Once upon a time, Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh wanted to make a movie. A movie about Vegas showman Liberace and the love of his life.* Unfortunately, Liberace’s lover happened to be a man. And when it comes to obtaining financing, a movie about two men in love is still a tough sell.** Even when the two men happen to be Oscar-winning stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.
After ten years of trying to get traditional financing and distribution (i.e. a theatrical release), Soderbergh found an alternative: releasing Behind the Candelabra on HBO. The result? A financed movie, an invitation to compete at the Cannes Film Festival (unprecedented for a TV project), and I project a host of Emmy nominations. Not bad for a made for TV movie.
The movie is true to Liberace in all his rhinestone glory. Damon and Douglas are a believable couple. The film is entertaining and complex. The supporting characters are insanely amazing (especially Rob Lowe as Liberace’s wonky plastic surgeon). The movie unsurprisingly debuted to record audiences. Once again, stellar content on cable TV is changing the entertainment game.
There may be traditional rules for how things are supposed to happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow them. When Soderbergh couldn’t secure a traditional theatrical release, he found another way to get his passion project made. You should do the same. The result could be just as groundbreaking.
*The movie is based on a book by Liberace’s partner, Scott Thorson.
**The film is getting a theatrical release internationally. It will be interesting to see how it does.