Candace Jones
Organization Studies Dept
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA 02167
Tele: (617) 552-0457
Fax: (617) 552-4230

Stephen P. Borgatti
Organization Studies Dept
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA 02167
Tele: (617) 552-0452
Fax: (617) 552-4230

Kate Walsh
Organization Studies Dept
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA 02167
Tele: (617) 552-0168
Fax: (617) 552-4230

Submitted to: Organization Science


KEYWORDS: Film industry, career competencies, resource based view,
resource dependence, structuration theory




Cultural industries provide important insights into career competencies and structuring of social order. We identify three career competencies required in cultural industries: system, social, and craft. We describe how these competencies, various forms of human and social capital, provide resources for influencing the social system and pursuing individual goals. By identifying what resources are critical, how they are generated and who uses them, we enhance our understanding of cultural industries, career competencies, and structuration theory.


Cultural industries of film (Faulkner 1987), music (Peterson and Berger 1971) and publishing (Powell 1985) are composed of networks of independent artists and firms that distribute their work. In the film industry in particular, the demise of long term contracts between film studios and talented production workers during the late 1950s and 1960s heralded a new form of organizing: a free agent market between studio executives and creative talent for the matching of critical resources -- talent and ideas to money and distribution. The organization of industry networks of artists and firms can be understood by examining industry members' careers. Careers map the relationship between individuals and institutions (Arthur et. al. 1989) and show how individual actions and institutional order are structured (Barley 1989). Both career and organizational theories (e.g., structuration theory) acknowledge a relationship between individual action and social order and that this relationship is influenced "by differing access to resources" (Barley 1989, p. 80). However, researchers have rarely examined which career resources are critical in the context of a given social order, how these resources are generated, and what career strategies individuals employ to respond to and influence the social order.

To enhance our understanding of how a cultural industry is organized, we examine the resources needed for career success in the film industry. To discern what resources are critical within the milieu of the film industry, we draw upon three different literatures: careers, resource-based view, and resource-dependence. From the careers literature, we employ a competency-based perspective (Bird 1994, DeFillippi and Arthur 1994, Jones and DeFillippi 1996). Careers are the process by which "information and knowledge embodied in skills, expertise, and relationship networks are acquired through an evolving sequence of work experiences" (Bird 1994, p. 326). From this perspective, careers and resource-based literatures are highly complementary. Careers are the means by which individuals and firms accumulate and develop their resources (also called "capabilities"): they are "a set of differentiated skills, complex routines, and complementary assets" (Teece et al. 1997). The possession of resources which are difficult to imitate, substitute, or replicate is seen as an important source of competitive advantage (Barney 1991, Collis 1994). Although a resource-based view provides insight into the types of resources needed and their conditions for generating advantage (Barney 1991, Miller and Shamsie 1996), it does not explore how this advantage is employed by firms or individuals to influence their industry. In contrast, a resource dependence perspective assumes that resources drive social construction (Weick, 1996). What resources are seen as critical tells us a great deal not only about the institutional order but also who exercises influence, how it is exercised, and for what purposes (Pfeffer and Salancik 1978). We use the concept of structuration (Barley 1989, Giddens 1979, Riley 1979) to integrate these perspectives into a single model which explains how the industry selects and develops individuals with key competencies, and when individuals excel within their competencies they not only gain differential advantage but also garner substantial status that allows them to sustain and reshape the industry. Structuration theory, through its focus on resources, shows the means by which social order, or the external environment in resource dependence terms, and individual actions, primarily through capabilities in resource-based terms, are linked and influence one another to be "mutually constituting" (Barley 1989, Giddens 1979, Sydow and Wyndeler 1998). Three research questions guided our study of the film industry: (1) what career competencies are critical for gaining individual advantage and social influence?, (2) What career strategies do individuals use to enhance their advantage and influence?, and (3) How do individuals use their advantage to influence the industry social order? We propose a conceptual framework for enhancing our understanding of career competencies in the film industry to generate future empirical work. The framework is based on the analysis of 34 film members’ careers, using a combination of primary and secondary interviews, which are supplemented by secondary material from historians, industry analysts, industry critics, and insiders to explain the film industry. All the interviews took place during the 1970s and 1980s, after the expiration of long term contracts in the late 1950s and the establishment of the new free agent system by the 1970s (Balio 1987, Monaco 1979, Sklar 1975).

Our research has important implications for understanding career competencies potentially needed not only in other cultural industries but also industries such as high technology (Saxenian 1994), construction (Eccles, 1981), and Maine lobster markets (Acheson 1985) that are organized as networks of independent practitioners and firms. A career comprised of movement among firms and organized around projects is described by business scholars (e.g,. Arthur and Rousseau 1996, Waterman et al. 1994) and practitioners (Fisher 1997, Martin 1997 ) as an increasing and important phenomena. The film industry is a particularly viable exemplar since it has been organized as networks of independent artists and firms for over 30 years (Balio 1987, Monaco 1979). Several scholars have acknowledged the film industry as providing an important source of insight into how new organizational forms operate (DeFillippi and Arthur 1998, Jones and DeFillippi 1996, Miles and Snow 1986, Powell 1990, Reich 1991). We enhance our understanding of a cultural industry by identifying what career competencies are critical in film, and the career strategies employed to control, gain access to and generate critical resources. By examining career competencies, we offer an approach for deepening our understanding of these new organizational forms and the kinds of resources -- human and social capital -- needed in them.

We organize the paper as follows. We begin by discussing our methods and data sources. Next, we provide an overview of our structuration-based conceptual model, define key constructs, and show how these relate to both resource-based and resource dependency theories. Then, we describe our findings and provide in-depth examples of career competencies and strategies. Finally, we offer conclusions and directions for future research.




The data for this study consisted primarily of interviews with film industry participants during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Data collection involved four steps. First, the first author conducted interviews during 1989 with five successful film subcontractors who had been in the industry since the mid to late 1970s about their careers. The interviews ranged from 2 to 3 hours and were semi-structured. (See Appendix A for more information). Second, numerous secondary source materials from historians and industry insiders were collected to provide a background understanding of the industry. This source material ranged from accounts of the inception of the industry to material up through the 1990s. Only material relevant to the period 1970s to 1990s was used for the purposes of this study. These secondary historical sources and insider accounts are listed in Appendix B. Third, 29 previously published interviews, comprising 349 pages of transcribed text, that had been published were collected, copied, coded and entered into a computer database. Appendix A lists these interviews and their sources. Fourth, the primary and secondary interviews were supplemented by two additional published collections of interviews that were not systematically coded.

