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The Indie-Auteur and Television: Steven Soderbergh and The Knick

STUBBS, Andrew (2017) The Indie-Auteur and Television: Steven Soderbergh and The Knick. In: The American New Wave: A Retrospective, Bangor University.

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As Mark Gallagher outlines, ‘filmmakers and critics repeatedly invoke creative affiliations between the New Hollywood and contemporary independent cinema’ (2013: 29). Accordingly, my paper takes Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick (2014) and The Girlfriend Experience (2016) as case studies for exploring the possible migration of the indie-auteur between film and television in the mid-2010s. Soderbergh’s associations with the aforementioned shows can be understood as part of a wider trend that sees television series promoted with the indie-auteur (others might include Lena Dunham and Girls [2012], the Coen Brothers and Fargo [2014], and Woody Allen and Crises in Six Scenes [2016]). By analyzing critical and promotional materials around The Knick and The Girlfriend Experience, therefore, my paper explores the appeal of the indie-auteur in TV and their contribution to the ‘Golden Age’ of TV.
As Michael Newman and Elana Levine have discussed, claims about television’s ‘Golden Age’ that emerged during the 2000s are part of a set of discourses legitimating television by claiming that it had achieved high-art status (2012: 3-4). In this period, ‘Quality’ television has gained greater value due to its role in attracting audiences desired by advertisers or subscription services. In the 2010s, this type of scripted television series has apparently become so pervasive that John Langraf, CEO of FX Networks, claimed that 2015 or 2016 represented ‘peak TV in America’ (Goodman, 09/08/2015). With Gallagher positing that the relationship between the American New Wave and Independent Film is a ‘discursive strategy’, which obscures the filmmakers’ corporate ties by emphasizing their ‘independent vision’ (Gallagher, 2013: 30), I explore the Soderbergh’s role as indie-auteur in product differentiation in a context of sectoral and technological convergence. Moreover, I explore Soderbergh’s role specifically, and the indie-auteur’s role in general, in discourses of television’s legitimation, which – as Newman and Levine outline – involves elevating the ‘new over old, active over passive, class over mass, masculine over feminine’ (2012: 5). Finally, therefore, I take Soderbergh’s The Knick and The Girlfriend to explore the industrial and cultural implications of the indie-auteur’s migration to television in the 2010s.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty: School of Computing and Digital Technologies > Film, Media and Journalism
Event Title: The American New Wave: A Retrospective
Event Location: Bangor University
Depositing User: Andrew STUBBS
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2019 16:12
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:54

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