"The Girlfriend Experience."
Since his self imposed retirement from directing movies in 2013, Steven Soderbergh has not eased back on his workload.
But the terrain he's been most interested in exploring is television.
"The Girlfriend Experience" (premiering on Starz on Sunday), is an adaptation of Soderbergh's 2009 film of exactly the same name that looks at the life of a high end Manhattan call girl as she socializes with her rich clients. However, what sets this call girl besides others is her willingness to have an emotional link with her clients, not only sex - known in the business as a "girlfriend experience."
Soderbergh was pitched the TV idea by producer friend Philip Fleishman. The director saw potential to tell the narrative on the cheap, as he did with the movie version, that was made for just over $1 million.
But Soderbergh did not want to direct the TV version. Instead, he needed the entire show to be made by two filmmakers, one male and one female.
Amy Seimetz. Jason Kempin/Getty
He called on indie film veteran Lodge Kerrigan and actress/director Amy Seimetz, whose work has been a mainstay in the low-budget-film world for more than a decade.
"Soderbergh called me to do it and I was like, 'I Have never directed television,' and he was like, 'That's the most effective solution to start,'" Seimetz told Business Insider only at that year's Sundance Film Festival.
The plan wasn't to take on the series in a traditional sense, but to use Kerrigan and Seimetz's expertise as independent filmmakers who learn the best way to stretch a dollar to basically create a low-budget TV show.
"That's the reason why Lodge and I got executive producer credit on the show, too," Seimetz said. "In TV, the power is where the money goes, and when you are working at this budget and you would like it to appear on screen, the director and the EP must concur where the resources are being allocated properly."
Seimetz would not divulge the show's budget, simply saying that by TV standards it's low, but in the world of indie films it is a great amount of money.
"For the price of a single episode, I could go out as well as make numerous movies," she said. "But only at that level, you can't ask people to take $100 a day. They are getting adequate union pay with this."
Such as the film, Starz's "The Girlfriend Experience" is shot with natural light on affordable cameras and has a cast of character actors. And the show's lead is a comparative newcomer, Riley Keough.
But creatively, the show expands further in relation to the film did, something Soderbergh motivated Seimetz and Kerrigan to do.
"It was always assumed to be taking this matter and making something new," Seimetz said.
And to do that, Seimetz and Kerrigan spent a lot of time interviewing call girls, learning that describing the girlfriend experience to get a customer isn't just about acquiring money and power.
"They make a lot of money, yes," Seimetz said. "Some of the girls don't take a client for less than $10,000. But I believe that's not a motivating factor for several girls. And I do not know if they seek power. They like getting into the intimate space with guys."
Though Seimetz hasn't inquired Soderbergh, she considers his motivation behind having a male and female outlook in the director seat was giving the show another feel than most TV.
"It is very common, the idea of the male gaze and just how that's depicted in cinema and TV," she said. "I believe it is interesting that he really wants to see the storytelling told by both a male and female, if there's a difference. Will there be a difference between a female gaze and a male gaze?"
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