problems in the feature film world, his decision to immediately shift his focus to TV was seen as an endorsement that it was television, not film, that is now the ideal place for creative work.
And Soderbergh’s not done, either. While it was believed that Soderbergh was ready to retire from directing altogether, it’s become obvious that when he said he was retiring from “film directing,” he meant it literally. Starz has just ordered a 13-episode anthology series based on Soderbergh’s 2009 film The Girlfriend Experience that, like the film, will focus on the world of high-end escorts. While Soderbergh is reportedly not set to write or direct, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him pop in when the series gets going.