We examined the competencies needed for film production from the perspectives of both studio executives and creative talent (e.g., screenwriters, directors) who are the central parties that not only launch a film but also control its vision and recruit its supporting technical, creative, and administrative staffs. Although a film typically involves hundreds of participants in creative roles, we focused on eight technical roles whose creative inputs are seen as critical by film historians (Monaco 1979) and industry participants. As screenwriter William Goldman, (Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, and The Princess Bride), explained, "There is a group of six to eight technicians who are essential to the collaborative process: the writer, director, cinematographer, cutter [editor], production designer, producer, production manager, and sometimes the composer" (Squire 1983, p. 53).

We read and content analyzed all 34 of the interviews for themes on career competencies with a focus on issues of social and human capital. We started with an initial framework from from DeFillippi and Arthur’s (1994) career competencies of knowing whom (e.g., relationships and social contacts) and knowing how (e.g., job related knowledge and skills) and Jones and DeFillippi's (1996) concept of knowing what (e.g., industry related knowledge). Based on this initial but general conceptual frame, we extracted quotations from the text which were typed into a computer data base, sorted and organized by common themes. The initial coding was shared and discussed among the co-authors to identify areas of agreement and disagreement for the coding scheme. In this way, we employed a grounded theory methodology (Glazer and Strauss 1967, Straus and Corbin 1994) to move back and forth between a general, initial conceptual frame and the data to create new conceptual models and understandings of the data.

Our process followed that suggested by Miles and Huberman (1984) as well. According to Miles and Huberman (1984), three steps characterize the data analysis process for qualitative data: data reduction, data display, and conclusion drawing and verification. As described, we identifeid and sorted our data into common themes, which was discussed among the co-authors. Data display was accomplished by placing the data with similar themes into together and later into tables to identify the most striking and consistent themes among these individuals. Examples of these tables are provided throughout the text to show the major themes we identified. Conclusion drawing involved interpreting and assigning meaning to the data. We relied upon our prior industry reading and knowledge to draw conclusions from the data. We also linked these data with the extant literature in our field to deepen not only our understanding of the data but also of prior research.



In cultural industries, the social order and careers co-evolve. From the individual's perspective, the social order, through a selection and socialization process, defines the parameters for what competencies are needed for a successful career. These competencies, when applied well,

provide individuals with key resources that eventually garner them status and reputation. Status and reputation enable individuals to extend, alter or reinforce the social order (see Figure 1). In essence, an examination of careers in a cultural industry shows how members move from being neophytes sculpted by and into the industry to potential sculptors of the social order.

In this section, we define all the key conceptual terms in our model and explain their linkages with one another. The rest of the paper then focuses on just one part of the model: the career competencies. We detail which career competencies are needed, how they are obtained, and how they are critical to success in the industry.


Social Order of a Cultural Industry

The social order of cultural industries can be described by two closely linked elements: macroculture and macrostructure. Macroculture -- widely shared industry-level assumptions, meanings, and values (Abrahmson and Fombrun 1991, 1994) -- coordinates network members actions through establishing common language, expectations, and accepted practices and conventions (Jones et al. 1997). Macrostructure - the enduring patterns of interactions among industry members - defines the way in which work is organized and determines the opportunities and constraints on movement of individual careers within an institutional order.


Macroculture. Macroculture is a system of widely shared meanings, assumptions and values that characterize an industry. It includes fundamental assumptions about the industry's purpose, customers, technology, and place in the wider economy and society. It is shared by participants of an interfirm setting, spanning occupational subspecialties and levels (Jones et al. 1997). Macroculture is constructed and diffused via interactions among industry members and is also sustained through institutional means, including professional schools (Light 1978), trade journals, and industry events (Jones 1996).

By specifying appropriate norms, values, attitudes and practices to be employed, macroculture aligns expectations, provides specialized language for participants, and reflects tacit rules and understandings that guide individual actions. In this way, macroculture acts as a body of "figured-out" solutions to organizational problems (Schein 1985). A primary problem in film is coordinating numerous craft persons efforts and expertise, where based on their occupational roles and knowledge, each has a claim to specific solutions and actions (e.g., cinematographer, actors, screen writers, editors). A "solution" in terms of industry guidelines or values is the understanding that team members should subordinate their craft expertise and personal preferences to the director's vision, in the interest of completing the film and completing it well. Macroculture specifies the requirements and acceptable work behaviors of its members. Thus, macroculture provides institutional guidelines for coordinating and combining each member's specialized contribution.


Macrostructure. Macrostructure refers to the persistent pattern of interactions among industry participants (derived from Marsden and Lin, 1982, p.9). Since relationships are non-random (e.g., members choose their exchange partners based on criteria), these patterns reflect the organizing principles of the social structure (Laumann and Knoke 1986, p. 84-86). These patterns of interaction are both the structure and process of organizing (Weick 1979). The interfirm project structure of industries like filmmaking, results in a large number of weak ties that knit the industry together into a single diffuse group, rather than mutually exclusive cliques.

In film, the macrostructure is characterized by core and peripheries (Faulkner 1985, Kadushin 1976). Cores and peripheries are created and sustained by a well-developed status system, where the probability of obtaining the opportunity to work with high status industry members is enhanced by one's own status. This organizing principle leads to an industry structure in which there is a core group of high status industry members that work with each other more often than with peripheral members, as well as a set of peripheral members that are more closely linked to the core than to other peripheral members (Borgatti & Everett, 1997).

In cultural industries the social order acts as the primary means of selecting and socializing neophytes. Specifically, the macroculture serves as a set of guidelines for new members seeking entrance to and eventual acceptance in the industry, specifying the norms for collaboration. The macrostructure provides the space or opportunities for neophytes to enter the industry periphery and gain basic experience. We discuss how in greater detail.


Selection and Socialization

The social order – macroculture and macro structure – affects careers through two major processes: selection and socialization. Selection refers to the process of attracting potential members, weeding out those that "don’t fit" and admitting conforming individuals. Socialization refers to the process of training new members on what constitutes appropriate behavior, roles, conventions, and values (Van Maanen and Schein 1979, Van Maanen and Barley 1984). These two processes are generic means of limiting variance – of achieving some degree of homogeneity among participants. In film, limiting variance enables the industry to rely on informal means of work coordination.

Selection and socialization are critical processes by which the institutional order reinforces and individual members develop the competencies needed for success in the industry. These competencies are discussed next.


Career Competencies

Career competencies are the successful deployment of one's knowledge, skills and routines, comprising various forms of social and human capital, over the course of one's work experiences to gain desired outcomes. Career competencies shift the focus from careers within organizations to individual competencies developed through work experiences. In project-based industries like film and architecture, competencies are constructed through a series of projects within an industry network. These cumulative career competencies are embodied in people's prior experiences, skills and job-related knowledge, and networks of relationships and contacts that provide access to resources and opportunities (ird 1994, DeFillippi and Arthur 1994, Jones and DeFillippi 1996).

