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15 Filmmakers At The Forefront Of The New TV Revolution

15 Filmmakers At The Forefront Of The New TV Revolution

It’s been a quiet sort of revolution, but it has been televised. Over the past couple of years, anyone watching carefully will have noticed a distinct phenomenon — not only are we living through the much-vaunted new “Golden Age” of television, but as both a symptom and a cause of that marked uptick in quality broadcast programming, we’ve seen a lot of our big-name feature filmmakers migrate to the cinema’s small-screen baby sister. The latest to announce a TV project is Jason Reitman, perhaps licking his wounds after the murderous reviews for “Men, Women and Children” (here’s our slightly less poisonous take), but the days of such a shift necessarily connoting a retreat are over. With established, hugely respected directors like Steven Soderbergh and Jane Campion turning in TV work that’s career-best or thereabouts, the debate about TV vs. Film quality is simply old hat. Filmmakers, and audiences, have moved on — it’s time for commentators and critics to do the same.

In actuality, the most dramatic thing to have happened hasn’t so much been about medium, nor about the size of the screen on which we watch our fictions (though obviously the economists among us are fascinated by what the shift means in terms of revenue streams and the impact on the already rather asthmatic studio system). After all, since the dawn of TV syndication and the videocassette, for every film watched in a movie theater, hundreds, maybe thousands, have been watched on a screen measured in inches, not feet. And the rise of streaming services and downloading (and attendant piracy) means that not all those screens are even TV screens anymore — can it be too long before, say, Nokia gets into the original programming game, optimizing their productions for consumption via their latest smartphone platform? No, the real revolution has been a lot more primal — it’s in how we consume narrative, and what we expect from the stories we watch.

The two-hour-long, three-act feature film is not dead (the sky falls not!), but it is being challenged for primacy of influence over that part of our brains that craves story. The rise of binge-watching, and the canny distribution models from the likes of Netflix and Amazon that take that impulse into account, mean that we can demand more from stories than before, literally more — more minutes, more characters, more scenes, more twists, more surprises. We can watch Walter White, in a couple of episodes, experience an arc that could have been fodder for a whole feature film, and ask “What next?” “What happened then?” “Yes, and?” and expect a comprehensive reply. TV’s long-form narrative allows us to stave off the dread The End for a lot, lot longer. In fact, if it is kind of the purpose of a film to end, it has to date been kind of the purpose of the TV show not to, to live on and on and on, endlessly renewed for another season, endlessly playing out in parallel to our own lives. There’s something sinister in how seductive that level of escapism can be.

Which is why, as movie folk first, we’re glad for the next phase of evolution. As much as long-form TV storytelling is affecting the film industry, film has changed TV. Not only has recent quality TV borrowed the aesthetics, resources, and personnel traditionally reserved for feature filmmaking, but it has imported one massively important idea: that stories have to end. And so we’ve had shows like “True Detective” and “Fargo choose to treat each season as a self-contained narrative, but even outside those examples, there is a sense that even the very best TV shows are going to be around for maybe five or six seasons, after which, whether with glorious fireworks or a sad trombone, they end. With the sense that we are building toward something, albeit over the course of ten, 20, 50 hours, and not simply trapped in a never-ending zero-sum game, these prestige programs can truly lay claim to being long-form narrative as opposed to “mere” episodic TV shows. So perhaps what we’re living through is not a “Golden Age of TV,” but a “Golden Age of Narrative,” in which stories (by which we mean fictions that have a beginning, middle and an end) can exist in other formats and lengths than solely the two-hour feature.

And of course our finest filmmakers are going to be attracted to a canvas that allows them to do what they have always done, just more. With that in mind, we’ve looked at 15 examples of more-or-less auteur film directors who’ve started to work in TV, and how successful their transitions have been. 1/13/15 Update: Woody Allen is just the latest auteur to jump into the world of television with Amazon studios.

David Fincher

Best Known Film: Oh, you know, all of them — here’s our recent retrospective if you need a refresher.

TV Project: House of Cards” (2013) for Netflix & the upcoming “Utopia” for HBO (see below)

What Is The Show About? Only the second ever Netflix original series (the first being 2012’s “Lilyhammer”), it follows Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a perfectly corrupt politician jockeying for power, alongside his lobbyist wife (Robin Wright) in the nation’s capital.

