Michael Cera in "Command Z"
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Tv Steven Soderbergh Intended ‘Command Z’ Secret Series For TikTok But Switched To A Format He Felt An ‘Ease For’

Steven Soderbergh Intended ‘Command Z’ Secret Series For TikTok But Switched To A Format He Felt An ‘Ease For’

Michael Cera in "Command Z"

It’s a good time to be a fan of Steven Soderbergh. Last week saw the premiere of his delightfully twisty new thriller ‘Full Circle’ about Max, and on July 17, the prolific filmmaker launched a surprise web series, ‘Command Z’, on his Extension 765 place. The series – spread across eight episodes and roughly one hour and 40 minutes in total – is a playful and hilarious satire that sees the director slip back into his “Schizopolis” mode, with Michael Cera as the AI-spawned ghost of an Elon Musk-esque tech guru who implements a plan for select employees to travel back in time and clean up the mess he and other titans of politics and industry have created on the world. The series is deadly serious in its essence, grappling with ambitious ethical and philosophical questions tied to humanity’s most self-destructive tendencies, yet his idea delivery mechanism is the most gleefully funny comedy Soderbergh has crafted in decades.

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It’s also something that started out in a completely different form that Soderbergh scrapped before going back to the drawing board. Initially, he spun the story as a series of TikTok videos, only to find that particular medium just wasn’t the best outlet for what he does. “It just doesn’t fit the kind of storytelling I was built for,” he said during a recent panel discussion interview. “For things to work in that format, they have to fit into a certain style of storytelling, and it’s not a style that rewards something that takes a while to get right. The amount of time you have to hook someone with a TikTok video is… we’re talking seconds. Especially if you want the algorithm to keep distributing it to more people. It became obvious once we watched all of these videos: these are not going to be shared. These will not be pushed anywhere.

Soderbergh and his collaborators made 18 videos for TikTok, but “their storytelling paces were too slow,” he said. “We have put a lot of time and effort into making them, but it was obvious that we would have to go back to a format that I am more comfortable in and that I feel I have a structure for. I definitely felt old, but the ideas we were trying to present didn’t lend themselves to the things TikTok does well.”

Directing the version of “Command Z” that finally made it to the public led Soderbergh to switch his crew: Longtime collaborator “Mary Ann Bernard” — a pseudonym for Soderbergh himself — gave the cutting duties to another editor for the first time in over 10 years. “It wasn’t in my plan to direct all of ‘Command Z,'” said Soderbergh. When the plan changed, Soderbergh had to shoot “Command Z” while finishing “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” and prepping “Full Circle,” which meant there was no avoiding bringing in another editor. “It became obvious, I can’t do all of these things at the same time. Like, I need a break here. Hiring a real editor was the only way to go.

Soderbergh offered the job to documentary editor Francesca Kustra, whom he met when she was working on Eugene Jarecki’s “The King,” a film Soderbergh executive produced. “I spent a couple days with Eugene and his editorial team going over that film, and she and I were having a conversation during that time,” Soderbergh said. “I thought she was talented, smart, hardworking. And so when I realized there’s no universe where I can edit “Command Z” while I’m shooting and editing “Full Circle,” I called her and said, “I know you’ve never done anything like this before, but if you’d like, I’d really like you to do it.” And she ended up doing a great job. It was really desperation, the cut, the practical necessity that made me look outside the tent a bit, but I’m really glad I did. It was nice to have another set of eyes on that particular project.

“Command Z” is now available at Extension 765. All proceeds will be donated to Children’s Aid and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research.

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