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The Future of Filmmaking Is TV (but Not Really) — TV Podcast

A new wave of filmmakers are bringing their talents to TV, where streaming is taking on increased importance.

Steven Yeun in "Minari"

The early days of this week have been littered with a mass of exciting announcements sharing new TV projects as helmed by several top-line talent — best known for their work in film.

Director of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Knives Out” Rian Johnson is bringing his talents to up-and-coming streamer Peacock, partnering with “Russian Doll” star Natasha Lyonne for a mystery that got a straight-to-series order.

“I’m very excited to dig into the type of fun, character-driven, case-of-the-week mystery goodness I grew up watching. It’s my happy place. Having Natasha as a partner in crime is a dream, and we’ve found the perfect home at Peacock,” Johnson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Best Actor Oscar nominee Steven Yeun is partnering with A24 and comedian Ali Wong for a new series that would entail 10, 30-minute episodes with Lee Sung Jin as the creator/showrunner. Most of the details on the series remain under wraps as the project is shopped, but it would represent a return to Yeun’s roots after first breaking onto the scene with his role as Glenn Rhee on “The Walking Dead.”

The list goes on, including Showtime ordering a pilot for a show show based on “Let the Right One In,” which has already been a bestselling book in Sweden, a Swedish-language film, an English-language film, and now, a TV series. Plus, the anxious anticipation for the release of Barry Jenkins’ Amazon Prime limited series adaptation of “Underground Railroad,” which will likely go head-to-head during awards season with another Amazon Prime limited series, this time from Steve McQueen, whose “Small Axe” series garnered rave reviews.

It seems in recent years, that creators have been floating between film and television projects with increasing ease, identifying which stories they have to tell that could best be served by a limited series setting — give or take a Soderbergh or Fincher, directors rarely stick around long enough to oversee traditional series — and which will thrive in a two-hour chunk which, in some cases, will be projected onto a theater screen.

And while there are certain downsides, particularly amongst filmmakers who don’t seem to understand the nuances of serialized storytelling, TV finally seems to be shedding a bit of its bad reputation within the film industry, where the medium was often looked at as film’s bastard son.

Streaming is surely responsible for no small part of this revolution, whose seeds had been sown by high-profile HBO limited series for years. With bigger budgets and more creative control, as well as the continuous content boom driven by increased platforms, why wouldn’t a filmmaker come to TV now? And for that matter, why not bring their films along, too?

While we haven’t quite seen the last part come to fruition yet, streaming TV remains a largely unexplored area for filmmakers, who just might be interested in making actual TV movies. With the pandemic driving many distributors to opt for day-and-date releases in theaters and streaming platforms alike, it’s not unthinkable to imagine that becoming a new normal within the industry, at which point TV really will become film’s final frontier.

For more about the migration of film talent to TV (and back again), check out this week’s episode of IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens” as hosts Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers, Creative Producer Leo Garcia, and, myself, TV Awards Editor Libby Hill, try and figure out where the future of the entertainment industry is heading.

Plus, Ben catches us up on SXSW and discusses a few series he’s anxious to preview at the (virtual) festival, including HBO Max’s “Made For Love,” Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience” and Amazon Prime Video’s “Them.”

In keeping with ongoing social distancing mandates, this week’s episode was again recorded from the comfort of everyone’s respective apartments, and we’re again offering viewers a video version of the podcast, as embedded above.

Millions of Screens” is available on AnchorApple PodcastsBreakerGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher. You can subscribe here or via RSS. Share your feedback with the crew on Twitter or sound off in the comments. Review the show on iTunes and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the gang address specific issues in upcoming editions of “Millions of Screens.” Check out the rest of IndieWire’s podcasts on iTunes right here.

This episode of “Millions of Screens” was produced by Leonardo Adrian Garcia.

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