Verdict: Fincher only directed the first two episodes of the first (superior) season of “House of Cards,” before handing over directorial reins to the likes of James Foley, Carl Franklin and Joel Schumacher. But while the acerbic dialogue and twisty plotlines are of a style set by series creator Beau Willimon, in those two episodes Fincher did place his indelible mark on the show’s look and feel. His clean, modernist lines abound, from kitchen surfaces to Spacey’s tailoring to Wright’s cheekbones, as does his steely palette. And Fincher’s clinical visual elegance, mimicked by those subsequent directors, works to ground the show — similarly in his movie career he’s often taken potboilery material and shot it with such understated gloss that it’s like he dips the whole thing in Teflon, and suspension of disbelief issues glance off it (“Gone Girl” is a good example of that). Season 2, further adrift from Fincher’s episodes, has started to flounder though.

Steven Soderbergh

Best Known Film: Take your pickhere’s our retrospective.

TV Project: “The Knick” for Cinemax

What Is The Show About? A portrait of the personal and professional lives of the staff of the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City in the early years of the 20th century, centering on pioneering surgeon Thackery (Clive Owen), as professionally visionary as he is personally compromised.

Verdict: Just fucking wow. If we had worried that Soderbergh’s “retirement” might mean curtains for his storytelling altogether “The Knick” came along not just to lay those fears to rest, but to suggest that Soderbergh, ever one of our favorite directors, may actually be making his masterpiece. Richly evoked, stunningly well-shot (especially impressive considering Soderbergh not only directed all ten episodes of the first season, but acted as his own DP and editor to boot), immaculately performed, especially by a towering Clive Owen who has basically been looking for this role all his life, and scored to anachronistic perfection by Cliff Martinez’ buzzy, scuzzy electronica, “The Knick” is definitively the best thing on TV right now, and if it continues in this vein, will make a serious bid for the all-time hall of fame. Epic, sprawling, and grandiose, but also minutely detailed and off-kilter, every episode is guaranteed to feature at least one sequence that will make your jaw drop with the sheer expressive power of Soderbergh’s camerawork. Amid the blood and butchery of the early years of surgical science, Soderbergh has never seemed more in command of every single aspect of his craft, and the results are dazzling.

David Lynch

Best Known Film: “The Elephant Man” (1980), “Blue Velvet” (1986), “Mulholland Drive” (1999)

TV Project: Twin Peaks” (1989) for ABC and (2016) for Showtime

What Is The Show About? A deconstructed soapish thriller in which an FBI agent’s search for the killer of a young girl in a logging town uncovers a complex, mystifying, mystical web of conspiracy and depravity, threaded together with the logic of a fever dream.

Verdict: David Lynch does everything differently. He’s not just an early pioneer of the auteur-goes-to-TV craze, but one of its latest, with the news that he’ll be returning to direct all episodes of the 25-years-later return of “Twin Peaks.” And there’s no two ways about it, “Twin Peaks” simply revolutionized television. It’s hard to believe we’d have our current Golden Age if Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost had not broken ground with this deeply bizarre, fucked up murder mystery. Of course Lynch himself was hands-on only sporadically, directing just six of the 30 episodes, while Frost served as showrunner, but the premise, characters, and plot are distinctly Lynchian, obeying uncanny, Escher-like laws of logic that seem to come naturally to Lynch, but remain fascinatingly arcane to the rest of us.

Lisa Cholodenko

Best Known Film:The Kids are Alright” (2010)

TV Project: “Olive Kitteridge” for HBO

What Is The Show About? The passion project of producer and star Frances McDormand, based on the Pulitzer-winning novel by Elisabeth Strout, “Olive Kitteridge” is a four-part miniseries (which aired just this past weekend) that we raved about out of Venice (our review). It details four periods in Olive’s life and builds to a rich portrait of a difficult, bitter woman, the husband she takes for granted (Richard Jenkins), the son she becomes estranged from, and the potential suitors and adversaries she meets along the way.
Verdict: A fantastic slow-burn drama, it’s a slight cheat to include “Olive Kitteridge” here, as well as Todd Haynes’ “Mildred Pierce,” as both are mini-series, based on existing, close-ended narratives and do not quite have the same architecture as TV shows, even those that are self-contained entities season to season. But while its structure may be closer to that of a feature film than episodic TV, “Olive Kitteridge” is also exactly the kind of project that benefits from TV’s extended running time. And Cholodenko is perfect for it, bringing out McDormand’s tremendous performance (along with those of Jenkins, Zoe Kazan, and Bill Murray), but also giving the show its slightly sardonic, coolly intelligent edge. Most impressively, this is four meaty hours dedicated to the idea that, done as well as it is, an audience will be able to find an irascible, sometimes downright mean-spirited middle-aged (and older) woman a fit subject for its extended attention.

