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Auteur License

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"Looking back, it is probably the most important film I ever made, since it is the film that finally stopped people trying to tell me what I should do."
Ingmar Bergman on Smiles of a Summer Night note 

This refers to when individuals leading a large collaborative project have full freedom to complete said project as per their vision, without any commercial or social constraints. They can decide the story, what it looks like, whom to cast, the length and pace of the film, and whether it can end as per the director's wishes rather than a Focus Group Ending.

The name refers to The Auteur Theory, translated by American film critic Andrew Sarris from the French. It states that a film is the result of its director's personal creative vision, as if he were the primary "Auteur" (the French word for "author") and the key factor determining if a film will be good or bad. The other creative roles (writing, acting, cinematography, score, set design, etc) are important but primarily as Production Posse, and individually connote parts of a whole that only the director can properly shape by say determining camera placement, the number of shots a scene should start, when a scene starts and ends, how the actors interact with the supporting cast and so on. In the original form, the theory applied to all films and it was applied originally to resurrect and honour the reputations of underrated and neglected film-makers of The Golden Age of Hollywood. It has since however taken on broader connotations.

In the general sense, it refers to certain film-makers and directors who are considered to be highly accomplished in their field, and who are known to make films as per their wishes rather than the demands of studios and corporations. In common parlance, when a director has auteur license they are said to have "final cut" (i.e. the editing isn't finished and exhibited until the director is satisfied and they and they alone, have the last word on how it actually plays to the public). This tends to be more common in small independent "Art House" cinema rather than in mainstream American movies, and in general, this trope is significant when film-makers working in the mainstream have final cut. In America, even after the end of The Hays Codenote , directors still struggle with Executive Meddling. A situation different from Europe, where directors not only have director's cut by law but also hold copyrightnote . In America, thanks to the DGA during the presidency of Robert Aldrich, directors, provided they complete a certain percentage of film-making and do not voluntarily resign from production, are allowed the "first cut" i.e. they are contractually stipulated to make the first edit of the film before anyone else in post-production can even touch the film. This allows for the director of any completed mainstream film at least a chance to realize his version in the edit before receiving feedback from the producers and editors, or the previews.

Because the usual studio system is unequipped to deal with the Auteur's unique artistic vision, the Auteur License grants them Protection from Editors and an exemption from Executive Meddling.

The ability to maintain Auteur License in the mainstream is directly proportional to how much money their films make at the box office and their capacity to avoid controversy. This is quite tricky needless to say, and some Auteurs risk biting off more than they can chew, and have had theirs revoked. Often the magic of the first groundbreaking film is impossible to reproduce and the result is becoming a Pigeonholed Director where rather than try and make different kinds of films, people expect a repeat of that first hit. At this state, the Auteur License can be revoked and the Auteur will be forced back into the art-house world or stuck making movies with much much less creative control. It's nonetheless possible however for a number of Auteurs to maintain the success of their first films and build their style into a valuable brand that can even absorb the occasional failure.

An Auteur License is not to be confused with your run of the mill star power earned with consistently high grossing, top quality work. While all creative work can bear the artistic stamp of its author, an Auteur License grants the bearer the ability to make a piece far outside what is considered standard fare and that would not normally be greenlit.

Protection from Editors is a less-positively related trope.

When an Auteur license is revoked, see Fallen Creator.

See also Prima Donna Director, when a big-name director has a (possibly justified) big ego.

Contrast Executive Veto, Executive Meddling, Tough Act to Follow. Compare with Glory Days. May be a Copiously Credited Creator. See also First Installment Wins. Not related to Artistic License.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The application of this to the Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- anime was how Bee Train, while good at original works, ended up with a reputation for ill-advised adaptations. Their last work since 2012 is Hyouge Mono which suffered Troubled Production and was a Disowned Adaptation to the mangaka.
  • Hayao Miyazaki has his own studio, so obviously he can make whatever he wants, but that's not the only Auteur License he's been issued. He's also gotten Disney of all people to grant him one, as the terms of his agreement with them are such that not one frame of Miyazaki animation gets edited for the American release. When word got out that Miramax was planning a few edits to Princess Mononoke, his editor apocryphally sent them a katana with a two-word note attached: "No cuts." They got the message.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: The Krakoan Age: Jonathan Hickman was given the full reins here to turn the X-Men around from an Audience-Alienating Era and make them an A-list brand once again. First, he's considered the architect of the new status quo following House of X/Powers of X and writes not only the flagship ongoing, but also guides the creative teams with his supervision. Speaking of which, all creative teams were handpicked by him rather than being assigned those titles by Marvel, which essentially means everyone is operating under his blessing.

