20 indie filmmakers who found their second acts on tv _ the playlist

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This Sunday sees the arrival of one of the most hotly anticipated TV series of this year. It might not have the A-list auteur cred of “ Vinyl” or the giant following of “ Game Of Thrones” or “ The Walking Dead,” but we’re still hugely excited about Starz’s “ The Girlfriend Experience,” and not just because it’s executive produced by Steven Soderbergh and is based on his film of the same name.

The show, starring “ Mad Max: Fury Road” actress Riley Keough as a woman who tries to pay for law school through “transactional relationships,” is directed by indie veteran Lodge Kerrigan (“ Keane”) and up-and-comer Amy Seimetz (“ Sun Don’t Shine”). Kerrigan in particular marks the latest example of the trend in which veteran indie helmers from the 1990s and 2000s find a second act to their careers thanks to the recent television boom.

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Kerrigan’s work has been adored by festivalgoers, critics and other filmmakers (Soderbergh has been a longtime fan and supporter), but audiences were always a little hard to come by, and his last film, 2010’s “ Rebecca H,” never got a release after its Cannes premiere. But in the years since, he’s been building wider and wider audiences by directing episodes of acclaimed TV dramas like “ Homeland,” “ The Killing,” “ The Americans” and “ Bates Motel.”

It seems that, with the divide between film and TV crumbling, this trend will only increase — look at indie helmers Marielle Heller, Stacie Passon and Andrea Arnold helming episodes of “ Transparent,” or Craig Zobel on “ The Leftovers.” So in advance of “The Girlfriend Experience,” we’ve listed 20 notable indie filmmakers who, thanks to the new golden age of television, have been given second acts.

HBO Lena Dunham in “Girls” on HBO

Jamie Babbit

If TV is often a feature director’s second act, sometimes the first act feels more like a brief prologue, and so it is with Babbit. Arguably a TV director before she was a feature filmmaker, Babbit helmed five episodes of MTV’s then-controversial show about teen sex and relationships ” Undressed” the same year her feature debut was released. Yet that film “But I’m a Cheerleader” merits her inclusion on this list: the lesbian “corrective summer camp” comedy with Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall was a modest hit on release but has built a sizable cult following since, especially in LGBT circles. Her subsequent forays onto the big screen have largely failed to connect —” The Quiet,” ” Itty Bitty Titty Committee” (despite that great title), ” Breaking the Girls” and last year’s unloved ” Addicted to Fresno” ( our review). Instead, Babbit has perhaps found her true calling on the small screen, becoming a hugely prolific and stalwart member of the directing roster for shows such as ” Popular,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The Middle,” “United States of Tara,” “Drop Dead Diva,” “Girls,” “Looking” and ” Married,” among many others.

Showtime “Dexter.”

Michael Cuesta

When we first discussed this feature, Cuesta was one of the first filmmakers that came to mind: he’s the platonic ideal of the indie filmmaker who reinvented his career with TV work. Cuesta broke out at Sundance in 2001 with his raw, provocative drama “ L. I.E.,” about the uneasy relationship between a teenage boy ( Paul Dano in his breakout role) and an elderly pedophile ( Brian Cox). Further features followed, most notably 2005’s “ 12 And Holding,” but his debut had already brought him to the attention of “ Six Feet Under” creator Alan Ball, who hired Cuesta for a second season episode after another helmer pulled out at the last minute. Cuesta went on to direct four further episodes for the HBO show, and then directed the pilots for “ Dexter,” “Homeland” (after Ben Affleck dropped out) and “ Elementary.” His “Homeland” work in particular helped him return to features with Jeremy Renner vehicle “ Kill The Messenger,” and he’s sticking to similar territory with two upcoming projects, Michael Keaton-starring spy flick “ American Assassin,” and “ Code Name Veil,” with Ansel Elgort investigating terrorist bombings in Beirut.

John Dahl

The name might yield a “Who dat?” from younger cinephiles, but many of us oldsters remember when Dahl was one of the most exciting working filmmakers. His first three features essentially defined ’90s neo-noir — ” Kill Me Again” with Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer was the least, but it was followed by Nic Cage and Lara Flynn Boyle steaming things up in ” Red Rock West” and Linda Fiorentino as possibly the greatest femme fatale ever in the brilliant ” The Last Seduction,” and Dahl seemed a fixture in the cinematic firmament. But then ” Unforgettable” did not exactly live up to its title, poker drama ” Rounders” was fine if anonymous, while ” Joyride,” ” The Great Raid” and ” You Kill Me” saw him sliding further off-radar. He never made a bad film, but he’s a stellar example of career rejuvenation: since 2007 he’s worked exclusively on TV, directing multiples episodes of nearly every Golden Age show across all genres —” Battlestar Galactica,” “Breaking Bad,” “United States of Tara,” “True Blood,” “Terriers,” “Shameless,” “Homeland,” “The Bridge,” “House of Cards,” “Justified,” “Hannibal,” “Ray Donovan,” “The Affair”… in fact, it’s maybe easier to point to shows he’s never worked on ( no” Game of Thrones” yet).


Carl Franklin

A familiar 1970s/1980s TV actor, Carl Franklin (” Fantastic Journey,” “McClain’s Law,” “The A Team”) made his feature directorial debut with ” Nowhere to Run” in 1989. That David Carradine-starrer was perhaps not the most auspicious entree, and his next couple were undistinguished enough. But then came the terrific, sultry neo-noir ” One False Move” starring and co-written by Billy Bob Thornton, followed by two very underrated pics — defining early Denzel Washington film ” Devil in a Blue Dress” and gentle dramedy ” One True Thing” with Meryl Streep. But after ” High Crimes” and ” Out of Time,” again with Washington, failed to set the box office on fire, Franklin started mixing in the odd episode of TV like ” Rome,” ” The Riches” and ” The Pacific.” And since his last, completely overlooked but very solid film ” Bless Me Ultima” in 2013, he’s been exclusively small-screen, directing multiple episodes of “House of Cards,” (for which he picked up an Emmy nod) “Homeland,” “The Affair” and ” The Leftovers,” and one each of ” The Newsroom,” “Bloodline” and “Vinyl.”