We distinguish between skills (knowledge-based resources) and assets (property-based resources) (Hall 1992, Miller and Shamsie 1996). Skills cannot be owned separately from their use and form the bases of "resource conversion activities" (Mahoney and Pandian 1992, p. 369 footnote 9, Teece et al. 1997). Skills for individuals include such things as technical expertise, interpersonal abilities, accurate cognitive understanding of a social system, creative talent, collaboration, and the ability to manage uncertainty. Skills are protected by knowledge-barriers -- competitors do not know how to imitate them successfully (Miller and Shamsie 1996). Skills are tacit, socially complex, and have ambiguous means-end relationships, especially in industries characterized by fads and fashions such as film; thus, they cannot be easily substituted or imitated providing a source of sustainable advantage and of influence for those who possess them (Barney 1991, Mahoney and Pandian 1992). Assets or property-based resources, such as screen plays, distribution rights, and talent contracts, can be owned and traded. They are protected by law and a monetary value placed upon them. However, the future value of specific assets in uncertain environments like film may be difficult to predict. For example, Fox ceded the licensing and merchandising rights for Star Wars to George Lucas, not knowing how valuable these would prove as sources of revenue. According to Tom Pollock (Matzer 1997), "From a studio standpoint, it was one of the major mistakes of all time. It essentially took a billion dollars away from the studio and transferred it to George." Often it is the "fortunate or insightful" who gain control of these valuable assets (Miller and Shamsie 1996) and competitive advantage from them.


Reputation and Status

Reputation refers to estimating or in-depth knowledge of another's character, skills, reliability, and other attributes important to exchanges (Jones et al. 1997). Line producer Paul Maslansky describes reputation as comprising "skill and attitude" (Squire 1983, p. 218). Reputation is important under exchange conditions of uncertainty and customization, as in film. As environmental uncertainty increases, exchange parties become more concerned with information about their own and others’ reputations (Kollock, 1994). In the film industry, this concern for reputation is seen in the director’s search for information on crew members. Director Sidney Pollack, for example, explains that his strategy for picking a crew is to ask about their technical and aesthetic skills, how well they work with others, and how fast they are (Jones and DeFillippi, 1996). Customized exchanges demand that parties work through problems and develop common understandings. Reputation reduces behavioral uncertainty by providing information about the reliability and goodwill of others. For an individual in the industry, reputation is an important social asset that enables (or prevents) the person to obtain high quality opportunities which in turn may further enhance their reputation and status.

Status refers to one's hierarchical rank within a social grouping based on one's prestige, economic or political power (Benoit-Smullyan 1944, Geschwender 1967, Turner 1985). In film, the clearest indicator of one's status is the ability to generate box office revenues. For example, every year Willis ScreenWorld publishes the top 25 stars generating the largest box office ticket sales. Status can be seen in one's ability to negotiate a high per picture fee and/or high percentage gross participation in a film. As the actor Rod Steiger (Baker and Firestone 1972, p 117) explained: "in Hollywood it all depends on your stature -- who you are and how much you are being paid. If you don’t have enough leverage, you will be stopped cold." Indicators of status in film also include recognition from high status peers, such as Academy Awards or affiliation with high status partners (Podolny, 1994), such as attracting famous stars, directors or producers to one's film. Status buffers individuals and firms from competition (Podolny 1993), and allows greater influence over a project. Consequently, individuals in the film industry are highly motivated to secure status.

An individual that has status or reputation can do things that others cannot, thereby introducing and legitimizing new innovations or ways of work, showcasing and funding new talent and ultimately changing or eliminating a cultural norm or structural practice. Individuals who achieve high status generate enormous pay differentials for themselves and may also increase their influence on the industry. One form of influence may be seen in how prior box office success provides greater latitude over the content and making of movies. For example, without Spielberg's prior box office successes of Third Encounters of a Close Kind, ET and the Indiana Jones series, he would not have received funding from major studios for controversial and non-traditional movies such as "The Color Purple," "Schindler's List," and "Amistad." In addition, others may use their status and reputation to develop alternative venues for film talent. For example, Robert Redford believed that Hollywood excluded too much potential talent and ignored viable movie ideas found in many independent filmmakers. Consequently, he took over and developed the United States Film Festival sponsored by his resort, Sundance to enhance exposure of independent movie makers to Hollywood funding sources (interview with Robert Redford on Take 2, KUTV, Salt Lake City, Utah, October 30, 1988). This influence on the industry was acknowledged in the 1997 Academy Awards ceremony when the preponderance of independent films nominated for best picture prompted host Billy Crystal to call the ceremony "Sundance by the Sea." In this way, both Spielberg and Redford have used their status and reputations to expand not only the content boundaries for movies but the opportunities independent artists.

In this section we have outlined a general structuration-based conceptual model relating the social order of the industry to the competencies of the individual. For the remainder of the paper, we focus on just one aspect of the model: the competencies that industry develops in individuals and which they in turn use to develop status and reputation. In the next section, we delineate the kinds of competencies that are necessary for success in the film industry, and discuss the ways in which these competencies create status and reputation, which can in turn be used to sustain or alter aspects of the social order.



Through the interviews and secondary source material, we identify three basic competencies critical for individuals: system, social, and craft. These three competencies are composed of knowledge, skills, and routines that enable individuals to gain control over critical assets (property-based resources), access to opportunities and people, and generate additional assets and competencies. When individuals excel at these competencies, they provide unique contributions to films that garner high reimbursement and generate status and reputation. Status and reputation generate additional opportunities and resources for participants. They may also be used as means for maintaining or initiating changes in the institutional order that may generate the need for new competencies.



System competency refers to the knowledge and skills individuals need to decipher and manage their industry environment, including the financial structure, legal issues, and consumer markets. Knowledge of the industry environment is essential because it defines what resources and opportunities are important and the rules by which these resources are controlled. Three recurrent themes dominated the archival interviews: strategic understanding of the macrostructure, capturing critical resources and managing market uncertainty (see Table 1for representative quotes). Individuals who develop and use system competency know what resources are critical, how to gain control of these resources, and how to manage or reduce uncertainty. With this knowledge, they ensure future work, enhance their ability to gain reputation and status, and potentially influence the industry social order.