    Films — Animation 
  • Walt Disney ran his own animation studio and served as producer on every project, so he may have received his Auteur License earlier than this, but he got it for certain (along with seven dwarf-sized Academy Awards) after presenting Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length traditionally animated film. His work in animation was bold and innovative, proving the medium could do more than make silly cartoons. Though his later work was, at the time, not immediately as well-received as Snow White, he managed to use the money and prestige won off that one film to begin work on several more. Eventually, his company became so profitable that he was beholden to no one in terms of what he could do. Ironically, around the same time (possibly because of this) he started to step away from animation and began working in untapped and more challenging ventures, like television and theme parks. And live-action movies — which met with various degrees of success.
  • Pixar's movies were always successful, but the success of Finding Nemo grew their reputation from "the pioneers of CG animation" to "the best in the business right now". A few years later, the release of WALL•E turned them into "the biggest name in animation", which was cemented by follow-up films Up and Toy Story 3. Their reputation took a bit of a hit after that, but their Auteur License remains, and any questions about its viability have been answered with Inside Out, which also scored the highest opening for an original movie in history.
    • Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo and WALL•E, was granted one by Disney after they gave him a ton of money to make his passion project. Unfortunately, that project was John Carter, a film that lost Disney $200 million. Stanton has since gone back to Pixar full-time.
    • It's often assumed that Executive Meddling is to blame for the existence of Cars 2, being a horribly-received sequel to Pixar's then-most-lukewarmly received film that nevertheless rakes in billions in merchandise. Not quite — John Lasseter can't be forced to make a film by the executives at Disney because from shortly after the release of the first Cars film until 2017, John Lasseter was the executives at Disney (specifically, he was in charge of all Disney feature animation). The Cars universe was simply his pet project, and Disney had no reason to object to him using his auteur license to produce more Cars films at Pixar and Planes films at DisneyToon Studios when he packed them full of more marketable vehicle characters than your average Transformers generation.
  • Don Bluth more or less gave himself one after leaving Disney to become an independent filmmaker. Ironically, it was slowly stripped away with each success until it was altogether revoked following a string of flops in the '90s.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Akira Kurosawa was granted an Auteur License for the Pearl Harbor epic Tora! Tora! Tora! based on his strong body of work in Japanese cinema. In charge of the Japanese unit of the bi-national production costs and delays quickly got out of control due to Kurosawa's perfectionism. At one point he ordered a set completely repainted because it was a slightly wrong shade of white. Kurosawa was fired as director while the film was still in production being replaced by Kinji Fukasaku and very little, if any, of his footage made the final cut. The fact of his Auteur License being revoked was evidenced by never working in Hollywood again.
  • Director Terrence Malick received his Auteur License after Days of Heaven, went into J. D. Salinger-esque seclusion for the next 20 years, and re-emerged to make The Thin Red Line, whereupon 20 major Hollywood stars lined up to get a part in the film, seven of whom were left on the cutting room floor. The studio pulled the plug on the film, whereupon 20th Century Fox insisted Malick employ more Hollywood stars, many of whom were offering to work for free... Malick retained his big-budget Auteur License for his next film, The New World (2005) with Colin Farrell. As of his Palme d'Or-winning 2011 epic The Tree of Life, he seems to have kept it.
  • Don Mancini has been the lifeblood and sole writer/co-writer (as well as director of the later entries) of the Child's Play franchise since its inception.
  • Director M. Night Shyamalan had a breakout hit with The Sixth Sense and was granted an Auteur License that allowed him to produce more of his signature Twist Ending films. While the next film Unbreakable achieved some success, and Signs was another hit, The Village made money but lost some critical respect. His next two films were outright flops, and Shyamalan became a target of mockery. His Auteur License was revoked right after he tried to show it off in Lady in the Water, and now was forced to make a film from an established franchise instead of his own stories. That hasn't worked out so well either. Following the critical success of The Visit and the sleeper hit Split, it seemed his career was on the way back up. Unfortunately, the critical panning and lackluster box office of Glass (2019) and Old have sent it tumbling back down for now.
  • Stanley Kubrick: Spartacus made him famous, but he didn't earn his Auteur License until after Dr. Strangelove. (In between, he suffered major Executive Meddling on Lolita.) For the rest of his life, he had enough respect to get away with strange, arty films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut. (That last was his very last completed film.)
  • Orson Welles got issued his Auteur License right off the bat by RKO Pictures for his first film, Citizen Kane, based on his work in radio and theatre. Welles directed, wrote, produced, and starred in it. While this movie is now considered one of the greatest films ever made, the content picked a fight with media mogul William Randolph Hearst whose papers refused to carry advertisements for the film causing it to fail financially. While his contract gave him exclusive control over his next film, The Magnificent Ambersons, the result was deemed unreleasable by the executives and was hacked to pieces by the studio. Welles' Auteur License was revoked at that point and he eventually had to spend long periods of time in Europe to exercise his creative vision.
  • Woody Allen. He's practically had an auteur license since he started making movies in The '60s (his second film was a Japanese spy movie he bought and put a Gag Dub on top of. And it was approved!). His big success with Annie Hall in 1977 is what made him untouchable, even after he made a string of movies generally considered mediocre in the late 1980s through early 2000s, and after the "marrying his stepdaughter" incident that would've ended a lesser celebrity's career. The string of movies since 2005's Match Point are generally considered to be a comeback for him, but if he didn't have a strong case of this trope, he wouldn't have lasted long enough to have a comeback. It helps that he makes movies on relatively low budgets, and hence doesn't have to meet as many box-office needs as other movies. The budget itself is helped by his license; actors undoubtedly accept less money than they otherwise would because it's a Woody Allen film.
