Matthew Weiner and Zach Galifianakis on the set of ‘Are You Here’/Image © Are You Here Films
"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner is the latest powerful showrunner to make the leap to features. His writing-directing debut, the comedy "Are You Here," will receive a limited release Friday, August 22. Great success in TV sometimes generates enough creative capital to obtain a greenlight for a passion project, but convincing television fans to show up in theaters is far from a sure thing, as our list here shows.
When "The Sopranos" abruptly went dark, David Chase wrote and made the 2012 coming-of-age music drama "Not Fade Away," which drew mildly positive reviews but almost no moviegoers. Still, Paramount plans to produce his next writing-directing effort, "Little Black Dress."
The success of "Nip/Tuck" provided Ryan Murphy the opportunity to adapt Augusten Burroughs's Running With Scissors, a film that left audiences and critics mostly unimpressed. His follow-up, however, the big-screen adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, delighted international audiences in spite of critics' mixed reviews.
J. J. Abrams
J. J. Abrams was already an established screenwriter ("Regarding Henry," "Forever Young") and television maestro ("Felicity," "Alias," "Lost") when he was handed the healthy "Mission: Impossible" feature-film franchise in 2006. Everything's been golden since then, leading up to the biggest film-directing job imaginable: the continuation of the "Star Wars" saga.
The "Seinfeld" mastermind got his shot behind the camera toward the end of the show's meteoric run in 1998 with "Sour Grapes," a predictably bitter comedy that critics, who were the only ones that went to see it, found very sour indeed.
Gary David Goldberg
Gary David Goldberg parlayed the success of "Family Ties" into a gig directing the 1989 drama "Dad," inspired by the William Wharton novel. It received middling response, though his next feature, the 2005 romantic comedy "Must Love Dogs" based on the Claire Cook novel, did marginally better.
Judd Apatow is the rare creative player to have spun his television failures ("Freaks and Geeks," "Undeclared") into a successful filmmaking career, with the one-two punch of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" in 2005 and "Knocked Up" in 2007.
Like Abrams, Joss Whedon was a successful screenwriting commodity ("Toy Story," "Alien: Resurrection") and TV mastermind ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly") by the time he directed the underperforming 2005 sci-fi drama "Serenity." Not to worry: As shepherd of Marvel's multi-billion-dollar superhero juggernaut, he cashed in with the Hulk-sized haul of "The Avengers" in 2012 and is sure to do the same with the sequel due in May 2015.