Arts Issue: Producers make creative leap from film to television

April 10, 2014

Courtesy of AMC

Many A-list directors and producers have recently shifted their attention from the big screen to television. In 2010, Martin Scorsese became an executive producer of the show “Boardwalk Empire.” Now, Academy Award-winner Alfonso Cuarón, who directed “Gravity,” has helped create the newly premiered series “Believe” on NBC. What is the cause of this sudden trend, and what can be the possible effects?

At a basic level, celebrities are looking to work on successful projects, and certain ideas fit better on the small screen than in the cinema. For instance, in a 2013 interview on the “Howard Stern Show,” “Breaking Bad” actor Bryan Cranston said television was a perfect medium for the series because it allowed for a convincing transformation of his character Walter White.

The show, Cranston said, would have made a terrible film because there would not have been sufficient time to tell White’s story. Perhaps the overwhelming critical praise and admiration of recent dramas such as “Breaking Bad” and “Homeland” are influencing film directors to switch media.

While there are always a number of phenomenal films every year, for every good feature released, there are a dozen bad ones solely geared toward breaking records at the box office. For every “Inside Llewyn Davis,” there is a “Transformers” sequel. In other words, directors may face difficulties when convincing Hollywood to release a film based on its merit, rather than based on how many tickets it will sell.

Television is also a business wherein series are often canceled for not bringing in enough viewers. However, there are networks, such as AMC, that will support a show like “Breaking Bad” even after initial ratings are poor — executives recognized the importance of keeping a high-quality show on the air.

Perhaps film directors are enticed not only by the freedom television allows for fully developing a storyline, but also by networks’ eager attitude to host well-crafted shows.

Yet there are consequences of these big-shot directors and producers turning their attention toward the small screen. The shift could lead to an increasing number of great TV shows, but it is important to remember that these directors do not always produce the best films — “Man of Steel,” directed by Zack Snyder and produced by veteran superhero expert Christopher Nolan, was a travesty at best. As such, there is no guarantee that they will produce amazing TV shows, but television provides more room for improvement than film does.

For now, the celebrity interest in developing TV series is an important opportunity for major progression in the industry.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 10 print edition. Alex Mujica is a contributing writer. Email her at entertainment@nyunews.com

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