The Auteur Theory

You’re likely sick of hearing about the show “True Detective” by now. Like millions of others, I became engulfed in HBO’s latest 8 hour masterpiece over the last few months. Plenty has been written about the Yellow King, Big Hug Mugs, and Matthew McConaughey’s amazing performance as Rust Cohle.

What I haven’t seen get nearly as much play is how the show is actually created. It wasn’t fully aware to me until the 4th episode’s 6 minute long take scene (Spoilers behind that link). It was riveting the first time I saw it. It was even more amazing when I discovered it was done in a single take.

As I read up on the show I learned that the entire eight episode season was written by a sole writer (show creator Nic Pizzolatto) and directed by a single director (Cary Fukunaga). Traditionally TV shows are helmed by a cast of behind the scenes folks who take turns at writing and directing different episodes. With True Detective, a true auteur theory was allowed to play out on screen.

One writer. One director. Eight hours of the best television I’ve seen in a long time.

The best creative works, whether they be TV shows, books, or apps, are the products of focus and vision. At Apple that was Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. WebOS had Matias Duarte, who has been doing wonders cleaning up the mess that was the Android experience. James Dyson does it for vacuums. I just bought a Dyson and it’s a fantastic product.

As I look at my iPhone I can name the person in charge of the vision for most of the apps on my home screen. Here’s a hint: most aren’t from large corporations that include the marketing folks and bean counters as part of the development process. They are from small development shops run by just a few people who have an idea of what their product should be and how it can impact the world. There are no focus groups or A/B testing. It’s just gut reactions and validating it with user response.

Everyone has a role in the creation of a product (even the bean counters), but having one or two talented people charged with shaping the direction of the product results in something that people actually enjoy using and, more importantly, championing to others.

Who knows? You might even make something that puts a smile on Rust Cohle’s face. OK, maybe not.

By Justin Williams

This is a two sentence bio. There are many like it, but this one is mine.