While conversations about film revolve around directors, TV, it is often pointed out, is a writer’s medium, led by story and dialog more than visuals. But lately TV has seen an influx of name directors, indie and otherwise, coming in to helm episodes of shows. Even more interesting has been the growing trend for series to hire recognizable filmmakers to direct their pilots. While overseeing an episode once a series has started means working within a set framework with relatively little ability to put a personal stamp on things, getting to direct a pilot offers more freedom to determine the look of a show in a way that everyone after will follow. It’s also potentially lucrative, since it tends comes with an executive producer title. Here’s a look at who’s directing pilots in the upcoming 2013-2014 season — and these are on the big networks, not even looking to cable.
“About a Boy”: “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau helmed the pilot for NBC’s apocalyptic drama “Revolution,” and will head back to the network with the pilot for Jason Katims’ adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel, set for a midseason Tuesday slot.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”: After the massive blockbuster success of his take on “The Avengers,” Joss Whedon will continue to oversee a portion of the Marvel universe on the small screen with this superhero series led by Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, who also appeared and inconveniently died in the film. Whedon directed the pilot for the Tuesday night ABC series, also co-writing it with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.
“Almost Human”: Brad Anderson, the filmmaker behind “Happy Accidents” and “The Machinist,” has also directed a lot of television, including several episodes of “Boardwalk Empire,” “Fringe” and “Treme.” He directed the pilot for the J.J. Abrams’s Fox future cop series “Almost Human,” which comes from “Fringe” showrunner J. H. Wyman.
“Believe”: Alfonso Cuarón has “Gravity” due in theaters this year, but 2014 will see the NBC midseason premiere of “Believe,” his first US TV project, which he created and which J.J. Abrams is executive producing. Cuarón directed the pilot for the series, which is about a little girl with superpowers.
“Betrayal”: “Monster” director Patty Jenkins handled the pilot for this ABC Sunday night series about an affair between two married characters played by Stuart Townsend and Hannah Ware.
“The Blacklist”: “The Grey” filmmaker Joe Carnahan not only directed the pilot for NBC’s James Spader drama “The Blacklist,” he helmed the one for A&E’s upcoming Chloë Sevigny crime series “Those Who Kill.”
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”: Coming off their comedic remake of “21 Jump Street,” directing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller helmed the pilot for Fox’s Tuesday night cop comedy starring Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg.
“Crisis”: Phillip Noyce, the director of “Salt” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence” has dabbled in TV between big projects, his most recent instance being the pilot for NBC’s midseason conspiracy drama “Crisis,” starring Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulroney.
“The Goldbergs”: “King of Kong” director Seth Gordon has been alternating work on TV series like “Breaking In” and “The Office” with big screen efforts like “Horrible Bosses” and “Identity Thief.” He helmed the pilot for ABC’s Tuesday night ’80s-set family comedy “The Goldbergs.”
“Hostages”: Jeffrey Nachmanoff, of “Traitor,” directed several episodes of “Homeland” and the pilot for “Chicago Fire” before heading to CBS to helm the pilot for its Monday night Toni Collette/Dylan McDermott thriller.
“The Hundred”: Bharat Nalluri, of “Downtime” and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,” is directing the pilot for the CW’s midseason post-apocalyptic drama about 100 juvenile delinquents sent to an earth destroyed by nuclear war to determine if it can be re-colonizied.
“Lucky 7”: Scottish filmmaker Paul McGuigan, of “Gangster No. 1” and “Lucky Number Slevin,” has also been directing a lot of TV of late — he’s following up turns helming episodes of “Sherlock” and “Smash” with the pilot for ABC’s Tuesday night lottery winner drama “Lucky 7,” a remake of the UK series “The Syndicate.”
“The Michael J. Fox Show”: “Easy A”/”Friends With Benefits” director Will Gluck helmed the pilot for Michael J. Fox’s loosely autobiographical return to TV in a starring role — and Gluck’s light touch with smarter mainstream comedy make him seem like a good fit for the NBC series, which will tackle tougher subject matter than your average sitcom.
“Mind Games”: “Repo Men” director Miguel Sapochnik is helming the pilot for Kyle Killen’s latest series about a pair of brothers (Christian Slater and Steve Zahn) running a firm that uses psychology to influence behavior.
“Mixology”: The trailer didn’t look terribly promising, but maybe Larry Charles (a vet of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in addition to “Borat,” “Religulous” and “The Dictator”) can spin something interesting out of the pilot for “Mixology,” ABC’s midseason comedy set entirely in one night at a bar.
“Rake”: “Evil Dead” filmmaker Sam Raimi’s first time directing TV (a medium he’s worked in frequently as a producer) will be for the pilot for Fox’s midseason Thursday drama “Rake,” a remake of an Australian series starring Greg Kinnear as a brilliant mess of a lawyer.
“Reign”: Brad Silberling (“Moonlight Mile,” “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”) directed the pilot for the CW’s Thursday night about the early years of Mary, Queen of Scots (played by Adelaide Kane).
“Sleepy Hollow”: Len Wiseman (“Underworld,” “Total Recall”) first brought his big screen action expertise to the pilot for “Hawaii Five-O,” and more recently directed the pilot for Fox’s Monday night supernatural drama “Sleepy Hollow,” which will attempt to offer a modern adaptation of the classic headless horseman story.
“Trophy Wife”: “Pitch Perfect” director Jason Moore is handling the pilot for ABC’s Tuesday night Malin Akerman comedy.