  • David Lynch got his auteur license with Eraserhead; producer Mel Brooks gave him a free hand on The Elephant Mannote . He almost lost it in the middle of all the Executive Meddling over Dune (1984), which he says taught him an important lesson: "I'd rather not make a film at all than make one where I don't have final cut." He went on to direct several smaller-scale pictures, starting with Blue Velvet, that rehabilitated his reputation as an auteur; it was on the strength of Blue Velvet that he was able to get Twin Peaks off the ground.
  • After being forced to chop down the theatrical cuts of Aliens and The Abyss, James Cameron got his after Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It was renewed after Titanic (1997) became the highest-grossing film of all time. Now that he's topped that feat with Avatar, it's safe to say that Cameron has a lifetime pass because his films practically grant licenses to print money. His license will last as long as his movies are profitable. The Studio actively debated interfering with Avatar as its costs spiraled only to be proven wrong when it made a ton of money. Had Avatar lost money it would have been revoked.
  • After a decade of often much-acclaimed films, both small- and large-scale (ranging from M*A*S*H to Nashville to 3 Women) Robert Altman got this for 1980's Popeye — a live-action, big-budget family musical based on the comic strip and cartoon hero — via super-producer Robert Evans. Unfortunately, the resultant film had a long, difficult shoot and got very mixed notices from critics, and wasn't nearly as profitable as the studios had hoped.note  Altman spent the remainder of the decade making much smaller-scale films that attracted little attention from anyone besides film critics — and it was just getting started! He didn't make his comeback until The Player in 1992.
  • Tim Burton got his after Batman (1989). Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice had both been bigger-than-expected hits for Warner Bros., but he still faced a good deal of Executive Meddling on Batman. Once it was a megahit, he became a big enough name that not only he given a good deal of creative freedom on Edward Scissorhands, but it was his previous track record and now-signature style that was used to sell it to audiences. Although some of his subsequent films have been critical and/or commercial disappointments, he's had enough successes to hang on to the license.
  • Quentin Tarantino at this point has permission to bend what he wants, where he wants, who he wants. By 2015, Quentin's license had earned endorsements that allowed him to not only shoot The Hateful Eight in 70mm Ultra Panavision, a film format that had not been used in nearly 50 years but also got the film's distributor to pay to upgrade ~140 cinemas around the world for 70mm film projection. Keep in mind this took place several years after even basic 35mm film projection was phased out in favor of digital.
  • Steven Spielberg after Jaws.
  • Christopher Nolan after The Dark Knight. He purposefully took up the director's chair for the The Dark Knight Trilogy in order to build a relationship with Warner Bros. to gain the Auteur License (as well as large-scale filmmaking experience) to be able to shoot his pet project that would need big-budget resources to realize fully: Inception. When that proved a monster critically acclaimed Oscar-nominated hit, Nolan's license was likely set for the rest of his career.
    • WB basically wrote him a blank check for $100 million to make Dunkirk as well as giving him an upfront salary of $20 million with 20% of the film’s gross.
    • For Tenet, WB gave him his biggest budget, ever, at $235 million, and creative freedom. The film is a completely original intellectual property and its three top-billed stars (John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki) are young up and comers with very little big-budget starring work between the three of them. Washington had never been in a big-budget film. Pattinson had led a franchise (Twilight ) but it had been eight years since its end by the time the film came out as he spent the rest of the 2010s building his resume in smaller projects. Debicki had the most big-budget work with supporting roles in The Great Gatsby (2013) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 but hadn't led one yet. On top of all that, Warner Bros. stuck to its original cinematic release plans at Nolan's insistence, even as other major projects switched to streaming or indefinitely postponed their release dates due to the COVD-19 pandemic.
    • After he fell out with Warner Bros. over their plans to release their entire 2021 slate in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously and after Tenet bombed (due to pandemic theater closures), Nolan shopped his next film, Oppenheimer, around to various other studios, who had to agree to a list of conditions in order to acquire it: a $100 million production budget plus equal marketing spend, total creative control, a 100-day exclusive theatrical window, 20% of first-dollar gross, and a blackout period where the studio would not release any films for three weeks before or after its release. Universal eventually picked it up.
  • Denis Villeneuve, certainly has this for the time being. Not all of his movies have done well, but his so-far-unbroken streak of critically-acclaimed films (his worst-reviewed film, Enemy, still has a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) has impressed the critics enough for studios to let him tackle basically whatever he wants, which is all the more impressive because his films tend to be very slow-paced, dark, light on action, aimed at adult audiences, and requiring heavy budgets (i.e. the kinds of movies that make marketing teams cry.) The proof? Even after Blade Runner 2049 bombed at the box office despite being a critical darling, Villeneuve was immediately handed the reins to two more mega-budget sci-fi cult franchise movies aimed at an adult audience, including Dune and Dune: Part Two.
  • Francis Ford Coppola earned his license by adapting, producing, and directing the awesome one-two punch of The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now. He used his newfound clout and money to build his own studio, American Zoetrope, where he planned to house an artistic community, turning out medium-budget passion projects. Unfortunately, his first such film, One from the Heart, went cataclysmically over budget. Unlike the similarly out-of-control Apocalypse Now, Heart flopped mightily upon release, and Coppola pulled it from theatres after a few weeks. Zoetrope was sold, Coppola's license was revoked, and he spent a good chunk of the 80s and 90s as a director for hire, trying to forge his way back to financial solvency. He has recently taken to financing his films with the proceeds from his vineyard and winery.
  • Michael Bay had become heavily associated and famous for his over the top action movies with huge explosions that invokedattract crowds no matter what critics think of them. He gained his Auteur License after Armageddon (1998), and his visual style has been heavily copied in modern action films. After Transformers: The Last Knight underperformed at the box office though, he has stuck to working with Netflix. He even made fun of his filmmaking style in this Verizon commercial.
