You’ve now worked with Amazon, Netflix, and Apple TV+. How’s your experience been with streaming so far?
It’s been great, man. It’s fun. It’s like “Mayor of Kingstown” with Taylor Sheridan, you know that show? I’m producing that as well. In a movie, you make a movie and you get two hours, and you’re there with your crew and everybody, your team, for a certain amount of time. Then you’re gone and sometimes we don’t see each other for years, that sort of thing. At least in a series, there’s a longer relationship to develop. There’s a chance to develop the characters more. There’s a chance to try different techniques along the way.
If you get lucky and get it picked up again, if you have eight episodes and then you get picked up again and you get another eight or 10 or whatever it is, the relationship gets to continue and that’s fantastic. You get to see other directors come in and do their work as well on your projects, and I think that’s invaluable. There’s something about — during the pandemic, we realized we took a lot of things for granted, and so now that we’re back doing that, I’m really enjoying the collaboration with everyone in doing long-form.
How’s the creative freedom compared to your past work with studios? Are they similar experiences?
No. No, no. I mean, I have a great relationship with Sony. Tom Rothman and those guys, normally, we talk about the script and once we lock something, we do it and I don’t talk to them again until at the end, but these streamers have been really amazing. I mean, Amazon, they give a couple notes here and there earlier on, but not much. As a director, you get to go make your work, do your work. The same with the other streamers that I’ve worked with.
Apple, Netflix, Hulu, they’ve been amazing. It really has been freedom. I compare it to the ’70s. You got a chance to just come in and try some things and be brave, and they take risks. They take bigger risks, because you don’t have to worry about the box office weekend, and then they release it all at the same time around the world which is incredible, so you get immediate feedback on your work. I found it to be a really positive thing. Yeah, I’m happy.
When you direct, knowing people will be watching your work at home, does it influence any of your camerawork choices?
No, I know what you’re saying, but the thing is that everybody has a big flat screen TV now, so the format is different. You do have to consider it to a degree, but not as much. I mean, the thing that I constantly push against is being afraid of scope, because when someone comes out of TV, it’s a lot of talking heads. That’s not the world I come from, so sometimes I’m pushing, staying wider, using 35 millimeter lenses and really capturing the scenes. You get your closeups of course, but you don’t have to.
In a normal TV format, you have to get all those closeups. You can’t take a risk of just doing a medium shot and that’s the shot and that’s all you’re going to shoot and that’s it. TV, you’re used to that coming in here, coming in here. What I push against is doing that. I think it should be the same approach as the feature, and take more risk and not worry about that structure. It’s not a soap opera.
“The Terminal List” is another story you’re telling with characters in intense lines of work facing extreme conditions. Of course, that’s good drama, but what draws you to those characters?
I’m drawn to that. I’m drawn to characters under pressure. I find it more interesting, whatever that pressure might be. I’m drawn to broken characters. It could be maybe something in me. I don’t know, but I find it more human when you find characters that have flaws or are under pressure. I think we’re all under some sort of pressure in life in some way, and sometimes it’s mental, sometimes it’s physical. I find it really interesting. I don’t know where it comes from.
It’s funny, we always end up talking about Akira Kurosawa, and again, maybe he’s an influence for you there?
Yeah, they’re all under pressure. Maybe that’s where it comes from, the films I grew up with. You’re right. I mean, you look at “Ran,” “Seven Samurai,” it’s people under pressure. It’s people being put under pressure by another individual, by other individuals. It’s this small person being stepped on or pushed down, or is a moral decision that has to be made. Like in “Tears of the Sun,” do you leave the people or do you bring them with you? Even though that’s the harder choice, you make the right choice. Maybe that’s from the films I grew up watching and maybe that’s something that I aspire to be, an individual like that.