Hired Gun vs. Auteur

Hired Gun
Are IP-based movie productions better served by engaging auteur directors who will control every aspect of the film, or do such projects reap greater benefits from a more mercenary approach?

Bradford Walker offers a definite answer and compares DC Comics' movies to Marvel's as an example.
Following on from a previous Midnight's Edge video on why non-Marvel cinematic universes routinely fail, we see another piece of the puzzle become brick-to-the-face obvious: producer-centric editorial control, returning the Old Hollywood practice of studio moguls being the shot-callers to a new context with a new justification for doing so. We see this sort of thing being behind how Lucasfilm runs their film franchise also, as Kathleen Kennedy is not afraid to remind directors that they are hired guns doing Work For Hire and not true partners working as collaborators.
In short, directors and writers are hired to produce a branded product possessing their signature style within editorial limits. Lucasfilm wants a Star Wars-branded product version of (director)'s style, in the genre said director is famous for and reliably delivers to market. The same applies to Marvel, and when directors realize what their limits are within such considerations they actually don't seem to mind too much; the same applies to writers, most of whom know that the realities of the business drive things like changing a character from the source material depiction to something more market-friendly (e.g. Doctor Strange and The Ancient One), so they keep calm and carry on.
The folks who are failing are those that cannot admit that this is the case and adjust their personal and corporate operations to adapt to reality. DC can't do this, and neither can Warner Brothers more generally, which is why Marvel (and Disney) are eating their lunch. 
Star Wars is an interesting and illustrative example. The best films in the series were arguably made by hired gun directors working to Lucas' specs rather than the installments written, produced, and directed by Lucas himself.

It's also worth noting that the Star Wars brand has been weakening since Kennedy has given J.J. Abrams and now Rian Johnson carte blanche with the franchise.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might suspect that there's a lesson for authors somewhere in this post. And you'd be right.
Learning how to operate a fictional setting as a brand-based business is turning into a vital skill to have for IP-based businesses such as comics, but this does scale down to the realm of SF/F publishing- but for the authors, not the publishers, so it does matter for folks who manage to find an audience with their fictional works (e.g. Larry Correia an Monster Hunter International) to pay attention to these matters going forward.
In sum: if you're playing in someone else's sandbox, build to spec, but don't be afraid to do it in style.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier


  1. I have to say, knowledge of and respect for the property seems to be a driver of quality. The DC movies of late have not cared for the heroes or their histories of late. The shows did, for awhile, do better.

    This also applies to the comics. The better ones are dealing with the history, and looking at where things can go. The worst ones are intent on wiping out the history.

    1. Brian and Alfred,

      Good points. I suspect that everyone conflates creativity and originality with only being the creator. But that's not true. The Thin man movies that were never novels showed how it was done. And I find them as original and creative as if Raymond Chandler wrote them himself.

      It's the same problem I have as a teacher. I have to constantly remind my students not freak out. I don't expect them at their age to be 'groundbreaking' but they still can be original and creative by how well they marshal their resources and present their arguments.
      So we need to put creativity and originality in some sort of perspective. You can still be creative and original within a set literary universe as a hired writer/artists

    2. "The worst ones are intent on wiping out the history."

      Where have we seen the MO before...?

    3. Brian

      1792 (the proto erasure of the Vendee) 1917 1945 1949 1959 1966 1975
      Signpsts of imfamy


  2. Anything that breaks the hold of the myth of the auteur over entertainment is a good trend.

    1. A comic book writer was on Twitter a few days back calling the idea that customers matter "annoying". I kid you not!

    2. And they wonder why Make Mine Milkshake and their filth is dying.

      What a time to be a creator! Anyone with half a brain to create FUN and ENJOYMENT can be the one-eyed man in the Kingdom of the Blind.

    3. He seriously tried the "creators are more important because without them, there'd be nothing to consume" canard.

      These economic illiterates have no idea how they're setting themselves up for disintermediation.

    4. Golly chicken egg problem that Aristotle solved long ago: actuality precedes potentiality. So customers' desire/interest in being entertained precedes the auteur of cultural products.

      I finished Soul dancer and I'll write a review as soon as possible and withhold any questions until after the last books is published.

    5. "customers' desire/interest in being entertained precedes the auteur of cultural products."

      He actually did refer to it as a "chicken or the egg" problem. I should've known to consult the Stagyrite. Thanks!