  • George Lucas had the run-of-the-mill star power with American Graffiti. He wrote, issued, and certified his license with some movie about a farm boy looking for his destiny. Due to its success, Lucas has made anything he wanted, any way he wanted, since. Lucas even sets the terms for when his movies are released, at what theaters, and how the gross profits are divvied up.
    • Since he owned his own studio. The last three films he directed were financed by Lucas himself, with Fox only distributing. Lucas created his own licensing board and gave himself a license.
    • And, he actually said "screw you" to the Director's Guild in 1981 (after they demanded he put credits at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back) and yet still manages to make movies, albeit with other talent willing to defy the union. This, sadly, scotched plans for Steven Spielberg directing Return of the Jedi.
  • The Coen Brothers after Blood Simple
  • In the beginning of his career, Martin Scorsese cranked out a number of bonafide classics, (Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, etc). However, these were buffered by a number of financial flops, disallowing him the kind of carte blanche enjoyed by others on this page. However, since the release of Goodfellas in 1990, he's mostly been allowed to make his movies his way. Mostly.
  • Truly talented director Michael Cimino got his license with The Deer Hunter and promptly lost it with Heaven's Gate.
  • Peter Jackson earned his license with The Lord of the Rings, which then allowed him to make a 3-hour King Kong (2005) with a $200 million budget.
  • Judd Apatow got his with The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which has also given him Protection from Editors.
  • Jean-Luc Godard received his auteur license after the success of his first film, Breathless, leading him to make more complex and politically-driven films which consequently diminished much of the commercial and critical acclaim that first film earned. To this day, he still grips on to that license.
  • Charlie Chaplin was among the first to demonstrate this trope in American film. With his films being fairly consistently hailed big hits, he could take chances like a straight drama for his first United Artists film, A Woman of Paris, keep City Lights and Modern Times largely silent in The Golden Age of Hollywood, make fun of Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator and do a Black Comedy in Monsieur Verdoux.
  • According to reports, Ben Affleck accepted the role of Batman in the DC Extended Universe partly in exchange for Warner Bros. bankrolling some of his more tough-to-sell pet projects (and also because he wanted to work with Zack Snyder), one of them being Live by Night (which ultimately ended up victim of Executive Meddling). Sure enough, shortly after the deal was announced, an Affleck-directed political thriller set in Africa was greenlit (though it's fallen into Development Hell since).
  • When Marvel Studios started out, their first film was about a B-List superhero starring a washed-up actor and with a director whose last movie bombed. The result was a hit, which Marvel not only used to bring more of their heroes to the screen but also bring them together in a Shared Universe unheard of in the movies, to massive success.
    • Two movies stand out as things that would never have been approved had Marvel not earned a license:
      • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), about an obscure, relatively new and unproven comic book team with such oddities as a talking space raccoon and a plant alien with Pokémon Speak. It ended up being one of Marvel's biggest hits and became a major franchise in its own right.
      • Eternals, an Epic Movie about immortal space gods. While generally not as well-received as other Marvel films, it hasn't really affected the studio's reputation; and it's more regarded as a worthy if less-than-successful experiment in breaking away from their usual formula than an outright failure.
    • In a more specific example, regular disputes over budgets and directions between the MCU's producer Kevin Feige and Marvel president Ike Perlmutter came to a head during production of Captain America: Civil War. The final result was that Disney removing Perlmutter as head of the movie division of the MCU and dismantling the Creative Committee that previously oversaw everything. Kevin Feige gained total control over Marvel Studios (though not Marvel Television) and answers only to Alan Horn of Walt Disney Studios directly. The success of the MCU films under Feige's watch should ensure he keeps this license for the foreseeable future and even gained him complete control over the MCU after Marvel Television was shuttered and TV and streaming projects were folded into Marvel Studios, leading to a new group of Disney+ series that unlike the pre-D+ MCU series, which had tenuous connections to the movies at best (most notably Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and even that eventually spun off into its own timeline to avoid addressing the events of Avengers: Infinity War), will tie directly into the events of the movies.
    • Kevin Feige maintains strict control of the MCU, making sure that all films maintain a common thematic thread. Some directors chafed at this and left the franchise during the Creative Committee's control of the franchise (like Jon Favreaunote , Joss Whedonnote , Edgar Wrightnote ) and Patty Jenkins, but those who play ball are eventually given more responsibility and a lot more creative freedom to do what they want.
    • After the critical acclaim and box office success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Russo Brothers were given the opportunity to direct three of the MCU's major team-up films, including the concluding films of the Infinity Saga.
    • After scoring and unexpected smash with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), James Gunn was allowed to do pretty much whatever he wanted with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and also made an executive producer on Infinity War and Endgame so he could give input on the Infinity Saga's Grand Finale. He was more or less given carte-blanche for Vol. 3 until he was fired and retained that freedom when he was rehired. He was also given free rein over at DC when he swung public opinion back toward favorable with The Suicide Squad which was followed by his being given near-complete creative control of Peacemaker and eventually being appointed co-CEO of DC Studios.
    • Peyton Reed stepped in at the last minute to direct Ant-Man and was praised for turning the project into a success after behind-the-scenes drama had the film industry and public gossiping about how it would be a trainwreck. In recognition, Marvel rearranged Phase 3 specifically to give him Ant-Man and the Wasp — and plenty of freedom to create a film that was his vision from start to finish — and also rearranged Phase 4 to give him Quantumania.
    • Jon Watts ended up doing such a good job with Spider-Man: Homecoming that he was entrusted to handle the entire MCU Spidey trilogy on his own and given the responsibility to bring the Fantastic Four back to the big screen (though he later backed out of that one).
