Steven Soderbergh's 'The Girlfriend Experience' Lands Series Order at Starz

Venice Film Festival | Venice, Italy, Aug. 31-Sept. 11
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"Contagion" director Steven Soderbergh.

The Girlfriend Experience is moving to the small screen.

Starz announced Monday that it has greenlighted a 13-part anthology series inspired by Steven Soderbergh's film of the same name. In the half-hour episodes, the premium cable series will explore the relationships of the most exclusive courtesans who provide their clients with far more than just sex. These purveyors — or GFEs (girlfriend experience) — share intimacies more common to actual romantic partners, becoming quasi-lovers and confidants who are richly compensated for their time and skill.

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Soderbergh and Philip Fleishman will serve as executive producers on the entry alongside independent filmmakers Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz, who will write and direct the Transactional Pictures-produced series. (The original feature, which screened at Sundance in 2009, had been written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien.)

"We are all such fans of the movie that the idea of exploring this world through many different characters, voices and points of view was especially intriguing," said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht in a statement. "Steven and Philip's approach to the format is unique and not something seen on the entertainment landscape today. Working with Steven is always a thrill, and we are excited to break the mold with this project yet again."

Added Soderbergh: "We're in an exciting period of auteur-driven television right now. When Philip floated the idea of a Girlfriend Experience-inspired television show, I thought: ‘Let's make it a different woman in a different city, let's pair two independent writer-directors, one male and one female, and let them do the whole thing.' I've known Lodge for 20 years and I became a fan of Amy's when I saw her first feature last summer."

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For Soderbergh and Albrecht, this marks a reunion of sorts as the two worked together 11 years earlier on K Street, a political satire for HBO. Though still far better known for his film work, which has included the Ocean's trilogy, Erin Brockovich and Traffic, for which he won an Academy Award, Soderbergh's small-screen presence has grown considerably in recent years. He wore many hats, including director, for the Emmy-winning HBO telepic Behind the Candelabra and will do so again on the forthcoming Clive Owen drama The Knick, launching on Cinemax later this summer.

Soderbergh and Fleishman have a history, too, with Fleishman having produced Soderbergh's concert film about the group Yes back in 1985. The York University-educated writer-producer was behind several other concert films of the era and wrote, produced and appeared in many hours of documentary and internationally syndicated variety programming for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. as well. Fleishman's multipart CBC documentary series, The Future of the Jews, earned him an international Peabody nomination.

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"Many of these women are extremely accomplished," noted Fleishman of Girlfriend Experience's subjects, adding: "They range from musicians in major orchestras to Ph.D. candidates in the sciences and often feel empowered by the control and economic freedom their work as GFEs affords them. The question is whether they define a new genus of contemporary relationship, or have relationships always been transactionally based in one form or another?"

The series will join a Starz schedule that includes Da Vinci's Demons, Black Sails and Outlander, among other series. Within hours of Power's drama premiere earlier this month, the premium net ordered a second season, which has become common practice at Starz.

Soderbergh is repped by Anonymous Content and Lichter Grossman; Fleishman is repped by Coste Abrams; Kerrigan is repped by WME; and Seimetz is repped by WME and One Entertainment.