Table 1
Examples of System Competencies

Capturing Critical Resources through Legal Control
Mel Brooks in Squire 1983, p. 34 "Do not discuss embryonic ideas. Incipient ideas are your own and nobody else’s… don’t talk to other people in the business about your ideas until they are fully written and registered with the Writers Guild"
Roger Lewis, Indep producer, Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 13 "It is easier to become a producer than a writer or director. All you have to do is locate a property, scrounge up enough money for an option, con the author into giving you some kind of hold on his work, show it to some guy to read, get some kind of response-- and then move."
Quincy Jones, composer, Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 164 "The amount of money that can be made on the publishing rights of a hit song is terrifying…
Managing Market Uncertainty: Being a Proven Winner through Commercial Success
Joyce Selznick, casting director, McBride 1979, p 186: "it is so hard to get films made, and there are so few bankable names, that a producer or director will go to the first bankable actor who is available, whether the actor is right or not.
Joe Roth, former head of Twentieth Century-Fox in Kent 1991, p. 81 "a star doesn’t mean necessarily that people will come to the film, but without Bruce Willis Die Hard II would never have been made."
Robert Evans, former CEO for Paramount, in Squire 1983, p. 15 A bare script with no ‘elements’ usually remains on the shelf. It must be accompanied by an element--a director, a star or one of a handful of producers--for attention to be paid. Otherwise, the studio executive, whose job is usually to say no, will do just that."
Qunicy Jones, composer, Baker and Firestone 1972, pp 162-163): "you somehow have to come to terms with the business peoples’ demand for a hit title song and big selling soundtrack album.…every producer tells his composer, ‘I have to have a hit song,’ and the demand is kind of ridiculous because nobody knows what makes a song a hit."
Francis Ford Coppola, director, Baker and Firestone 1972, p p.64 Businessmen like predictability. When they put their money into a film, they want to know how much is going to go into the package and how much is going to come out of it...

Strategic understanding of macrostructure. Strategic understanding of the macrostructure involves social intelligence --a cognitive skill concerned with the accuracy with which a person perceives the direct and indirect social connections that define groups and their boundaries (Freeman, Freeman and Michaelson, 1988). Social intelligence is critical because an astute knowledge of these connections facilitates identifying not only who is powerful, but also where coalitions are located, and what holes and gaps these coalitions have (Krackhardt 1990, p. 342). The concept of social intelligence is closely related to notions of knowing-whom and knowing-where in the careers literature (DeFillippi and Arthur 1994, Jones and DeFillippi, 1996). Individuals who develop and use this skill know whom to contact and where to enter and move within the system.

Career paths of successful members reveal the macrostructure and the optimal paths for maneuvering within this macrostructure. The film industry’s macrostructure is organized around a status system defined by a core/periphery structure (Kadushin 1976, Faulkner 1985). The inner core is restricted to high status players such as the major studios and prominent artists whereas the peripheries are populated with less prestigious studios and less experienced and successful artists (Faulkner 1985). This suggests that, rather than trying for core-work from the beginning, low status but strategically competent individuals work their way in from the periphery. This was the path taken by Francis Ford Coppola, who opted to leave UCLA’s film school and work in exploitation films on the industry’s periphery. "I took a job in the nudie film racket... It was the only scene I could find that actually gave you a chance to fool around with a camera and cut film...(and ) I started to move up the exploitation film ladder (e.g., nudie, science fiction, horror, and religious films)" (Baker and Firestone 1972:, pp. 53-54). His movement toward the core required gaining the attention of and respect from prominent core members through winning critical acclaim. After Coppola had won a Goldwyn Award, he moved toward the core when he was offered a job working on a script for Seven Arts. "They liked what I gave them, and eventually I got a job with Seven Arts as a contract writer. Suddenly, I was making a lot of money and was really in with the establishment" (p. 56-58). In film, career movement toward the core requires negotiating status passages, primarily through recognition of skills and competent performance (Faulkner 1985).

Although the periphery offers easier access and greater likelihood of earning film credits, individuals may get stuck there in low status, low pay, and low skill work. All of which diminishes their ability to gain positions and opportunities to enhance their status and reputation. The industry core provides better training, access to key players, and a more direct route for generating status and reputation. However, it is extremely difficult to penetrate and negotiate status passages. For example, only 3% (459 of 12,400 registered in guilds) of four technical roles (cinematographer, producer, director, production designer) consistently worked for the major studios during 1977-1979 (Jones et al. 1997). More importantly, one's position within a core or periphery tends to define one's future opportunities constraining movement within the macrostructure. For example, in examining the credits of 145 film participants over a ten year period, Jones and Walsh (1997) found that one's initial position within the macrostructure consistently predicted one's future position. This lack of easy movement between core and periphery due to status systems with their differential career developmental opportunities demonstrates the importance of critical acclaim through industry awards for moving toward the core.

Capturing critical resources. In both resource dependence and resource based theories, critical resources have key attributes: they are essential or valuable, scarce (e.g., non-substitutable and inimitable), and controllable to some degree (Barney 1991, Coff 1996, Mahoney and Pandian 1994, Miller and Shamsie 1996, Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978, Salancik and Pfeffer, 1977). In film, critical resources are money, ideas (e.g., screen plays, book options), and talent. From the filmmaker's perspective, money is the key resource. Director Francis Ford Coppola stated this succinctly: "It costs a lot of money to make films. You don’t make films on anything but money -- and whatever talent you can bring to them" (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 53). The money to develop a film is difficult to gain. Producer Roger Lewis explained that "Front money (initial investment in developing the ideas, script, etc.) is the toughest money for a producer to raise....(because) nine times out of ten the money is lost. If you compare the number of films made against the number of books and plays optioned but never come off, you’ll have some sense of what the risk is" (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 14). From a studio's or production company's perspective, the critical resources of ideas and talent, while seemingly plentiful, are also perceived as scarce. Kathleen Kennedy, president of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, described how "This company always looks for a good story. That sounds very simplistic... But you’d be surprised -- it is the most difficult thing to find" (Brouwer and Wright 1991, p. 17). She added how talent was also scarce: ""we try to go after the best people available. There’s really only a handful when you get down to the technical side of getting a movie made" (p. 19). Joyce Selznick, casting director, concurred: "There are few really fine actors in this town. There are a lot of exciting personalities." (McBride 1983, p. 180).

To control critical resources requires gaining legal control over assets or employment contracts for knowledge resources (Miller and Shamsie 1996). Robert Evans, former CEO of Paramount, describes how "There’s probably more legal work per dollar spent in the motion picture industry than in any other industry in the world" (Squire 1983, p. 16). Francis Ford Coppola recognized the need for legal control over ideas to gain opportunities and develop his skills. To create the opportunity to direct a film rather than just writing screenplays, he needed control over the scripts he wrote. As a contract writer for Seven Arts, the studio, not Coppola, legally owned what he wrote. By buying the rights to a book and melding his ideas with the book’s, he out-maneuvered the studio. Coppola told Seven Arts "I own the book on which the screenplay is based. Consequently I own half and you own half so let’s get together" (p. 59-65). This emphasis on legal maneuvering and property rights suggests, from a resource-based view, that where resources become more valuable, property rights become more precise (Mahoney and Pandian, 1992, p. 370). This also explains why a primary role for guilds is protecting creative ideas, tracking and arbitrating members' film credits, and providing standardized contracts.