  • Rob Reiner had hit it big critically and commercially with films like This is Spın̈al Tap, and was told that he could basically do anything he wanted next. When he told a film executive that he wanted to adapt his favorite book, The Princess Bride, he was told "anything but that!" The rest, however, is history, although he got a severe setback when he abused the Auteur License with North.
  • While it's an era often seen as "the studio system", a number of directors in the studio actually had an Auteur License:
    • Ernst Lubitsch benefited from being his own producer (and briefly in charge of production of other films at Paramount), and his films were openly marketed as having "the Lubitsch touch"note . All of his films were produced per his wishes and he was a film-maker who was quite famous and well known in the time. Sullivan's Travels for instance has Veronica Lake noting that she wants to audition for a Lubitsch film.
    • Frank Capra was another film-maker who was quite famous and well known to the public. It Happened One Night was a Sleeper Hit that basically turned Columbia Pictures into a major studio overnight, and became to the first film to sweep the "Big 5" Oscars (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay). After that Columbia gave him carte blanche to do what he wanted, and he was one of the first directors to become a household name (he later called his autobiography The Name Above the Title). After a while, he clashed with Columbia chief Harry Cohn and moved on. In The '40s, he co-operated with William Wyler and George Stevens to form an independent production company that fell apart with the flop of It's a Wonderful Life. He fell out of favor with the public after World War II, making six films after that albeit living long enough for his films to be rediscovered. Ironically, Andrew Sarris slammed him viciously in The American Cinema since, in his view, Capra was a little too well-known compared to the Lesser Star he wanted to elevate (and the fact that Capra's career visibly declined which was against auteurist beliefsnote  but he was respected both by his peers and by younger film-makers, and he lived to see It's a Wonderful Life become Vindicated by History.
    • Writer-Directors in the Golden Age generally had Auteur License, and indeed many of them claimed they became directors to protect their scripts from Prima Donna Director who didn't understand the stuff they put on page. Examples include, Preston Sturges, a very active and respected screenwriter throughout The '30s, who made a series of extremely successful and influential comedies in The '40s, Joseph L. Mankiewicz (who began as a producer, then a screenwriter and then writer-director), famous for All About Eve (he lost his during the production of Cleopatra, aka the movie that killed the Golden Age), and Lubitsch's apprentice, Billy Wilder (who had it for most of his career but lost it during The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes).
    • Careful research has actually shown that a number of directors people saw as journeymen were actually quite shrewd and domineering. Howard Hawks for instance who's often seen as a nuts-and-bolts film-maker who didn't have a style, was careful to avoid making films at any one studio and work as a free agent, thereby allowing him the freedom to not be tied to making one kind of film in one kind of style for too long. Alfred Hitchcock, from Notorious onwards made films his way, and Otto Preminger was especially bold and fearless in not only making his films as per his vision, but repeatedly, and successfully, challenging censorship and doing more than any other film-maker of his time, to improve freedom of expression in Hollywood. Both Hitchcock and Preminger were the two most well-known film-makers of their era, and public celebrities, hence the reason for Hitchcock promoting a successful TV show based on his own brand, and Preminger being enough of a household name that he appeared as Mr. Freeze in Batman (1966).
  • Rian Johnson was given full control of his own Star Wars trilogy after Disney was impressed with his work on The Last Jedi. Apparently the only restriction is that it can't be about the major characters of the main series, which stands out all the more with the original directors of what became The Rise of Skywalker and Solo getting fired for refusing to follow studio orders just a few months earlier. Though in light of the massive Broken Base caused by The Last Jedi and the hesitancy of Disney and/or Lucasfilm to greenlight more Star wars films, much uncertainty remains on whether or not he will get to make that trilogy. He's found success elsewhere with Knives Out, the sequels of which, including Glass Onion, were purchased by Netflix for $469 million, with Johnson retaining full creative control.
  • Patty Jenkins earned her license after the breakout success of Wonder Woman, which became the most critically acclaimed and most profitable film in the DC Extended Universe. Not only did Warner Bros. signed her up for the sequel (a rare feat for female directors), but also tripled her directing salary and gave her screenwriting duties for further creative control. Things changed since however considering how said sequel underperformed critically and financially, especially in light of the massive changes, future IP plans and cost cuts brought by the creation of Warner Bros. Discovery and DC Studios. She eventually confirmed she left the third Wonder Woman film project out of Creative Differences, and it might have cost her her Rogue Squadron and Cleopatra projects as well.
  • Blumhouse Productions policy is giving directors incredible control provided they finish on time and within budget.
  • David Cronenberg first got his license after Scanners became an international hit, only to see his first Hollywood-produced film, Videodrome, flop at the box office. Luckily that same year (1983) he did The Dead Zone more or less for hire, which did well enough to keep him viable. In part, because it was not directly produced/primarily bankrolled by 20th Century Fox, Cronenberg was allowed great creative freedom and final cut on The Fly (1986) once he signed on to it (for instance, the studio head thought casting Jeff Goldblum as the lead was a mistake...but told producer Stuart Cornfeld "It's your mistake to make"). That movie's critical and financial success permanently granted Cronenberg an auteur license, which he first exercised on Dead Ringers.
  • Ryan Reynolds got his, believe it or not, after the success of Deadpool (2016). Thanks to the financial windfall, some smart investments, and the savvy promotional strategy he cooked up for Aviation Gin, Reynolds can now afford to pick and choose roles that interest him personally and make them almost free of studio interference (exercising that freedom on films like Deadpool 2 and Free Guy) while major companies flock to him to pitch their products and let him do it however he wants because they know millions of people will click on an ad simply because Reynolds made it.
  • Mike Nichols got his after the success of The Graduate.