Martin Scorsese

Best Known Film: You’re kidding, right. Need a list? We got a list.

TV Project: Boardwalk Empire” for HBO

What Is The Show About? Detailing the highs and lows in the career of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), corrupt politician and Atlantic City mobster, during the era of prohibition, and the hoodlums, allies, and enemies who surround him.

Verdict: With its final season going out with more whimper than bang (here’s our finale recap), it certainly felt like “Boardwalk Empire” had, after five seasons and 56 episodes ranging in quality, run its course. But posterity will judge it kindly, we think, harking back to its glory days when it delivered weekly the kind of exquisite classic filmmaking, period accuracy, and committed performances that characterize executive producer Martin Scorsese’s best film work. How much Scorsese’s involvement can be credited/blamed with the show’s evolution is difficult to gauge as he did only direct the pilot, but his name-above-the-title billing suggests a more hands-on approach than a regular exec producer might have. And like the David Fincher example, it’s a show whose ongoing style feels indebted to Scorsese, right down to the use of music and the strong performances (it’s Buscemi’s best-ever role, but Gretchen Mol, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Michael K. Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Stephen Graham, and Michael Stuhlbarg all impressed, while the show boasts two legitimate breakouts in Jack Huston and Shea Whigham).

Todd Haynes

Best Known Film: I’m Not There” (2007)

TV Project: “Mildred Pierce” for HBO

What Is The Show About? A loving remake of the Michael Curtiz/Joan Crawford movie, Kate Winslet stars as the resourceful but manipulated Mildred, Guy Pearce as her lover and subsequent husband Monty, with Evan Rachel Wood playing Veda, the spoiled daughter from hell.

Verdict: Anyone who’s seen “Far From Heaven,” Haynes’ meticulous homage to the melodramas of Sirk and Wyler, knows that he is the perfect person to take on an expanded remake of a beloved Joan Crawford movie. “Mildred Pierce” is pretty much a triumph in all departments, taking already-resonant material and using the luxurious running time to deepen and broaden its themes, until its central mother/daughter battle of wills becomes almost Shakespearean. The performances are all-round terrific, especially from Winslet who inhabits Mildred so wholly it’s hard to despise her, even in her most pathetic moments. It’s also the deeply odd story of a most unusual maternal relationship that flies in the face of a great deal of what Hollywood would otherwise consider true — the “innocence” of children, the unbreakability of the mother/daughter bond, and the “natural” state of loving, capable motherhood. Bitter as dark chocolate, “Mildred Pierce” has us anticipating even more Haynes’ 2015 title “Carol,” with Cate Blanchett.

Cary Fukunaga

Best Known Film: Jane Eyre” (2011)

TV Project: “True Detective” for HBO

What Is The Show About? A rambling, philosophically inflected, chronologically jumbled, Southern Gothic murder mystery that follows two detectives (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) through the decades of their often stormy relationship as they try to catch an elusive, possibly occult-related killer of women.

Verdict: Not sure how we feel about “True Detective”? Welcome, you must be new around here. A revolutionary, epochal TV show, especially for the strong authorial imprint that Emmy-winning director Cary Joji Fukunaga achieved by shooting it all like one long movie, “True Detective” was our number one show of the 2013/2104 season. Using the mystery/procedural aspects as an excuse for psychological study, it gave us an unforgettable character in McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, featured a terrific, generous, turn from Harrelson too, and let creator Nic Pizzolatto’s writing truly sing. But while TV has traditionally been viewed as a writer’s medium, Fukunaga’s approach accounted for a lot of what made this show remarkable — there was a fluid intelligence to how it was shot and edited that allowed flourishes like the raid that takes place in one long unbroken take, and some truly poetic transitions. We have to wonder if the changed-up season two, set to star Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, and Rachel McAdams, sans Fukunaga, can possibly live up to it.

Guillermo del Toro

Best Known Film: Hellboy” (2004), “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), “Pacific Rim” (2013)

TV Project: “The Strain” for FX

What Is The Show About? A modern-day vampire story which follows the efforts of a crusading CDC investigator (Corey Stoll) to stem the spread of a mysterious infection once it lands in New York City, who finds out in the process that modern science is no match for ancient magic.

