Riley Keough stars as a law student who, in need of money, gets drawn into the world of "transactional relationships" — she becomes a high-priced prostitute catering to wealthy men who want "The Girlfriend Experience."
"It's not something you've really seen as a sort of lead character on a TV show," Keough said, "because I wouldn't say she's extremely likable or morally correct. She's very controlling and kind of manipulative and kind of selfish and likes sex. It's more of a character you'd see for a man, which is kind of what drew me to the show."
There's no direct connection between the film and the series — no characters from the former in the latter. The series was "inspired by" the film.
"The mandate was take the title and start over," said Soderbergh, who is an executive producer. The 13 episodes were written and directed by Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan.
The first four episodes of "The Girlfriend Experience" will screen Saturday, Jan. 23, at 5:30 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City; Keough, Kerrigan and Seimatz are slated to do a follow-up Q&A. The series begins airing on Starz on April 10.
Soderbergh said he never thought of turning "GFE" into a TV series until his friend (and fellow executive producer) Philip Fleishman suggested it.
"And I thought this would work," he said. "I said I'd like to take a sort of independent auteur director-driven approach to this show, and that's when I reached out to Amy and Lodge."
Where better to debut a series with an independent auteur director-driven approach than Sundance?
And, according to Soderbergh, television is the place to be these days. "The Girlfriend Experience" is his third current series, joining Cinemax's "The Knick" and Amazon's "Red Oaks."
"Right now if you're just interested in telling stories, it's a really good space to be working in," he said. "So I'm just kind of following the fun, you know. This has just been more fun."