Word for the opposite of an auteur
April 9, 2022 12:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a word that means the opposite of an auteur. I feel there's a tasty term for this, but it escapes me.

We've got lots of ways to describe an artist who creates breathtaking one-of-a-kind pieces overflowing with personality and technique. I want the opposite of that. The person who has top-of-field skills, but more importantly they get the job done, on time and under budget. A word you might use for someone with a talent for creating deliberately cheap and reproducible work.

Everything I can think of is pejorative, and I'd like it to be at least obliquely complimentary.

If there's no such simple word, I'd settle for a 2-3 word phrase, if it's pithy enough and rolls off the tongue.
posted by Lorc to Writing & Language (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Effective
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:54 PM on April 9, 2022

I don't think this is the opposite, but I would describe someone like that as "craftsman" (e.g., Isaac Asimov was a craftsman-like writer, because he wrote lots and it was fun, even if not revolutionary). If they are especially good, a master craftsman.
posted by jb at 12:56 PM on April 9, 2022 [11 favorites]

In the film world they'd be called a journeyman director: somebody who is skilled --or at least competent-- but who doesn't have a distinct style. They might make good films, but you can't really discern a characteristic approach in their work. I haven't heard a non-gendered term that's used similarly (in filmmaking).
posted by theory at 12:59 PM on April 9, 2022 [22 favorites]

Maybe something like yeoman's work?
posted by synecdoche at 1:01 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

‘A safe pair of hands’ is a term often used to describe directors—such as Clint Eastwood—known for their efficient, cost effective production shoots, often with minimal takes, resulting in a watchable commercial product.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 1:04 PM on April 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

A professional.
posted by AaRdVarK at 1:14 PM on April 9, 2022 [5 favorites]

The opposite of an auteur is a hack, but I think the phrase you're looking for is "hired gun".
posted by dobbs at 1:16 PM on April 9, 2022 [10 favorites]

I would go with workmanlike.
posted by night_train at 1:25 PM on April 9, 2022 [13 favorites]

“Workhorse” comes to mind for me
posted by cabbage raccoon at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

“Workmanlike” sounds about right. Competent but not original or with any hint of artistic intent or talent.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:39 PM on April 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

I think journeyman (journeyperson?) is probably correct. And I still can't get over that Jon Favreau is one of the best modern examples.
posted by credulous at 1:51 PM on April 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

Craftsman vs artist
posted by The otter lady at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2022

I've seen "auteur vs. X" translated as "diva vs. tank"
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 2:01 PM on April 9, 2022

Best answer: If two words are acceptable, I'd use consummate professional.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 2:49 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

The technical film theory term is "metteur en scene" translated to journeyman director.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:06 PM on April 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

I would go with "journeyman" also. "Workmanlike" is the equivalent adjective.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:25 PM on April 9, 2022

Seconding professional
posted by runincircles at 3:56 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hard to pin down the exact term... you might say "commercial" director but that could be confused for a director of commercials. A studio director might have been the term back in the day. Journeyman to me connotes inexperience, though perhaps it is a common term in this case (I think the derivation is someone who has gained enough skills to leave apprenticeship - but not a master). Workmanlike has a negative suggestion of only accomplishing the bare minimum (craftsman to me suggests the opposite... an auteur of wood). Professional suggests others are unprofessional rather than more artistically inclined. There are no perfect options!

Some words that crossed my mind while considering this: consummate, director's director, technical. Nothing that hits the mark.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:57 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think journeyman is good, but it denotes someone who can travel about and do their work without supervision (needing supervision = apprentice), not someone who especially lacks experience. I imagine the next level up is "master" -- someone who has become established and can take on apprentices. There's nothing derogatory about being a journeyman director, though we do seem to have a lot of auteurs (both genuine and wannabe) these days.
posted by lhauser at 7:06 PM on April 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 7:26 PM on April 9, 2022

I would use "craftsman". If I wanted to be just a bit bitchy I’d go with "technician".
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:50 PM on April 9, 2022

Response by poster: It might be a bit late for me to try and steer this, but I rejected journeyman on the grounds that it strongly implies "less than a master". Traditionally it goes apprentice, journeyman, master after all.
posted by Lorc at 10:19 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

I would say "master craftsperson," or just "master."
posted by rpfields at 10:22 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

A hack. Nothing wrong with being a hack.
posted by MinPin at 2:19 PM on April 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Not an answer, but an example. Consider the Wrecking Crew. These guys were well-known as outstanding session musicians, but they didn't record their own work, or under their own name. They backed up "name" artists and definitely contributed to the success of the songs they were backing up. So you could call these guys "hired guns" and that wouldn't be wrong, but it doesn't get across the esteem they had in the industry. Might give you some ideas.
posted by adamrice at 4:30 PM on April 10, 2022

So you could call these guys "hired guns" and that wouldn't be wrong, but it doesn't get across the esteem they had in the industry.

I wasn't speculating. They are literally called hired guns in both the music and film worlds. There was even a documentary about those in the music industry called Hired Gun.

Contract directors of the golden age of Hollywood were often called Hired Guns because they were efficient, expert, and didn't take the spotlight away from the producer whose name was above the title.
posted by dobbs at 5:53 PM on April 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

A fixer. Or the go-to person for something.
posted by guessthis at 4:04 AM on April 11, 2022

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