Those who capture critical resources through an astute knowledge of the legal and industry system rules have an important lever of influence on the industry system. The major studios (e.g., Columbia, Paramount, Universal, and now Disney) by their control over money and distribution have been (Huettig 1944) and continue to be an important force in the industry (Conant 1985) by determining what movies are made, how they are made, and who participates in them. Independent artists, who have status and reputations, may use these strategically to contest this control. In the past, stars such as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and key others founded United Artists to enhance artistic control over their movies and provide an alternative to the major studios (Balio 1985). During the 1960s and 70s, United Artists had a profound influence on the industry when its production system of renting rather than owning physical assets was emulated by the majors to cope with radical changes in movie demand (Balio 1987). A contemporary analogy is exemplified by the founding of DreamWorks which gives the founders -- Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen -- the opportunity to control the content not only of their own movies, but also of other movies they finance. In this sense, they have potentially altered not only movie content but also competitive dynamics within the industry. However, their ability to found a new studio by raising over $2 billion dollars from investors (Time, March, 27, 1995) would not have been possible without their high status and impressive reputations within the industry.


Managing uncertainty. Many cultural industries are known for highly uncertain environments, primarily due to sudden shifts in market fads and unpredictability of product success (Faulkner and Anderson 1987, Hirsch 1972, Mariotti and Cainarca 1986, Peterson and Berger 1971). In film, uncertainty comes from the difficulty of predicting how moviegoers will respond to a particular movie. "Nobody knows what’s going to work," comments screen writer William Goldman. "One can guess that a movie about some robots in the future will work, and that George Lucas will handle it well, but Universal didn’t think so. They passed on Star Wars." (Squire 1983, p. 59). No one was more surprised by the success of Star Wars than George Lucas. Steven Spielberg recounts how Lucas "a few weeks before the film opened...was predicting $15 million in domestic rentals" (Litwak 1986, p. 101).

Studios attempt to manage this uncertainty by using those who have generated prior box office revenues. Prior box office success of key production personnel (e.g., stars, directors, producers) enables linear predictions of future box office rental (Faulkner 1987, Simonet 1980). The problem, however, is that while stars enhance a linear prediction of revenues, studios need an exponential return from their movies with stars. Stars substantially escalate the cost of the movie and studios, in order to just break even, must generate 2 1/2 times the cost of a movie in tickets. Thus, studios must have blockbusters on which to generate the revenues to run the studio and make other movies, which will likely fail (Lippman 1996). Joe Roth, chairman of Disney Motion Pictures Group, argues that blockbuster with "stars" is the only way to meet Eisner's goal of 20% annual revenue growth (King 1996). Although studio execs know that there will be a certain number of tickets sold in a year; they do not know which movie will capture the lion's share of these receipts. So they sign on stars to movies to enhance the probability that it is their movie. George Lucas compares these ‘bankable elements’ to expensive life jackets: "You can buy a Jim Carrey life jacket for $20 million. If you’re on a $150 million ship, that’s kind of a bargain. But the problem, is that life jackets really only cost $20 – you’re dealing with a fear factor." (Matzer 1997). The net result is that studios search for "past magic" in successful stars, directors and producers drive up the total picture cost, increasing the amount the studio must return.

To succeed in the film industry, individuals must somehow pick "the right projects". Picking the wrong projects can severely derail career momentum, as exemplified by the career of James Caan. After Caan’s Academy Award nomination for his role as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, he rejected a number of key roles and scripts. For example, he turned down the lead in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Kramer versus Kramer. These movies became the highest grossing films of 1975 and 1979, each winning five Academy Awards. Instead, he chose roles and movies that flopped at the box office and took him out of the public eye. Finally in 1987, he had a hit film in Rob Reiner’s Misery. However, by this time and after these missed opportunities, his ability to move to desirable projects and generate opportunities had been severely curtailed (Kent 1991, p. 101-103). Thus, having an intuitive understanding of which potential film projects will become box office successes is an important skill for a film industry professional.

At the same time, savvy stars know they must market themselves to further develop brand name recognition -- just as Proctor and Gamble markets its products. As Arnold Schwarzenegger explained: "I realized very early on in my career that the most important thing is to publicize yourself; to be available for interviews; to get on the covers of magazines; to travel all over the world and hit the foreign press," (Kent 1991, p. 103). Name recognition enhances their potential for future work. Casting director Joyce Selznick commented how : they (actors) are considered as good as their last film. Unless they’re in a runaway hit, whereby their exposure to the public is so tremendous that they become known overnight, they can forget it. If they’re in a film that doesn’t make it, even with good notices, they start their career over again" ((McBride 1983, p. 186). Brand name recognition potentially facilitates commercial success because it is more likely an audience may come to see the movie, especially in a market that is overcrowded with product. Commercial success in film generates status and as writer Robert Towne explained, "gives you power" (McBride 1983, p. 80). Commercial success opens up access to resources. "One of the good things about having a picture work out well," explained producer Roger Lewis, "is that you have access to [those] who will listen to an original idea, who will respond to something written on a piece of paper, who will say yes -- and the money will be there" (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 22).



Social competence encompasses knowledge about, skills for, and routines that enable participants to enhance their access to resources for making movies and succeeding in the industry. These involve identifying mentors and sponsors who can provide opportunities to develop skills, creating effective interpersonal relations in an intensely collaborative medium, and tapping into information about future opportunities. Social competence comprises three inter-related sets of resources: relational, collaborative routines, and social capital (see Table 2 for representative quotes). These skills are critical since entrance into and advancement within this competitive industry are based on informal networks (Faulkner 1987, Jones 1996). Thus, individuals must seek out sponsors and mentors to gain opportunities and develop their skills; and since films are made by cross-functional teams of independent entrepreneurs, they must also have the relational skills to work well with others and avoid a bad reputation.

