Bongorama Exclusive: CNN takes on HBO with a new fictional TV series by Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader


By Ronnie Rocket, editor & publisher

This is big news in television. Not only does the global news channel CNN enter the TV drama market. They also signed the best director and screenwriter in U.S. cinema to direct it.

Paul Schrader, who wrote Taxi Driver and directed Blue Collar, Patty Hearst, Mishima and American Gigolo among many other masterpieces, just confirmed on his personal Facebook account that the contract with CNN is signed.

Wrote a pilot for Scorsese and HBO but it didn’t get a green light. Am doing six part first fictional series for CNN. Deal just concluded. – Paul Schrader on Facebook a few hours ago

Paul Schrader broke the news in a discreet comment on a personal Facebook status about watching True Detective:

Finished True Detective tonight. Fabulous character complexity and plotting but in the end I was disappointed by its reliance on southern gothic and serial killer stereotypes. But perhaps that’s the price to be paid to work in the commercial arena. Epilogue scene outside hospital was equally implausible and embarrassing. Great visual tableaux throughout but not so inventive when it came to coverage in dialogue scenes. Also, it watched it over the course of five days. Binge viewing not a great idea. Would have been better over five weeks.

The rumour has been there since last year, but since HBO amazingly turned down a Taxi Driver sequel pilot by Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader, the CNN deal was still up in the air.

Not anymore. It is coming. And it is huge news for television.

In an interview with Premier France recently, Paul Schrader said:

“I wrote a pilot for HBO with Martin Scorsese. But HBO turned it down. I might have a contract with CNN for a six-part miniseries. This is a different form of writing, and in a sense, better. Because the three-act structure that holds two hours of movie start to show signs of fatigue. The public has changed so that it becomes very difficult to interest them. As soon as they entered the movie theater, they guess what is going to happen. So if your film lasts 18, 30 or 50 hours, when it actually comes down to it you can be much more unpredictable. When I wrote the pilot for HBO, I thought like a writer. And they said, “No, no. You can not put a climax in the 3rd act. When writing for TV, the climax comes in the second act, because in the third, you must prepare for the next episode. This is an interesting way of writing. We are only concerned over the long term. We do not know what it’s like in film. We do not know how the audience see it. Or how they pay. What you see on YouTube may be characterized as film? I think so. The entire series Madmen, is it a movie? Yes, even if it is very long. For a long time, films remained in a certain format simply because they had to correspond to an economic model. Now, I watch TV shows on this (he shows his iPhone).”

Earlier, the Interrobang reported this:

When Paul Schrader stopped in to talk with Ron Bennington on the Ron and Fez Show about his new film, “The Canyons” he also dropped the big news that he is working with CNN to develop a possible fictional series. CNN branching off into a serial drama would be interesting news by itself, but having Schrader involved makes this even more interesting. Schrader told Bennington that the series will be about gun show culture, with a Timothy McVeigh type character. He also drew comparisons to his “Taxi Driver” character Travis Bickle.

“I’m in kind of a negotiation with CNN to do a limited series. They’re thinking of moving over to fiction. And I proposed that we do something on Tim McVeigh and the gun show culture. Because that’s what happened – when Travis Bickle moved from the 70s to the 80s, he met the gun show culture. That’s where Tim McVeigh came from. (laughs) And now, when Travis Bickle meets the social media culture – I don’t know what comes out of that.”

Schrader hinted that the new series might also draw on his recent experience working with Lindsay Lohan on the new film. Working with Lohan gave him a close up look at today’s response to social media culture. “The enormous reservoir of hatred there is.” he said. “People just can’t even have a sensible conversation because they go kind of red in the eyes when her name comes up. And all kinds of vile things that would normally have been only spoken in locker rooms and bars, are now being posted online. And it is…as I said to her a number of times, I said – it must be exhausting to be you.”

Paul Schrader also did one of the most interesting Reddit AMA‘s ever.

This blog post has some entertaining quotes from Schrader about his recent visit to Paris.

He is currently finishing a new movie, The Dying of the Light, with Nicolas Cage.

Here is the Kanye West remixed trailer for his latest film, The Canyons. It is the best U.S. movie since American Gigolo. Or The Killing of a Chinese Bookie if you count out Schrader’s own films!

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