Steven Soderbergh on the New Wave of Director-Driven Television

The director explains what compelled him to helm all 10 episodes of 'The Knick.'
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Last year, Steven Soderbergh said he was retiring from movies. But this year, he’s back with a 10-episode TV show that he directed in its entirety. So what led him to take on The Knick? “I knew I would regret not doing it. It would have been really hard to watch somebody else go and do it,” he confesses to The Daily Beast, explaining that the urgency of the period drama made up a project that he couldn’t refuse. “It’s about problem solving, knowledge creation, race, class. I just felt like without ever being strident, it was touching on all the issues we’re still confronting, but in a way that was fresh. And there was an opportunity, I felt, to play with what we traditionally think a period piece should feel like.”

The Oscar-winning director explains the draw of television for traditional film directors like himself, David Fincher (House of Cards), Guillermo del Toro (The Strain) and Cary Fukunaga (True Detective). “There are more possibilities in TV, in terms of storytelling, than there are in the movies,” he says. “I think you’re going to see more director-driven television. What the end result of that is going to be, I don’t know. But whenever I hear an idea now, my first thought is, 'Why shouldn’t this be on TV?'"

Soderbergh also explains why he thinks having auteurs helming TV episodes is enhancing the medium. “I think what you’re going to see in some cases is creators/showrunners recognizing that having a director in the room when you’re building the show—conceiving the show—is a real plus,” he says. “If you can organize it that you’ve either got a very small group of directors over the course of a season, or in the case of The Knickor True Detective, one director, there’s a unification of elements that’s really unique. So I think that will become more of the norm—because if you can manage to have a good director as a member of the brain trust, you’re going to have a better show.”

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