Verdict: While ordinarily we might be questioning the director’s level of involvement, seeing as del Toro himself only helmed a single episode, with “The Strain,” such concerns are put to one side. This is a deeply del Toro project. Along with co-creator Chuck Hogan, he pitched it previously as a TV show and no one bit (!!), so they took the unusual route of writing the story as a trilogy of books. FX then reconsidered and so finally it found a broadcast home. But while we’ve tried to like “The Strain” as we’re well-disposed toward del Toro and happy to see “House of Cards” breakout Stoll take a lead, the show is wildly uneven, and can’t escape its pulpy, b-movie feel, not helped by hinky dialogue and cheapish effects. Certainly there’s plenty of gore and some inventive visual nastiness, but the universe-building doesn’t feel too well achieved (the New York in which it takes place feels oddly sterile as often happens when productions try to get Canadian cities to double for the Big Apple), and the characterization is thin. In fact “The Strain” feels like a throwback to a less sophisticated TV age, which is a shame because at his best there are few visual and narrative imaginations as singular as del Toro’s.

Whit Stillman
Best Known Film: Metropolitan” (1990)
TV Project: The Cosmopolitans” for Amazon Originals
What Is The Show About? A very Stillman-esque group of upper-middle class, pretty, young white Americans, centering around Adam Brody and Chloe Sevigny, trade barbs at parties and get tangled up romantically with each other. Only this time, they’re not in their natural habitat of Manhattan’s cultural and social elite, but transplanted to Paris, pursuing the American-abroad lifestyle instead.
Verdict: We can’t fully judge as only the pilot has been shot, as part of Amazon’s recent 5-pilot Thunderdome. The two outright “winners” were two other filmmaker-helmed pilots (David Gordon Green’s “Red Oaks” and Marc Forster’s “Hand of God”), but Stillman’s brittle, enjoyable comedy of manners has had “additional scripts” ordered to “explore the series further,” whatever that means. Certainly, long-form storytelling does seem like a good fit for Stillman’s talents, which have always lain with the creation of a specific milieu, and the exploration of the quirks and neuroses of the characters within it, rather than with densely plotted three-act structures. Loosely based on Stillman’s own experiences (he lived in Paris for nine years), the show stars Brody, Carrie MacLermore, Jordan Rountree, and Adriano Giannini, and best of all features a delightfully acid role for Sevigny as a hardbitten fashion journalist. 

Frank Darabont

Best Known Film: The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)

TV Project: The Walking Dead” for AMC and “Mob City” for TNT

What Is The Show About? ‘Walking Dead’ is the wildly popular zombie show, starring Andrew Lincoln as a survivor of a zombie plague/apocalypse, that has earned a reputation for fearlessly killing off its recurring characters with gleeful abandon. “Mob City” was a short-lived adaptation of John Buntin’s non-fiction “LA Noir,” which detailed the rise of organized crime gangs in 1940s LA.

Verdict: We’re frequently accused of overlooking “The Walking Dead” when we run coverage of TV, but the truth is the show has never really grabbed us — the shambolic pacing of its first couple of seasons failed to draw us in and thereafter even its better recent seasons have been marred by digressions into less interesting subplots as the cast and the scope have expanded. Still, it’s a runaway success, so what do we know? Darabont only directed a single episode, but he was the series developer, adapting the idea from the comic books of the same name. However, he was fired from the showrunner position in 2011, as a result of budget cuts and his strained relationship with AMC. But that freed him up to move on to another passion project: period LA gangster story “Mob City,” which, despite lavish production values and a killer real-life “LA Confidential” basis, was also marred by sluggish pacing. And that show was definitely Darabont’s baby: he created it, wrote all six episodes and directed four of them, before it was swiftly cancelled having disappointingly failed to find an audience.

