Netflix Kills Auteur Director’s Project And It Won’t Be The First

By Douglas Helm | Published

The New York Times reported that Oscar-winning director Katheryn Bigelow dropped out of her Netflix film Aurora a few months ago. This is bad news, and it might be just the beginning as the streaming giant’s chief of content, Dan Lin, is reportedly focusing on upcoming film projects that would be “more about audience, and less about auteurs.” David Lynch also recently saw one of his film pitches rejected, so this may be the new status quo for Netflix films.

Katheryn Bigelow Is A Major Name To Get Rejected

Katheryn Bigelow easily fits the definition of auteur director, with her former projects including the likes of Detroit, Zero Dark Thirty, and The Hurt Locker, which she nabbed a Best Director Oscar for in 2010. It seems strange that Netflix would want to move away from these kinds of films, but it seems like a reaction to some of its lower-effort films easily making their way to the Top Ten streaming releases. In other words, we might be seeing a lot less artistic risks from the streamer in the future and more commercial projects with big stars that may or may not be the best quality.

A Murderer’s Row Of Directors Involved With Netflix

It would definitely be a shame if Netflix decides to stick with this new “less about auteurs” business mantra, considering the success the streamer has had working with auteurs in the past. The company has earned numerous Oscar nominations by working with directors like Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Curon, Jane Campion, David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, Noah Baumbach, and more. In fact, Baumbach and Fincher are still contracted to work on projects for the streamer, so it seems strange that the company would make this kind of hasty declaration.

Past Success Is No Guarantee

all quiet on the western front

Katheryn Bigelow with Aurora and David Lynch getting his film pitch rejected aren’t even the only recent examples of Netflix moving in a less auteur-friendly direction. Edward Berger, who directed the Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front, recently “has been complaining that the service is demanding budget cuts on a film he’s trying to put together with Colin Farrell.” For a company that hasn’t been shy about pouring money into original content, it seems like a bad business move to actively irritate a director who recently took home Oscars for your company. 

Netflix Doesn’t Rely On The Box Office

Netflix’s original film model doesn’t rely on box office takes, which gives it the ability to invest in more esoteric or less commercially-friendly projects. It’s one of the pros you can point out about streaming services making original movies. But if Netflix decides to move in a direction that doesn’t prioritize auteurs, then we’re just going to get more of the same that we can expect from the studios that only care about the box office take.

Obviously, it would be different if Netflix’s auteur-directed films were barely getting any viewers or acclaim, but the opposite is true. These films often get a good amount of viewers and a further boost when they inevitably get some attention from the Academy. It goes to show that audiences actually value quality over quantity, but maybe Netflix will have to learn that lesson in the coming years for it to stick.