Table 2
Representative Examples of Social Competence Constructs

Relational Skills
Tim Nelson, Independent Producer, primary interview "The business is about marketing yourself…. I hired him (because) he’s got a great personality and a great sense of humor"
Joyce Selznick, Casting director, McBride 1979, p.185 "If you see something interesting in an actor, you try to find ways to move them into opportunities."
Robert Towne, screen writer, McBride, 1979, p. 81 "it’s valuable to have close relations with the people you work with. Any conflict that comes up is not necessarily viewed as disrespect or as questioning of the other’s talent. You’re people who care about each other and who are going for a common goal" .
Collaborative knowledge and routines
Edith Head, costume designer McBride 19793, p 167, 168: When you work with a director, you immediately have to find out his point of view.
James Salter, scren writer,

producer, Baker and Firestone 1972, p.85

"We know that film is a collaborative affair, frequently geography--real or figurative--intervenes… The amount of politics and negotiation and conciliation and reconciliation and adaptation and changes that go on is great.".
Sidney Lumet, director, Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 48-49) "Film for me is a performing, communal art form, and not the work of a single individual......I think a lot of the critical insistence on the director as auteur comes from the lack of technical knowledge of how a movie is actually put together."
Social capital
Mel Brooks, director and screen writer,

Squire 1983, p. 31

Brooks went to an agent, Barry Levinson, who knew a producer, Sidney Glazier, who would like the script (The Producers) . "Barry set a meeting. Sidney, read it, shook my hand and said, "It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. We’re going to make a movie out of this."
David Picker, Independent producer and former studio exec, Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 26 "Each week I read ten or twelve scripts and two or three books and go to two or three plays just to keep up with the material submitted by people with whom we have established business/creative relationships. …Material submitted by people we don’t know has to be screened by other people in the company before I get a look at it".


Relational skills. Relational skills refers to the ability to develop "the bonds and knowledge" that arise from the interactions between or among parties during service creation and delivery (adapted from Jones et al. 1998). These relationships open up work opportunities (Granovetter 1974), enhance resource sharing for creating new products (Brass 1984), motivate parties to aid one another (Granovetter 1973, Krackhardt 1992), facilitate communication, decision making (Uzzi 1996) and adaptation to uncertain and changing conditions (Krackhardt and Stern 1988, Krackhardt 1992). Individuals that create stronger relationships are more successful and influential network members as strong or high quality ties "shape economic action by creating unique opportunities and access to these opportunities" (Uzzi 1996, p. 675).

Skill in establishing bonds with those who provide opportunities is critical to gaining opportunities to work, especially in a free agent market. It is at the heart of mentor and sponsor relationships. Often this requires creating a bond in a moment and during fleeting encounters. During her ten minute audition, Cate Praggastis, one of our interviewees, created a bond with the casting director that landed her the job. She explains that "I walked out of there and knew that I had the part because she (casting director Barbara Miller for Lorimar) liked me, not because she liked my ability. Anybody could have done those four words." Strong relationships are central to expanding one's skills and experiences. For example, producer Joseph E. Levine explains how Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole used their star status to provide a novice, Tony Harvey, with his first directing experience on The Lion in Winter. "They both wanted him – why I’ll never know; he had never directed anything. I was scared to death" (McBride 1979, p. 35). Those with better relational skills are not only more likely to gain opportunities, but also to have greater influence over their creative contributions. Editor Aram Avakian describes how "unless you have an unusually strong relationship with a director, you have very little control over what ends up in your hands" (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 142). Relational skills and strong ties are important to successful careers and provide a source of leverage and influence for those who have them. These ties provide opportunities for skill and career development as well as enhance control over creative contributions. Thus, they may be used as a means for enhancing status and reputation.

Collaborative knowledge and routines. Collaborative skills involve knowledge about one another, effective communication skills, and an understanding of the macroculture which defines and guides appropriate interactions. The importance of collaborative knowledge and skills were described by creative crew (e.g., director, production designer, cinematograper etc.) but not by brokerage or managerial roles (e.g., agents or studio executives) (see Table 2). Shared knowledge was seen as central to effective collaboration in an enterprise as intensely interdependent as film making. Harry Horner, production designer, suggests that "We all should know as much as possible about each other’s specialities, because, if nothing else, it widens the tolerance of one to the other" (McBride 1979, p. 154). These collaborative skills demand the ability to communicate implicit ideas and tap into one another's vision for the film. Cinematographer John Alonzo describes how " I nearly go to bed with him. We spend hours drinking coffee and talking, but out of those hours may come a couple of key phrases that allow me to get into the director’s head and vice versa." (McBride 1979, p. 121). From a director’s point of view, those creative crew members who tap into your vision creates incentives for working together repeatedly. Director Sidney Lumet captures this when he says: "(Y)ou’d like to continue working together because of the emotional pleasure of finding someone on the same wavelength. These people are playing roles of tremendous importance and have to get on the same emotional key as the director," (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 48-49). An essential aspect of collaboration is subordinating individual goals and desires for the group effort. Quincy Jones, the composer, described how: "Filmmaking is a group activity, and you either have to submerge your ego to the total enterprise or get out" (Baker and Firestone 1972 , p. 166). Editor Aram Avakian described it in terms of a service orientation: "no matter how good you are, you still have to come to terms with the basic psychology of being an editor. To be good at it, you must serve…So you have to make a psychological adjustment by telling yourself that you’re-not-serving -another-person, but that both you and the director and everyone else are serving the film." (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 142):.

From these relationships, opportunities and experiences, individuals garner their status and reputations. As line producer Paul Maslansky (Squire 1983) explained: " "It’s an incestuous business, and the crewmen who are hired have reputations to uphold. ..After all, other productions will follow this one, and other line producers will do hiring based on the crew’s previous reputation" (p. 218). This is also true for directors and producers in their relationships with studios. For example, Michael Cimino in his budget excesses and recalcitrance with United Artists created an negative reputation for himself, even though he had previously won best director for the film Deer Hunter, which severly curtailed his future opportunities (Bach 1985). As director Sidney Pollack (Squire 1983) explains, "A director does not want to have a reputation for being wasteful because that is harmful to a career" (p. 23). Since the film industry is organized around projects and through informal networks, relationships provide the source of information about potential collaborators and crew. Leigh Von der Esch, a film commissioner for the State of Utah which oversees the Sundance Film Festival and Treasurer of the Association of Film Commissioners International, commented in an interview: "We're a big industry but a little industry because we talk to one another." This reputational information is derived through relational experiences and defines future opportunities.

Social capital. Social capital consists of the set of relationships that a person is involved with. In a sense, it is the outcome of a person's relational skills. It refers to resources generated by "an actor’s social network which provides differential opportunities" (Campbell, Marsden and Hurlbert, 1986: 97) and is a function of the volume, diversity, status and structure of one’s social connections (Burt and Minor, 1983; Burt, 1992). The volume of ties has been shown to be related to the amount of money managers in a variety of industries make (Belliveau et al. 1996, Boxman, DeGraaf and Flap, 1991). The diversity and status of ties has long been associated with access to resources by social resource theorists (Lin, 1982) and to the acquisition of job opportunities in particular (Granovetter, 1974). The structure of one's social connections has recently been linked to job mobility through the exploitation of structural holes -- the gap between pairs of actors who are both connected to a third actor (Burt, 1992). Structural holes enhance information and control benefits (Burt 1992).