Michael Mann

Best Know Film: Probably “Heat” (1995) but our full Retrospective is here

TV Project: Luck” for HBO

What Is The Show About? A drama about the shady world of horse racing and organized betting, starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, and created by TV royalty David Milch (“Deadwood,” “NYPD Blue”)

Verdict: While there’s no doubt that Milch, a longtime horseracing fanatic, was the prime creative force behind “Luck,” (an ironic title for such an ill-starred production), the pilot episode represented Mann’s first directorial foray into the world of recent premium TV, and as one of the most respected of working American filmmakers, there was no little fanfare accompanying that news. And you can see how he did put a light authorial stamp on the series, setting up a recognizably Mann-ish tone of restraint, intelligence, and masculinity characterized by an unshowy but sleek shooting style. But “Luck” was unlucky. Despite warm reviews and winning a second season renewal immediately, the show was dogged with bad press following the on-set deaths of three horses. With filming on the second season suspended while the safety practices were investigated, Milch, Mann, and HBO decided “Luck” had sustained an inoperable fracture and should therefore be euthanized. “Blackhat,” his next feature, opens January 2015 and beyond that we can only hope “Luck” hasn’t put him off TV altogether — Mann’s deliberate, slow-burn ethos seem well-suited to long-form storytelling.

Gus Van Sant

Best Known Film: “Good Will Hunting” (1997), “Milk” (2008)

TV Project: “Boss” for Starz

What Is The Show About? The venal, corrupt Mayor of Chicago (Kelsey Grammer) is diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder that will lead to dementia, and tries to hide the illness from his aides, as well as his chilly estranged wife and daughter.

Verdict: Van Sant’s creative input into the show overall is questionable here (the creator/showrunner was Farhad Safinia; Van Sant’s directorial contribution was lesser than that of, say, Mario Van Peebles, who did five episodes), and his involvement remained surprisingly low-profile considering he followed the same “direct the pilot, exec produce the series” pattern as Scorsese on “Boardwalk Empire” and Fincher on “House of Cards.” Yet those two properties are more closely associated with their respective feature filmmakers, partly due to commissioning network Starz having less of a track record with prestige TV, but also partially because Van Sant is maybe less of a “brand.” And finally, “Boss” itself was always a tricky sell, and struggled in the ratings game from the off, being cancelled after just two seasons. And while it was good to see Kelsey Grammer leveraging his stentorian charisma as opposed to sending it up, the political premise felt a little overfamiliar, covering ground that had been essayed more idealistically by “The West Wing” and that would soon be tackled more acidly by “House of Cards,” as well as “Scandal” and “The Good Wife.”

Jane Campion

Best Known Film: The Piano” (1993)

TV Project: Top of the Lake” a BBC/Sundance Channel co-production

What Is The Show About? Elisabeth Moss plays Detective Robin Griffin, who returns to her home town and becomes embroiled in the investigation into the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl, while long-buried secrets about her own past come bubbling to the surface.

Verdict: While it made less of a splash than “True Detective,” Jane Campion’s “filmed novel” is in many ways no less of an achievement, and certainly bears Campion’s own indelible imprint across all six of its taut, twisty, atmospheric episodes. Campion may have shared directing duties with Garth Davis, but she and co-writer Gerard Lee wrote the whole season, and from the chilly, stylish photography to the understated but unmistakably feminist bent of the storyline, it feels completely authentic to Campion’s concerns and very much a part of her ongoing filmography. It’s also a great ride, a thoughtful but genuinely suspenseful mystery story, populated with fascinating character turns from the likes of Holly Hunter and Peter Mullan, while Moss is simply outstanding in the central role as the conflicted, haunted Robin, given a kind of taciturn intelligence and depth only rarely accorded to any female character. Of course it really marks Campion’s return to TV rather than her grand entrance, as her breakout, “An Angel at My Table,” was originally a TV miniseries. Excitingly, “Top of the Lake” has been commissioned for a second season, which Campion and Lee are writing now, so, yes, thank you, more, please, thank you.

Neil Jordan

Best Known Film: The Crying Game” (1992), ”Interview with the Vampire” (1994),

TV Project: The Borgias” for Showtime

What Is The Show About? Historical fiction centering on the notorious 16th century Italian dynasty, famous for their internecine power struggles, incestuous love affairs, and frequent murder plots.

Verdict: Soapier than many of the other entries on this list, “The Borgias” was cancelled one season shy of its proposed four-season arc, with Showtime citing the series’ spiralling costs as the reason. Series creator Neil Jordan, himself maybe one of the outlier filmmakers when it comes to whom we define as an “auteur,” was the driving force behind the show, writing 20 of the 29 episodes and directing six. He managed a substantial course-correction at the end of season one, picking up the pace and playing to the show’s strengths (particularly a magnetic role for Jeremy Irons). Nonetheless, “The Borgias,” while undoubtedly superior to nearest equivalent “The Tudors,” never quite came together for us — billed as a kind of Renaissance-era “Sopranos,” its mix of lurid sensationalism, well-researched historical fact and Machievellian political drama always felt fragmentary, albeit with its fragments dressed in some very sumptuous clothing.

