The filmmaker Lodge Kerrigan started around the same time as Steven Soderbergh. His first feature, the intense indie “Clean, Shaven,” came out in 1994, only a few years after Soderbergh’s groundbreaking “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” At this point both have moved into TV, and at a time when film directors are starting to take over a medium that has, until now, been largely been driven by writers. Soderbergh tasked Kerrigan, along with Amy Seimetz, with writing and directing “The Girlfriend Experience,” a loose spin-off (of sorts) of his 2009 film of the same name, concerning a high-end escort (here played by Riley Keough).
Kerrigan — whose films include “Claire Dolan” and “Keane” — has done his share of director-for-hire TV, helming episodes of “Homeland,” “The Killing” and “The Americans.” But he believes, for many reasons, the model of having directors handle entire seasons and shows is the ideal way to go.
Having directors loom large over TV shows, as Soderbergh did with “The Knick,” is a relatively new idea.
It’s a really interesting time. What Steven calls “auteur TV” is really fascinating. The idea that it’s director-driven as opposed to writer-driven is a much better model. Directors should be running television, not necessarily writers. If you move away from the standard pilot model, if you can get all the scripts up front and then have one — or in the case of “GFE” two — directors do the whole show, you get this unity of vision you usually don’t get.
And you can work more efficiently. You can direct the actors much better because you understand the whole arc of the characters, because you’ve written it. You can block shoot scenes and shoot out locations; you’re not forced to keep going back to them because you got a new script and they say, “Oh, we’re back in this location.” You’re not forced to over-cover. All the shots that I get make it into the edit. You’re not shooting something because maybe a showrunner in another city may go, “It would have been nice to have a two-shot here.” You may not get re-hired if you don’t have those two-shots. You’re forced to over-cover and then work longer hours. The actors get tired. The director-driven model is much more efficient.
Reading about how Soderbergh constructed “The Knick,” working on set for months straight and shooting even more quickly than TV directors usually do, sounds like it could be exhausting.
I work really fast anyway. If you’re shooting for six months, that’s fantastic. It’s what we do. Why wouldn’t you want to continue doing it? I enjoy directing, I enjoy being on set. If I had to direct 180 days or even 300 days [a year], that would be fine with me. I only need a month off a year, and probably not even that.