Steven Soderbergh is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today, which is why it was such a shame when he “retired” from filmmaking altogether. It turned out the retirement didn’t necessarily mean that he’d never be behind the camera again—he just wasn’t doing it in the world of movies (though he did return as director of photography on Magic Mike XXL). Instead, Soderbergh dove into television head first with the Cinemax series The Knick. While most “big name” directors simply helm one or two episodes of a show and call it a day, Soderbergh wanted to mix things up a bit and direct every episode in the vein of Cary Fukunaga‘s approach to True Detective. Soderbergh is the director of the show’s entire first and upcoming second season, bringing a degree of auteurism to the small screen that’s usually reserved for movies.
But recently we learned that Soderbergh is making another movie after all, albeit one for HBO and one that aims to revolutionize the viewer experience by making it interactive. Could this mean that Soderbergh is curious about returning to the feature film world at some point? Don’t hold your breath. In a new interview with THR, Soderbergh explains why he left the theatrical motion picture world in the first place and why he’s unlikely to return:
“Just from my very personal, subjective point of view, I don’t have an interest in making another theatrical film unless my attitude changes or the business changes. There are a series of things that have contributed to it — I think the audiences have a played a role, the studios have a role in it — but film is increasingly fear based in its decision-making, and that’s not a good base to be creative.”
Soderbergh has always been ambitious—this particular interview, in fact, is in anticipation of the TV series adaptation of Soderbergh’s experimental film The Girlfriend Experience—and given the fact that studios increasingly leaning more towards the safe bets rather than the risky plays, it makes sense that he’s perfectly fine leaving that world behind. There’s a degree of creative freedom in television, particularly in dramas, that’s simply missing from the studio film world these days. Moreover, TV is giving a chance for filmmakers used to 120-minute storytelling to move to a longer form.
During the same interview, Soderbergh talked about how this notion of one filmmaker directing every episode is changing the TV landscape, and how that has some folks worried:
“This is really auteur TV; it’s like what I’m doing on The Knick, what Cary Fukunaga did on True Detective. One filmmaker doing the whole thing — there’s unification that comes with that [and you] can’t do it any other way. This is a real philosophical shift, and it’s making some people very nervous.”
I’m still not over the fact that HBO completely fumbled not one but two potential TV shows with David Fincher (one of which he was set to direct every episode), but I’m incredibly excited to see more filmmakers try their hands at this “auteur TV” approach in the near future. For now, Soderbergh’s superb work on The Knick will suffice.