In the interview data, social capital was discussed primarily by agents, studio executives and producers. These roles require numerous and diverse ties and often act as intermediaries between talent and the studios (i.e., exploiters of structural holes). Jeremy Zimmer, talent agent, describes how "by the mere fact that we are in the center of information flow at the agency business-- we know everything that’s going on and what everybody’s doing to everybody--we have power" (Brouwer and Wright 1991, p. 51). The information benefits of structural holes are exemplified in the negotiation process in which agents engage. William Christopher Gorog, who was business affairs executive, described how "There is a business affairs underground that says business affairs executives can freely trade any information in the world about deal making and talent with each other on a confidential, not-to-be-repeated basis" (Brouwer and Wright 1991, p. 57). This free trade of information allows these brokers to "stay sane and try to determine what the market price is for talent that, can in all honesty, be a bit nebulous" (Brouwer and Wright 1991, p. 61). Clearly, these information and control benefits are critical to brokerage and managerial roles. However, the number and distribution of ties were not discussed by those holding creative roles (e.g., cinematographer, screen writer etc.). This suggests that the use of social ties may differ for creative versus managerial roles.

In summary, social competence comprises a set of related social skills and assets that together may generate status and reputation for individuals. The skills and assets comprising social competence encapsulate different aspects of socially competent behavior and provide resources for those who have and develop them. Relational skill taps the strength and quality of one's social ties and collaborative efforts, social intelligence captures how relations and group boundaries can be used strategically, and social capital indexes how position between parties in a social structure and sheer volume of ties provides information and control benefits. Social competence develops over a career; it is learned over time by exposure to and experience in the industry. These resources augment an individual’s leverage for influencing the institutional order. Without these skills and assets, one’s ability to influence one's career development and the larger social order is diminished.



Craft competence, the third domain important to career success in a cultural industry, refers to having deep, implicit knowledge and extensive experience (March and Simon 1959) of a specific medium, reflected in a developed skill set (Van Maanen and Barley 1984). Craft competence is critical; without it an individual can contribute little to a project and, in essence, would be unable to obtain system resources or build the necessary social relationships that facilitate work opportunities. Our results indicated that two types of craft competence are essential in the film industry: technical expertise and aesthetic/creative skills (see Table 3 for representative quotes.) Through building their craft competence and achieving commercial success or critical acclaim, individuals develop their reputation, enhance their status, and gain access to a core position in the industry.

Table 3
Representative Examples of Craft Competence Constructs

Technical Skills
Joan Micklin Silver, director-screen writer, Squire 1983, p. 40-41 "On Head Over Heels (20th Century)...we were paying for a big Hollywood crew, but we benefited from their expertise. For example, the first assistant cameraman did a remarkable job following focus, just by eyeballing it...he wasn't even looking through the camera eyepiece; the camera operator does that. That level of expertise is de riguer in Hollywood"
Edith Head, costume designer, McBride 1979, p. 174 "Most designers like myself have worked on so many films that we automatically know those things (what clothes and details are needed for period films)."
John Alonzo, cinematographer,

McBride 1979, p. 124


"the best experience you can have is just to shoot so much film that you know what it does...Don't become dependent on your light meter. Become dependent on your eye and on what you think it should look like.
Aesthetic/Creative skills
Roger Corman, producer, director, Studio founder, Koszarski 1977, p. 390 "there are very few conceptual filmmakers. By this I mean...the ability not simply to find a good subject, a great story or idea, but to see also how to deal with it in an unexpected way: the ability to grasp how a strong statement or point of view can be made cunningly, so that an audience will adopt it as their own.
Harry Horner, production designer, McBride 1979, p. 152 "A production designer should stimulate a director to see more than he has seen. Be seeing I don't necessarily mean something visual: to understand more, to be more curious about a character, about a landscape, about the relationship between a setting and a character."
Edward Dmytryk, director & editor Koszarski, 1977, p.383): experience can sharpen brilliance, but never create it.


Technical Expertise. Technical expertise involves acquiring knowledge and experience in a specific medium of one's craft such as cinematography, acting, casting, screen writing, directing, or lighting. On a basic level, knowledge refers to the craft's explicit coded information or the formal and organized facts and rules" (Nass 1994). Individuals hold explicit forms of knowledge when they possess "ready-made" information (Nass 1994) reflected in their elementary skills (Levitt and March 1988). In filmmaking, basic knowledge includes knowing what a "dolly shot" is or what "synching dailies" means and confers legitimacy as an industry member on those who hold it. Technical expertise also includes tacit knowledge (Nonaka 1994, Van Maanen and Schein 1979), which is developed through gaining a wide variety of experience (Nonaka 1994) on contextually diverse projects. Editor Aram Avakian described how, "I started cutting film, any way I could, as a way, as a method to get my hands on film, any and all film, in order to learn my craft as a movie maker" (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 127). A critical step in developing technical expertise is seeing the result of one's effort and getting feedback about how well it works. This type of experience enables individuals to learn the craft's conventions (Becker 1982), and internalize this knowledge into their practices. Through experience and practice, technical expertise becomes automatic and implicit and, once honed, taken for granted (Van Maanen and Barley 1984). As a result, technical expertise is difficult to formalize and communicate (Polanyi 1966).

Developing technical expertise enables individuals to make greater contributions to a film, as well as frees them to develop their aesthetic/creative skill -- their "finesse, flair or style" (Van Maanen and Barley 1984, p. 326). Director Sidney Pollack explained the benefit of expertise: "The choice of the crew is...extremely important. Not only do their various creative and mechanical abilities contribute to the final effect of the film, but every moment they save you is an extra moment you can spend creatively" (Squire 1983, p. 25). This ability to develop aesthetic or creative skills requires a thorough knowledge of one's technical craft. Cinematographer John Alonzo commented that: "All cameramen should be knowledgeable about the chemistry, the mathematics, the mechanics of cinematography. It should be almost second nature. That leaves you freer to get more aesthetically involved and become keener in what you see...With those things thoroughly ensconced in your brain, you can now deal with a director on a social level, a political level, and an aesthetic level, and your brain is freer to work. You can work more like an artist" (McBride 1983, p. 123). Thus, developing technical expertise enhances an individual's ability to perform well, build a reputation as one of the talented few, and gain status in the industry. Reputation and status are indicated by having your skills and contributions seen as critical to a film's success. Robert Evans, the producer for whom Robert Towne wrote the award winning screenplay Chinatown, once said: "I would rather have the next five commitments from Robert Towne than from Robert Redford" (McBride 1983, p. 61). Another indicator explained by writer James Salter, was having "reached that exalted position where somebody called me up and asked me if I was interested in writing a film; in this case, Roman Polanski’s producer" (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 91).

