Whit Stillman: TV show ‘The Cosmopolitans’ is a film that runs 26 minutes

Whit Stillman goes to TV for his new project, "The Cosmopolitans." Credit: Getty Images
Whit Stillman goes to TV for his new project, “The Cosmopolitans.”
Credit: Getty Images

Noted independent filmmaker Whit Stillman takes the social worlds he examines in films like “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona” and “Damsels in Distress” and transfers it to television — sort of — with an Amazon Studios digital pilot, “the Cosmopolitans.” The pilot for the series — chronicling a group of American ex-pats trying to make their way in the Paris social scene — debuts online this weekend, and if all goes well …

What did you think a Whit Stillman TV show would look like?

We always called it a film — “We’re doing the film, we’re making a film.” It’s just a film that only happens to run 26 minutes. Hopefully it will be in chapters and we’ll get to make at least six more chapters.

And you have those planned out to some extent?

Not exactly. I really love to write from detail to story rather than have a story and then do the details, so I have to kind of give them some version of how it could be before mid-September, but when it really comes down to it I prefer to start from scratch and just get the characters doing their stuff and going in different directions.

How’ve you found the experience of working with Amazon?

Well, I’ve had a long relationship with them. One of the first things that Amazon Studios did, actually, was to option “Metropolitan” for remaking. They were going to allow neophyte filmmakers using their site to use the “Metropolitan” story to adapt to their own uses. I think too many people focus on that sort of class nature of “Metropolitan,” when in fact it’s really just a story of group dynamics. It’s someone from outside coming into a group and the group falling apart or metamorphosizing. So that really could be any milieu, so I think Roy Price at Amazon had a really good idea, but I think there were problems at the Writers Guild, or complication, so that didn’t go through. But I’ve had a relationship with them for a very long time, and last summer in July they had this specific idea of doing something in Paris, which is great for me because before I had to change my Paris stories to New York stories. This time I got to have a Paris story in Paris.

Chloe Sevigny is an American in Paris on "The Cosmopolitans." Credit: Amazon
Chloe Sevigny is an American in Paris on “The Cosmopolitans.”
Credit: Amazon

What is it about Paris specifically that speaks to you so much?

The thing is, I was there for nine years in a period in which I was newly single and I got involved in this kind of ex-pat social world. And so I had all kinds of experiences and met all kinds of people, and they were pretty funny, pretty interesting people doing pretty crazy things. A lot of potential stories came out of that.

From the beginning this has a reassuringly “Whit Stillman” style of dialogue. Are you conscious of that as you’re writing, after so many films?

No, definitely not. I guess there’s a danger of getting formulaic, but it really the material fighting its way into the structure. The velocity of this show, I don’t think there are any walls in this show. That’s impressive, to not have walls. So that was good.

Has it made you considered going into more conventional television after this?

I mean, I really want to do this show and I really want to do the independent projects that I have lined up, so I’m very keen to see this show go forward. But I’m really keen on indie and low-budget films as well. After a horrible sort of 10 years of failure trying to work out of London, things are going better.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick


Hurricane Odile batters Mexico's Baja resorts, sparks looting

Hurricane Odile injured dozens of people, forced the evacuation of thousands and smashed shops open to looters in the popular tourist area of Baja, Mexico.


Apple iPhone 6 pre-orders hit record 4 million…

By Lehar Maan(Reuters) - Apple Inc said many customers will need to wait until next month for their new iPhones after a record 4 million…


LAPD investigates complaint from detained 'Django' actress

The LAPD is investigating after "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts accused police of violating her rights when they detained her.


Number of New York City smokers increase, topping…

For the first time since 2007, there are  more than one million smokers in New York City, according to the New York City Department of…


Newsflash: Corey Stoll is still not a man

In director Shaun Levy's "This Is Where I Leave You," Corey Stoll stars as the oldest of four adult children (the others are played by…


If you don't like Simon Pegg's new film,…

Simon Pegg goes all out in "Hector and the Search for Happiness" as the titular psychiatrist stymied by modern life who embarks on a globetrotting…


Art in Chelsea: Don't miss these 3 galleries

We selected three sure bets for seeing cool art in the galleries of Chelsea.


Robin Thicke blurs lines further with new 'Blurred…

"The reality is," said Robin Thicke about "Blurred Lines" in a court deposition, "Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song."


Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.


Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.


3 things we learned in Jets loss to…

The wheels came off for the Jets, who gave up 21 unanswered points after a brilliant first 20 minutes in a 31-24 loss at the Packers.


Victor Cruz catches case of the drops in…

The Giants dropped a tough, 25-14, decision to the undermanned Cardinals Sunday in their home opener. And drop was the operative word of the day,…


World's most hipster cities: Top 5

Travel blogger Adam Groffman tells us his picks for the Top 5 most hipster cities in the world.


The top 5 regrets recent high school grads…

College application season can seem like a blur for many students - as test prep, campus visits and filling out a seemingly endless stream of…


Tech execs tend to limit their kids' screen…

You probably got your iPad before Bill Gates's kids did.


Wellbeing: Daybreaker returns, Ray Rice jersey trade, Sweet…

  Now that Ray Rice is no longer with the Baltimore Ravens — or any other NFL team — after video footage surfaced showing him…