  • Kurt Vonnegut used and abused his novelistic auteur license to write a novel illustrated with his own quirky line drawings in which he features as a character (the wonderful Breakfast of Champions) and a semi-novel about his abortive attempt to write a novel called Timequake. It contains many parts of the Timequake story itself, interspersed with Vonnegut just talking about life, himself, and how things are going in general, and is generally touching.
  • Thad Komorowski discusses and criticises the concept in Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy Story. In the chapter "Don't Whiz On The Hand That Feeds You," Komorowski argues that auteurism is not a concept that works in animation simply because, moreso than live-action film, it requires too much input from multiple talents for it to be credited to one person. John K.'s Fatal Flaw is trying to get an entire team of artists, each with their own sensibilities and talents, not to create something that all looks like it was drawn by one artist but to create something that looks like he came up with everything himself despite not being able to do even half of what most of the other artists working on the show can. The narrative also insinuates that most of Kricfalusi's directing credits on Ren & Stimpy episodes weren't entirely deserved and that they were an act of the complete autocracy that he was attempting to produce the show under.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Fred Rogers was recognized early on as a pioneer in children's TV programming, so he was given carte blanche by PBS to create his own series in which he starred as on-screen host, producer, director, screenwriter, composer, and puppeteer. It ran for over 30 years. They also gave him a chance to do other projects like a prime time interview/magazine show called Old Friends, New Friends (which ran from 1976-79; Rogers put Neighborhood on hiatus to concentrate on that show).
  • After Happy Days became a runaway hit, ABC let Garry Marshall tinker with the show as he saw fit (which is how Chuck Cunningham Syndrome and Jumping the Shark came to be), and basically picked up any new shows he produced. Some of them also became hits (Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy), others flopped badly (Blansky's Beauties, Out of the Blue, Who's Watching the Kids?).
  • CBS gave Chuck Lorre the Garry Marshall/ABC treatment after Two and a Half Men hit it big. This allowed him to create shows that tackle very sensitive topics (Mom) or star people others would pass over (Mike & Molly).
  • Showtime gave David Lynch and Mark Frost more or less carte-blanche for the 18 hours of the revival of Twin Peaks
  • NBC seems to have given this to Michael Schur after his work on The Office (US). It probably helps that Schur's shows tend to be universally acclaimed and have strong, passionate fan bases.
    • They adopted Brooklyn Nine-Nine after Fox cancelled it.
    • Although Parks and Recreation never pulled in stellar ratings, the network never interfered with it and allowed it to end on its own terms.
    • Schur's continued success at producing shows that inspire passionate fanbases prompted NBC to offer him 13 guaranteed episodes to do with as he wished. Recognizing how rare this opportunity was, Schur developed The Good Place, which thoughtfully examines complex philosophical concepts. When the show turned out to be a critical hit, NBC honored Schur's wishes to keep a firm 13-episode cap on each season and decision to bring it to a definitive end after just four seasons. The network even went out of its way to rearrange its schedule to allow Schur to end the story on his termsnote .

