Hot off the critical and awards season success of Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea,” Amazon is continuing to ink major production deals with some of the art house world’s biggest stars, from newly-minted Oscar winner Barry Jenkins to the the delightfully original Leos Carax — and that’s just the start. Amazon’s relationship with creators also includes a number of television heavy-hitters, including Amy Sherman-Palladino and Matthew Weiner, but the keen eye they’ve turned on filmmakers is the one to watch.
Still, there is much work to be done. While Amazon has had major success working with filmmaker and showrunner Jill Soloway — and its latest batch of pilots includes a standout from “Gilmore Girls” alum Sherman-Palladino — the list of filmmakers who recently signed on to produce features with the studio is woefully lacking when it comes to female talents. If you can grab a Yorgos Lanthimos, why not an Athina Rachel Tsangari? Kathryn Bigelow has the pedigree and the forward thinking to try out something fresh like streaming. And if Amazon’s willing to give Soloway — a Sundance regular — a platform for her stellar work, why not other alums like Lake Bell, Clea DuVall or Marielle Heller?
To be fair, the streaming giant recently acquired completed films from women directors, including Gillian Robespierre’s “Landline” and Brie Larson’s next big acting vehicle (which is still looking for a director) about the first woman to run for president.
But there’s a lot to anticipate in Amazon’s development slate. Here are seven of our favorite filmmakers currently producing new work for Amazon.
Leos Carax, “Annette”
The singular mind behind such bracingly odd dramas as “Holy Motors” and “Pola X” is making the move to English-language offerings with his musical drama “Annette,” and Amazon has already snapped up North American rights to the feature. The film is set to go into production this spring — though it still needs to snag at least two female leads — with Adam Driver playing a father struggling to raise his young daughter, only to find that she’s in possession of a unique musical gift.
Luca Guadagnino, “Suspiria”
The filmmaker behind such art house faves as “A Bigger Splash” and “I Am Love” is poised to have his biggest year ever, thanks to the fall debut of his festival hit “Call Me By Your Name” and the imminent release of his newly-wrapped “Suspiria” remake. Amazon financed that film and has plans to distribute it worldwide, and with rumors that the Tilda Swinton- and Dakota Johnson-starring horror remake might arrive this year, the studio may be able to capitalize on seriously good buzz from Guadagnino’s Sundance hit to really catapult the Italian director to the next stage of his career.
Jill Soloway, “Transparent,” “I Love Dick,” Untitled Texas Rodeo Series
Soloway was one of the first filmmakers to make Amazon her home, and that professional bond continues to run deep — the online streaming outfit is home to her boundary-busting and award-winning series “Transparent,” her new pilot “I Love Dick” was made for the newbie distributor — and the filmmaker and TV showrunner is already working on yet another project for the company. Soloway will next produce a limited series for Amazon about an all-women’s Texas rodeo. There’s no word yet on who will helm the project or star in it, but with Soloway’s involvement, Amazon will likely give it a ton of love.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by Jessica Brooks
Yorgos Lanthimos, Untitled Iran-Contra Affair Series
The quirky Greek auteur behind films like “The Lobster” and “Dogtooth” is moving into television in a very big way, first with his Kirsten Dunst-starring AMC series “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” and next with his newly-announced Amazon series, which will re-team him with his frequent star Colin Farrell. The untitled series will focus on the Iran-Contra Affair, with Farrell starring as former U.S. marine Oliver North, who took part in the sale of weapons to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contras in Nicaragua. Lanthimos is on deck to direct the entire series, which will be written by Enzo Mileti and Scott Wilson. As straightforward as it may sound, with Lanthimos behind the camera, it will undoubtedly be a very unique kind of affair.
Nicolas Winding Refn, “To Old to Die Young” (TV Series)
After releasing his “The Neon Demon,” Amazon is getting back into business with Refn, who will next write, direct, and produce the crime series “Too Old to Die Young” for the streaming outfit, newly set to star Miles Teller. That filmmakers like Soloway and Refn seem more than happy to continue working with the company is clearly a good sign for its burgeoning business model, and further proof that the company’s greatest strength may involve allowing wholly unique creators to continue making the kind of content that really speaks to their talents.
Barry Jenkins, “The Underground Railroad” (TV Series)
Hot off his big Oscar wins, the “Moonlight” filmmaker is now turning his attention to the limited series game. Jenkins signed on to adapt Colson Whitehead’s National Book Award–winning novel “The Underground Railroad” back in September — a move that re-teams with “Moonlight” producer Adele Romanski and the team at Plan B — and now Amazon has picked it up to develop into their own series. The project will likely be Jenkins’ next after winning Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Oscars, where — oh, yeah, no big thing — the film also won Best Picture.
Terry Gilliam, ???
While it’s still unclear if Amazon will play home to Terry Gilliam’s long-teased and much-hyped “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” the company did ink a deal with the filmmaker back in May of 2015 (where they also snagged another great indie auteur and his latest, in the form of Jim Jarmusch and his “Paterson”) that was assumed to include “Quixote.” Later reports held that the deal covered only the U.S. release of the film, but that was about eight different incarnations of the feature ago, and with the film finally, finally shooting now, Amazon’s involvement remains a question mark (though we wouldn’t be surprised if the studio took charge of it). At the very least, its willingness to show interest in supporting Gilliam’s crazy dream of a feature sends an encouraging message.