Jill Soloway
Best Known Film: “Afternoon Delight” (2012)
TV Project: “Transparent” for Amazon
What Is The Show About? A dysfunctional family, comprised of aging divorced parents (Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light) and three grown children (Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and Gaby Hoffman) is thrown into chaos when the father’s decision to live as a woman prompts a series of sexual and emotional revelations. 
Verdict: Ordinarily we’d never suggest you leave our blog for any reason, but if you haven’t yet watched Jill Soloway’s 10-episode Amazon series, go do so right this second. We’ll still be here in five hours after you’ve binged on one of the smartest, most absorbing and affecting dramas you’ll see all year. It’s a remarkable achievement from Soloway, one that instantly catapults her to the top of our favorite directors list (even those of us unconvinced by her debut “Afternoon Delight”), and unlike some other shows here, it really feels like it’s her project. She conceived it, directed 8 of the episodes, and was duly rewarded — praise the Lord — with a second season. There may be those who critique its whiteness, or the middle-class-ness of its self-absorbed, flawed characters, yet when any milieu, no matter how rarefied, is drawn with this much insight and with this many witty, dedicated performances, for us complaints like that simply melt away. Soloway’s take on modern life, family, and sexuality is frank, funny, transgressive, and transportive — it’s dangerously close to perfection.

The Migration Continues:

This is of course is an escalating phenomenon, so there’s tons of other filmmakers taking this route, or about to. We mentioned both David Gordon Green and Marc Forster in the Whit Stillman section, but all of them have emerged triumphant from Amazon’s interesting, audience-decides pilot experiment, with “Red Oaks” and “Hand of God” respectively being ordered to full season. Much like his cohort Steven Soderbergh, Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”), long a prognosticator of the shift to TV, has, with his brother Dan Gilroy (director of the terrific “Nightcrawler”), been planning “Monsieur De Paris, which is set in 1930s Paris and chronicles the story of the official guillotine executioner of France. Sam Raimi dipped his feet in the water directing a couple of episodes of the Greg Kinnear-fronted comedy “Rake,” while Jordan Vogt-Roberts mounted the triumphantly mean-spirited comedy “You’re the Worst” this year, though he probably does not quite qualify as a feature film auteur just yet, and indeed has more TV credits to his name than big-screen ones, but he’s certainly on his way.

Then, of course, there’s David Fincher, who is arguably leading the charge of auteurs moving into TV. With “House Of Cards” behind him, he currently has no further film projects in development and is shifting instead to long-form narrative. He has about three shows in the works, including a 1950s-set “Sunset Boulevard”-esque show with James Ellroy. But first up he’s got his version of “Utopia,” with “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn taking the lead writing role. Fincher will direct all the episodes next year, so like “The Knick” or “True Detective,” that authorial stamp will definitely be felt.

But not all big-name attempts at TV get picked up. Previously, Spike Lee tried to get “Da Brick” off the ground, but HBO passed on the pilot. John Boyega was slated to star, and as the lead in “Star Wars: Episode VII,” one has to wonder if HBO is going to regret that decision or at least air the pilot one day. It’s not the first time Lee’s been in TV either. Showtime’s Sucker Free City” was released as a TV movie, but it really was the pilot episode of a show that didn’t get picked up (starring Anthony Mackie). It’s probably only a matter of time until he tries again. Bill Condon‘s promising-sounding comedy “Tilda,” starring Diane Keaton, never got picked up, nor did Kathryn Bigelow‘s pilot for “The Miraculous Year,” despite a stacked cast including Hope Davis, Frank Langella, Patti Lupone, and Susan Sarandon.

And all that is not even to mention those directors, like Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams, who operate in a more impresario role on various TV shows, or those like Robert Redford and Oliver Stone, who work in the medium largely on documentary projects.

It’s a brave new world, this Golden Age of whatever, with whole new vistas of opportunity opening up for some of our favorite filmmakers to bring us longer-length, richer storytelling, without the compromise on quality and resources that TV has traditionally demanded. Anyone we missed? Let us know in the comments.  –with Rodrigo Perez

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