  • Hüsker Dü, who signed with Warner (Bros.) Records in 1985, were promised creative freedom by the label, who decided to use the band's steadily-grown fanbase to turn a profit. Unfortunately, the band only released two albums on the label before breaking up.
  • R.E.M. were contractually guaranteed total creative freedom when they signed onto Warner (Bros.) Records in 1988. As a result, their albums from Green all the way to Collapse into Now were free of any interference from anyone other than themselves and sheer happenstance.

  • After The Addams Family went on to become the best-selling pinball machine of all time, designer Pat Lawlor was given free rein on his next game. The result was the highly-rated Twilight Zone, arguably the most complex pinball table ever, with more patent-pending features than any other game ever made. Although not a failure in sales, The Twilight Zone did not do so well with players, who considered it too difficult to understand.note  Lawlor's license was destroyed for the rest of the '90s and through the '00s, though he got it back when he was hired by Jersey Jack Pinball and, once again, given carte blanche privileges.

  • Blank Check with Griffin & David is based on this concept, following the filmographies of directors who were allowed to make passion projects and risky cinematic investments after big successes in their careers.

  • After the success of Richard Wagner's early operas, he turned to what he termed "Gesamtkunstwerk" or "total work of art." The most famous example is The Ring of the Nibelung, which featured words, music, orchestration, production design, choreography, direction, and conducting all handled by Wagner himself— premiered in a concert hall that he designed and built for the purpose.

