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Ten filmmakers whose skills would be well-suited to television

Rian Johnson
Rian Johnson

The migration of filmmakers from the big screen to the small one is not a new phenomenon, but another team was formally inducted this weekend, with the Wachowskis’ Netflix series Sense8 making its debut. The duo join the ranks of others such as Steven Soderbergh, and they are far from the last ones, as Steve McQueen, Baz Luhrmann, and Amy Seimetz are among those who are poised to make the creative leap as well. There are some filmmakers, however, who have displayed a set of talents that make the idea of them moving to television an exciting one. Here are ten filmmakers who would be a great fit on the small screen in charge of a tv show.

1) Alex Garland

With a writing filmography that includes 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, and Dredd, Alex Garland has proven that, no matter the genre, he is capable of telling a compelling story. Thus, the idea of seeing what he can do in longer form on the small screen is an exciting idea itself. The acclaim Garland has received for his 2015 feature Ex Machina proves that he’s adept at directing as well. A miniseries or anthology series from Garland holds a lot of potential, not only to see how his writing skills translate when he has more hours to tell a story, but also to see which genre Garland decides to tackle when given that level of free reign.

Amma Asante
Amma Asante

2) Amma Asante

In her filmmaking career, despite only having two films under her belt and one more on the way, Amma Asante has shown a clear focus on examining how people relate to each other, and how issues like race and class circumstances affect those relationships. A shift to television would give Asante a chance to explore these relationships, the characters involved in them, and the strain that circumstances put in more detail. The longer runtime would also afford her an opportunity to explore the consequences of multiple differences among people and the effects it has. Asante’s 2014 feature Belle and her upcoming A United Kingdom also indicate an interest in exploring real-life historical characters whose stories haven’t often been told, and a tv show would certainly afford her the opportunity to delve into all facets of a person’s life to give a full picture of them.

3) Amy Heckerling

As the director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, Heckerling has been a key part of two of the most well-known high school comedies of the 80s and 90s, proving her credentials in that department even without having written Clueless. In addition, Heckerling is a veteran of the tv landscape, having been involved in the tv version of Clueless, as well as directing episodes of The Carrie Diaries and Suburgatory. With her last film coming in 2012, the time is ripe for Heckerling to make the full dive back into television. The potential for a high school comedy is ripe in the modern tv landscape, and a veteran like Heckerling at the helm can only add to its strengths. In addition, having seen some of Heckerling’s perspective on high schoolers in the 80s and 90s, her view on how high school children relate to each other in the current decade is sure to also be a delight.

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

4) The Coen Brothers

As one of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers working today, the desire to see the Coen brothers join the increasingly distinguished company in the television world is an understandable perspective. The brothers have shown a keen grasp on several genres, and have shown the ability to go from a tense thriller like No Country For Old Men to a spy spoof like Burn After Reading, and deliver on both counts. However, there’s another trait of the brothers’ films that would make them a great fit for television; their attention to character detail. Every character in a Coen brothers film, even if they appear for only one scene, manages to feel like a fully realised character with whom the audience could easily spend much more time. Migrating the duo over to television, and bringing that feel over in the process, could end up creating something really special, especially as the expanded runtime will give them an opportunity to delve further into the secondary characters they’d like to explore.

5) Desiree Akhavan

Some filmmakers have parlayed their success in low budget features into more high-profile jobs, such as Gareth Edwards going from Monsters to Godzilla and Colin Trevorrow going from Safety Not Guaranteed to the upcoming Jurassic World. Others, however, such as David Robert Mitchell and Gillian Robespierre, have gone in the other direction, towards television, which helps set the precedent for Akhavan. With Appropriate Behavior, Akhavan proved she had a talent for exploring how people under-represented in film lived their lives, while retaining a healthy dose of humour. A transition to television would give Akhavan more room to explore characters who aren’t seen on the big or small screen often, and take a look at how they live their lives. Her focus on dialogue and ability to work with a small budget only add to how well-suited she is to make the jump to tv.

