There used to be a sharp dividing line between the worlds of film and television, but that line has faded in the era of peak TV. With more and more cable networks and streaming outlets giving creative opportunities to writers and directors, we’ve reached the point where the filmmakers behind the last two Oscar winners for Best Picture are in the Emmy conversation, and no one has batted an eye.
Tom McCarthy wrote and directed 2015’s Best Picture, “Spotlight,” and Barry Jenkins wrote and directed 2016’s Best Picture, “Moonlight.” Both won Oscars for their screenplays, and now both of them could be up for Emmys for their work on Netflix shows. McCarthy is an executive producer of the much-discussed teen drama “13 Reasons Why” about the aftermath of a high school girl’s suicide, and he also directed the first two episodes of the season. And Jenkins directed “Chapter V” of “Dear White People,” the series adaptation of Justin Simien‘s indie comedy about racism on an Ivy League college campus. Jenkins’s episode is an important turning point for the season, involving a run-in with campus police.
Both “13 Reasons Why” and “Dear White People” have been praised by critics. And Netflix has already made inroads with Emmy voters in recent years with original programs like “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Master of None,” to name a few. So these new shows already have a leg up on competitors from less established TV distributors. But there’s more and more original programming on Netflix and beyond flooding the airwaves — and flooding broadband networks — which is making it harder and harder for new shows to get their feet in the door at the Emmys. So every little bit counts — and having a couple of recently anointed Oscar champs on the payroll counts a lot.
Emmy voters love to reward cool, prestigious cinema directors when they come to TV. In the race for Best Drama Directing, we’ve seen recent victories for Martin Scorsese (“Boardwalk Empire,” 2011), David Fincher (“House of Cards,” 2013) and Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective,” 2014). And other admired auteurs have earned nominations even when the TV academy isn’t that into their shows as a whole, like Quentin Tarantino for guest-directing an episode of “CSI” (2005), as well as Agnieszka Holland (“Treme,” 2010), Neil Jordan (“The Borgias,” 2011) and Steven Soderbergh (“The Knick,” 2016).
We’ve seen fewer examples of that on the comedy side, but even there the TV academy has recognized a few high-profile names from the film world in recent years, including a win for “Men in Black” filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld (“Pushing Daisies.” 2008) and nominations for Oscar winning actress Jodie Foster (“Orange is the New Black,” 2014) and “Lego Movie” directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“The Last Man on Earth,” 2015).
Of course, McCarthy and Jenkins aren’t the only high-profile contenders coming to series TV this year from the world of cinema. Another Netflix drama, “The Crown,” boasts scripts by Oscar nominee Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon”) and direction by Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliot,” “The Hours”). Also on Netflix is “The Get Down” by Oscar nominee Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”). Then there’s “Westworld” on HBO, with writing and directing by Oscar nominee Jonathan Nolan (“Memento”). The OWN drama “Queen Sugar” is the brainchild of Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “13th”). Even Sonnenfeld is back with another visually ambitious series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”
That doesn’t even count the wealth of A-list talent behind the camera for this year’s limited series and TV movies. But longform programming has had a longer history of attracting film talent than drama or comedy series, where this is a newer phenomenon. It’s hard to argue that McCarthy and Jenkins are big fish in a small pond since TV has become an ocean unto itself, but they still have an undeniable cachet as the creators of the Oscars’ last two favorite films. Seeing their names in the credits might encourage TV academy members to watch, and seeing their names on a ballot might encourage them to vote.
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on July 13. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums.