The Big Screen Talent Behind Small Screen Projects: 15 Filmmakers And Their Forays Into Television

In recent years many critics have claimed that the quality of television has far outpaced that of feature films. While the mediums may be too different to garner a fair comparison, one thing's for sure-- more and more filmmakers are dabbling in (if not completely switching over to) TV. Here are 15 filmmakers who have lent their noteworthy cinematic style and themes to the small screen.

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Alan Ball

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Alan Ball won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1999 for American Beauty. After the achievement, he immediately turned his attention to the small screen, creating the award winning HBO series Six Feet Under. Most recently the writer has adapted Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse book series into True Blood for HBO.

Sam Mendes

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Sam Mendes also won an Academy Award for Best Director for American Beauty. In 2001, he established Neal Street Productions to fund his pet projects for film and television. Last year the production company produced the BBC1 drama Call The Midwife. As of now Mendes is currently developing Penny Dreadful for Showtime with Skyfall writer John Logan. The show will be a horror serial set in Victorian England and will incorporate characters from literary classics like Dracula and Frankenstein.

Justin Lin

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Since Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, director Justin Lin has been leading the Fast and the Furious action franchise into boffo box office. In between directing these mega-budgeted affairs, Lin has lent his eye for action to the comedy series Community. He's directed such episodes as "Modern Warfare", "Interpretive Dance", and "Introduction to Statistics" in a dynamic, cinematic style.

Bryan Singer

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Bryan Singer rose to prominence in 1995 as the director of The Usual Suspects, but he truly broke out as an A-lister by helming the first two films in the X-Men franchise. Following X-2, Singer produced several projects for television, including series like Dirty Hot Money, H+, and House M.D. Most recently he produced and directed the pilot Mockingbird Lane for NBC. The dramatic remake of the sitcom The Munsters was deemed unfit for series, but was turned into a television special instead.

Kevin Williamson

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Kevin Williamson became one of Hollywood’s hottest screenwriters in 1996 when his script for Scream highhandedly rejuvenated a dying horror genre. After writing a string of hit horror, sci-fi, and thriller films (including the Scream sequels), Williamson took his knack for teen drama and created the long-running WB series Dawson’s Creek. Later, when the horror genre’s popularity shifted to remakes and torture films, Williamson switched to television almost exclusively, creating or developing such series as Hidden Palms, Glory Days, and The Vampire Diaries. Most recently Williams has returned to horror, albeit on the small screen, with the Kevin Bacon led serial killer drama The Following.

Diablo Cody

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Diablo Cody quickly became one of Hollywood’s hottest screenwriters when Juno won her an Academy Award in 2007. Following the financial failure of her follow-up, Jennifer’s Body, Cody began her first foray into television with Showtime’s The United States of Tara. The split personality comedy was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and starred Toni Collette and Patton Oswalt. It lasted a solid three seasons, during which time Cody also contributed writing for the Adult Swim series Children’s Hospital.

Jason Reitman

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Jason Reitman’s knack for dramedy has racked up several Academy Award nominations for the writer/ director. While Reitman has kept his attention mostly on producing, writing or directing films like Up In The Air, Juno, and Young Adult, he has directed episodes of the hit television series The Office (fan favorites “Local Ad” and “Frame Toby”) and several commercials for Burger King, Nintendo, and Wal-Mart.

David Fincher

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Before he caught his big break directing Alien 3, David Fincher made his living directing innovative television ads for Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola. After becoming an Academy Award nominee for films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, Fincher is finally returning to the small screen with his first television series. House of Cards is a political drama starring Kevin Spacey that recently premiered as a Netflix exclusive program. Fincher is producing and directing the series.

Eli Roth

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Eli Roth is Netflix’s other A-list director developing original television content for their platform. While not quite on the level of David Fincher, Roth has made a name for himself as both a horror director (with Cabin Fever and the Hostel series) and actor (for his performances in Inglourious Basterds and Grindhouse). For the streaming service Roth has developed a werewolf themed series called Hemlock Grove based on Brian McGreevy’s novel of the same name.

Michael Mann

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Michael Mann got his start writing for such 1970s series as Police Story and Starsky and Hutch. After becoming an acclaimed film director in the 1980s, Mann bounced back and forth between the big and small screen by creating such seminal series as Vega$ and Miami Vice. While Mann would take a television hiatus in the 90s, he would return in 2002 with the short-lived Robbery Homicide Division. After another decade long hiatus, history repeated itself with his equally short lived 2011 HBO series Luck.

Spike Lee

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Though Spike Lee makes his living predominately in feature films, the director has been involved in several personal projects made for the small screen. These include documentaries like Jim Brown: All American, Kobe Doin’ Work, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, and When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts. Lee’s other television work includes the movie Sucker Free City, the pilot for the legal drama Shark, the miniseries Miracle’s Boys, and several commercials for companies like Nike and Taco Bell.

Gus Van Sant

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Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant made a brief detour into television by directing and executive producing the Starz series Boss. The show stars Kelsey Grammar as a Chicago mayor and shares themes of political intrigue not unlike Van Sant's features like The Promised Land and Milk.

Barry Levinson

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He’s best known for directing such film favorites as Rain Man and Good Morning Vietnam. However Barry Levinson has been dabbling in television since attempting to adapt his hit film Diner into a pilot in 1983. Among Levinson’s most noteworthy television credits include producing Homicide: Life On The Streets, HBO’s Oz, the BBC series Copper and the upcoming television move Phil Spector.

Quentin Tarantino

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Quentin Tarantino has never expressed interest in making television his preferred creative medium, but the director has had a few noteworthy flourishes on the small screen. He directed the fan-favorite "Motherhood" episode of E.R. in 1995, acted as guest director for Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2004, and directed the acclaimed C.S.I. episodes "Grave Danger: Volumes 1 & 2" in 2005.

Steven Spielberg

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Steven Spielberg dropped out of film school in 1969 after becoming the youngest director ever to sign a long-term deal with a studio (Universal). By 1970 the filmmaker was helming episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D., Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, and Columbo. In 1971, he redefined the television movie with Duel, a seminal suspense film that earned theatrical distribution overseas. These television gigs helped Spielberg gain the opportunity to direct films like The Sugarland Express and Jaws. The latter’s blockbuster success made Spielberg Hollywood’s favorite director. For a solid decade thereafter Spielberg stayed in feature films before returning to television to create his own Rod Serling inspired show called Amazing Stories. Since then Spielberg has achieved great success in the medium, producing everything from animated series (like Tiny Toon Adventures) to dramas (like Seaquest: DSV and Taken). Spielberg’s next flagship television property will be executive producing an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Under the Dome.

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