    Video Games 
  • After the sleeper hit that was Demon's Souls, director Hidetaka Miyazaki of FromSoftware has basically been given complete freedom to keep making his obtuse, unusual and challenging Action RPGs. Given the enormous success of both Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and the fact that he has since been promoted to president of From Software, his license is guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
  • John Romero and his infamous Daikatana came about as a result of him earning one of these after his success with Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3-D, the first two Doom games, and Quake. After Daikatana flopped it was promptly revoked.
  • Due to the success of the BioShock franchise, Ken Levine held onto this for a while. Funnily enough, he dislikes being called an auteur.
  • For Yoko Taro this came into effect after NieR. During the development of the first Drakengard, Yoko had to continuously fight Square to keep his and the team's distinct artistic vision intact, because Square was afraid the game was too dark and nihilistic. After the game managed to win over a small but dedicated fanbase, Square was willing to fund a second game but wanted something more marketable, and to that end, he was only lightly involved with Drakengard 2. However, this led to one of the more divisive games in the series exactly because of its Lighter and Softer nature, and as a result, he was allowed back in the director's seat for the franchise with NieR, a Gaiden Game. Though it wasn't very profitable it eventually became a Cult Classic and widely considered an amazing game. Due to its critical success, Yoko has essentially been given free rein to do as he pleases. While this strategy didn't pay off at first, it eventually allowed Taro to break through into the mainstream with NieR: Automata.
  • Hideo Kojima had this for a good while, leading to the firestorm when Konami attempted to revoke it. Amusingly, it first came about when his superiors demanded he create a war game and proceeded to design one that discourages killing. After Konami got rid of Kojima proper, Sony quickly picked Kojima up and essentially handed him a blank check to make his new game, Death Stranding.
  • Koji "IGA" Igarashi, the man behind the Castlevania games since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night up until Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, definitely also applies. He left Konami and created an at-the-time record-breaking Kickstarter for his own game, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Meanwhile, games of the series released after his departure have had mixed reactions, at best.
  • Ah, Suda51, how delightfully Mind Screw-y and unique your games are. While some may say Killer7 is where he gained his license, with it being his very first overseas release after years of strange, dark, oddly intelligent, Author Appeal driven games, he, and by extension, his studio, Grasshopper Manufacture, only gained a place on most people's maps with No More Heroes in 2007. Though Suda took a long hiatus from directing Grasshopper's games after the first No More Heroes, instead opting to take a more laid back role in their developments, allowing his Signature Style consisting of punk ethos and aesthetics, as well as luchadors, and a deathly, yet satirical tone, to trickle down onto their products. However, he began directing games once more with his work on Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Auteur Licence