Gina Prince-Bythewood, Sanaa Lathan
Gina Prince-Bythewood, Sanaa Lathan

6) Gina Prince-Bythewood

The lack of black characters on television is something that is obvious to even the most casual viewers. With Black-ish and Empire last season, however, the commercial viability of telling stories involving black characters was reinforced once again, making the landscape ripe for Gina Prince-Bythewood to transition into tv. 2014’s Beyond The Lights proved that Prince-Bythewood still has the ability to tell a heartfelt, affecting dramatic story, but her limited filmography suggests she doesn’t get that many opportunities to do so. A full shift to television, as Prince-Bythewood already has experience directing single episodes of numerous shows, would not only add some more well-rounded black characters to the small screen, it would also give Prince-Bythewood a chance to create a drama that would allow her to delve more deeply into the characters and their relationships to each other. Television viewers would benefit from all angles.

7) Justin Simien

Simien’s debut feature Dear White People displayed a filmmaker who’s capable of understanding character nuances, and interested in exploring the different ways in which people react to the same set of circumstances. The fact that the circumstances revolve around racial discrimination in modern America, an under-explored topic at best and a very relevant one, only adds to Simien’s strengths. A turn towards television would not only bring a topic like this to the small screen, it would also give Simien a chance to develop the characters and their relationships to each other and their surroundings even further, allowing their decisions to have more of an impact. Simien’s willingness to add further character dimensions to ensure nobody is painted as purely good or purely evil would also fit right into the current television landscape.

Justin Simien
Justin Simien

8) Max Landis

In his short career, Landis has already shown his ability to think of big stories, the clearest evidence being his discussed sequel to the 2012 film Chronicle. Prior to the departure of both Landis and director Josh Trank from the series, Landis’ vision for the sequel involved focusing on a character who decides to sacrifice herself as the world’s first villain. The idea indicates Landis’ willingness to expand stories while not getting attached to characters whose arcs have completed themselves, and watching how he expands these stories in a television format has the potential to be fascinating. With Landis dipping his toe into directing with the upcoming Me Him Her, he also proves his willingness to try new avenues, a combination of factors that would be valuable for any tv show creator and overseer. The fact that Landis has already had an idea for a tv show is icing on the cake.

9) Rian Johnson

In his three features so far, filmmaker Rian Johnson has already proven himself an exciting talent to keep an eye on, tackling everything from time travel to old-school noirs set in modern day. A discussion of Johnson’s career, however, would be incomplete without mention of his work on tv, which itself has garnered accolades, particularly his work on the AMC series Breaking Bad‘s fifth season episodeOzymandias“. A combination of his talent in telling unique stories and his proven ability to work in television makes giving Johnson his own tv series as a follow-up to his work on Breaking Bad practically a no-brainer, with the added bonus that the range of his films so far means there is no way to truly guess what kind of a show Johnson would create.

Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig
Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig

10) The Spierig Brothers

World-building is a crucial aspect of any good television show, as setting up numerous intriguing rabbit holes for a series to dive into is one way to ensure that it never gets boring or repetitive. Over the course of their three films, particularly 2014’s Predestination, brothers Michael and Peter Spierig have proven their ability to build fascinating worlds in which they set their stories, with numerous avenues of exploration. With the duo able to do this in the canvas of film, a tv show, with its added length, would afford them a chance to not only fill in additional details, but give these worlds the kind of depth and attention that isn’t limited by a two-hour runtime.

 

Of course, these are far from the only filmmakers who have skills suited for a transition from the big screen to the small one. Numerous directors and writers have moved in and out of both mediums, and the return of someone who has proven themselves in film and television, such as Michael Mann, would also be welcome. And none of this accounts for the numerous talented individuals already in the television landscape who deserve tv shows of their own, or people who are working in webseries that would just as easily transition to tv. One thing, however, is for sure; television continues to hold a lot of potential and remain an exciting place for creatively talented individuals to express their vision.


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