In an interview with Henry Barnes of The Guardian UK, director Steven Soderbergh laments what currently feels like an industry that no longer has room for artists and visionaries like Soderbergh. And with increasing reports that studios are “taking even more control” and not allowing filmmakers or actors to call the shots anymore, Soderbergh may be right. Partially.
“I’m looking at the landscape and I’m thinking, ‘Hmmm, I don’t know. A few more years maybe. And then the stuff that I’m interested in is only going to be of interest to me… In terms of my career, I can see the end of it. I’ve had that sensation for a few years now. And so I’ve got a list of stuff that I want to do – that I hope I can do – and once that’s all finished I may just disappear.”
Luckily, Barnes adds:
It would all sound depressing if Soderbergh didn’t pepper his speech with fits of incredulous laughter.
And who wouldn’t feel this way if they’d been through what Soderbergh has been lately. His most recent film MONEYBALL was pulled just five days before production was set to begin (check out my post here). And his current film now showing in theaters and on pay-per-view THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE has a very limited audience despite some really positive reviews.
And then there was CHE, the Benicio del Toro starring biopic that found little distribution and support. The fact that the film was quite epic (shown in two parts) and all in Spanish didn’t help the commercial potential of the film, but it’s a sad state of commentary that a director like Soderbergh has to struggle to make films of depth and quality. Certainly there was little struggle in putting together the OCEANS 11 films. They appealed to the lowest common denominator and made heaps of cash. But the “one for you, one for me” system of filmmaking doesn’t seem to be working anymore. It’s now the “one for you and… hey, where’d everybody go?”
Now granted, CHE is not without its flaws and, according to Soderbergh, was a very difficult and not particularly satisfying experience.
“Everybody got scarred by [Che] a little bit. I don’t know how to describe it. It took a long time to shake off. It was just such an intense four or five months that it really … You know, for a year after we finished shooting I would still wake up in the morning thinking, ‘Thank God I’m not shooting that film.’… It’s hard to watch it and not to wish we’d had more time. But I can’t tell you that if we’d had more time it would be better – it would just be different. There was an energy and intensity that came out of working that quickly.”
Hopefully, Soderbergh will land firmly on his feet again soon. And any of us out here trying to make good films and finding ourselves standing face to face with the current incarnation of the Hollywood Studios understands Soderbergh’s despair. But he is a rare talent and he does have an audience. And with his love and discovery of the digital realm and his ability to make a film on the fly, and the number of actors and other talented individuals who would relish the opportunity to work with Soderbergh on just about anything… Well, I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more of him for a while. And like Woody Allen before him, Soderbergh may just have to head to Europe to find a landscape a bit more suited to his needs and desires. Somewhere where he would be greeted with open arms, instead of having to defend his vision to people incapable of meeting him on solid ground.