Michel Gondry Voices Frustrations with TV, Where the Showrunner Tells ‘You How To Do Your Job’

The writer-director took part in a masterclass discussion at the Transilvania International Film Festival and aired his frustrations with TV.
Michel Gondry Showtime's 'Kidding' TV show screening, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 01 May 2019
Michel Gondry at Showtime's "Kidding" FYC screening
Michael Buckner/Showtime/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Directing for film and directing for TV require very similar — but not exactly the same — skill sets; a fact director Michel Gondry learned the hard way during the first season of “Kidding.”

Speaking at the Transilvania International Film Festival, Michael Gondry said he was “very frustrated” working within the TV system, where the showrunner is in charge instead of the episode’s director.

“It’s like being at school,” Gondry said. “Maybe I’m too used to being a director. I have no problem when the producer, the writer, give me directions. I have to filter a bit, and sometimes I don’t have choice, but it doesn’t bother me when I do a film,” he said. “To do a TV series, it’s like you have a teacher … who’s telling you how to do your job.”

UPDATE [June 3, 2019]
In a statement given to IndieWire, Gondry said, “Yes I have some frustration, but I still like my job. The show is great and I am very excited to start the second season.”

Gondry directed six episodes of the Showtime show’s first season and also served as an executive producer. But, as is the standard with ongoing series where directors come and go but someone has to steer the ship from start to finish, creator and executive producer Dave Holstein is the showrunner of “Kidding.”

This is far from the first time a filmmaker transitioning to TV has aired frustrations over the collaborative nature of the medium. Showrunner Marti Noxon said she and director Jean-Marc Vallee got into “toe-to-toe screaming matches” while working on “Sharp Objects,” in part because the director “didn’t want to listen” to instructions from the showrunner.

“It was difficult, I’m not going to lie,” Noxon replied when asked what it was like working with Vallée. “I find that many artists are incredibly…what’s the right word? Incredibly sensitive. And it wasn’t without its toe-to-toe screaming matches. [laughs]”

The two have since hashed out any differences, but the shift in power dynamics is not something all directors consider when moving into the TV space. Gondry remains on board “Kidding” Season 2 as an executive producer, but it has not yet been announced if he will direct episodes again. Showtime renewed the half-hour comedy starring Jim Carrey for a second season in October 2018.

“Kidding” is eligible for Outstanding Comedy Series categories — including Gondry for Outstanding Direction in a Comedy Series — at the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards. Season 1 is streaming now.

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