Aesthetic/creative skills. Aesthetic and creative skills are more deeply and personally held forms of knowledge; they are rooted in an individual's values, commitment and beliefs (Polanyi 1966) about their craft. They involve ineffable issues of "good taste," intuitive leaps, and creative choices. These skills are based in an "individual's schema, paradigms, beliefs and viewpoints... that help individuals perceive and define their world" (Nonaka 1994, p. 16). Roger Corman, producer and director described film as "movement" and one must develop "a sense of rhythm in visual terms." (Koszarski 1977, p.390). Screen writer Robert Towne (McBride 1983) explains: "You think in terms of trying to advance the narrative not as much with dialogue as with image" (p. 77) and "deal with the rhythms of the movie"(p. 68). How one defines this rhythm and what constitutes good rhythm versus poor rhythm is not articulated and is difficult, if not impossible, to teach.

Aesthetic/creative skills enable individuals to expand practices and innovate untried ways of doing things (Schein 1971). This comes only to those who can integrate their experiences and creativity (Amabile 1990) and design a new perspective or vision for the craft. Editor Aram Avakian (Baker and Firestone 1972, p. 128) describes how he invented the jump cut in editing: "The nature of Stravinsky and his music seemed to dictate that kind of cutting...I didn't know if anyone would like it. I did it because I had some vision of who Igor Stravinsky was, and I tried to interpret that. I knew it was the thing to do. What came out was a portrait of a man: Igor Stravinsky" (Baker and Firestone 1972, pp. 127-128). Five years later, the jump cut was being used in other films. George Lucas' use of computer aided special effects is another example of combining experience and creativity to create a new vision and new roles for special effects in film. Building on this experience, Lucas is now on the forefront of developing digital actor technology, where actors are constructed and animated by computer rather than shot from live actors. By expanding accepted industry knowledge and conventions through "vivid demonstrations" of new ways of seeing, individuals can potentially transform their craft and simultaneously garner status for doing so (Van Maanen and Barley 1984). When individuals are of high status, their innovations may spawn new roles, firms, and competitive arenas within the industry as has George Lucas with his company Industrial Light and Magic.

Through excellent performance of technical and aesthetic/creative skills, individuals garner reputation and status in the industry and gain greater influence over projects. For example Edward Dmytryk, director and editor commented: "I don't believe I've ever heard one acknowledged top-flight director, young or old, ask for the right to cut his pictures; he's already got it. That's one of the interesting things about our business; anyone who truly deserves the management's confidence, almost invariably has it. And the same thing holds true for editors" (Koszarski 1977, p. 379). In addition, they also facilitate individuals creating role content innovations (Van Maanen and Schein 1978). In role content innovations, functions such as director and screen writer or actor and screen writer are fused together and become the means for maintaining control over artistic vision (Baker and Faulkner 1991). Mel Brooks explained how: "When I wrote my first movie, The Producers, I decided that I would also direct it to protect my vision...because I didn't want anybody interfering with my words...I direct a film to protect the writing. I produce a film to have total business control as well as creative control over the film's future...Little by little, in defense of the initial vision, I've learned to put on other hats" (Squire 1983, 30- 36).

These role combinations were first used with early blockbuster films. They are now used to "gain" further legitimacy and leverage in the investment and creative communities of Hollywood (Baker and Faulkner 1991, p. 280). However, these role combinations are not tolerated in work for the major studios unless one has influence -- either prior commercial success or critical acclaim. Mel Brooks commented: "When I presented the idea of Silent Movie to Fox, their mouths fell open, They were very shocked but they didn't want to turn me down because of my track record...When I said Silent Movie in 1976, they said, 'Sounds interesting." I knew in their hearts they were saying, 'Oh God! How can we say no without hurting his feelings, without losing him?' I explained later that there might be some great movie stars in it" (Squire 1983. pp. 34-35). The important aspect of these quotes is that they demonstrate the leverage that acknowledged craft competence, reflected in one's reputation and status, provides. Using role combinations and leverage to parlay their expertise into future projects, when successful, serves to enhance the reputation and status of these individuals as creative and potentially influential industry forces.



Cultural industries provide an important setting for understanding career competencies and structuring of social order. With their informal networks of interaction, cultural industries place greater responsibility on the individual for career success. Cultural industries provide a potential template for other industries moving toward network forms of governance. Cultural industries also enlighten our understanding of structuration processes because the social order is constantly being created and re-created through projects.

We make two contributions. First, we identify the resources needed for individual advantage and industry influence. We do this by delineating specific career competencies that cultural industries require: system, social, and craft. These competencies are learned throughout a career and define the macrocultural and macrostructural demands placed upon individuals. Through examining individual careers we also illuminate the successful career strategies employed by individuals to navigate in a new organizational form found in film. These include gaining legal control over critical properties, developing relationships to gain opportunities from mentors and sponsors, and honing one's craft to enhance one's desirable on projects.

Our second contribution is to take a step toward integrating resource dependence and resource-based perspectives into structuration theory. We describe how these resources, various forms of human and social capital, provide a source of influence which may be used to maintain or alter the social system and enhance pursuing individual goals. Although structuration theory acknowledges that individuals may constitute social order, few researchers have systematically identified the resources that facilitate this process and enhance the potential for influencing social order. Thus, identifying what resources are critical, how they are generated and who may use them enhances our understanding of cultural industries and structuration theory. In addition, our use of both resource-based and resource dependence models provide a complementary and well-rounded analysis of the structuring process. By examining both the external and internal environments, we examine how resources are defined by firms and individuals which must navigate within the external environment. The internal environment, based on individual or firm competencies, shows how individuals use these to gain access to and generate critical resources which not only provide individual advantage but may also be used to influence the external environment.

Clearly, our study has several limitations. First, it examines one industry indepth and it is open to question whether these findings generalize to other industries. Future work in other industries on career competencies will be an important step in resolving this issue. Second, our analyses, while insightful, focus on only successful members of the industry and as such provide a partial story of careers within the industry. A more balanced examination of both career success and failure may illuminate additional competencies not identified or place important boundary conditions upon our findings.

We suggest two directions for future study. First, an important issue is whether these different competencies are more important at specific career stages than others for career success. For example, are relational skills more critical in the early stage of a career when the neophyte has few technical or aesthetic skills to offer on a project? Second, an important issue is whether some of these competencies are more critical for certain roles and in what combinations. For example, we described how social capital was important for managerial and brokerage roles but not for creative/technical roles per se. In addition, collaborative skills were identified by creative/technical members but not managerial. In essence, the relationship between career competencies and status and reputation may be influenced by role. Specific roles (e.g., studio executive, cinematographer) may require higher competence in one domain than another to gain greater status & reputation. If this is the case, then a weighting of competencies becomes important. It also suggests that our model may be multiplicative rather than an additive




Primary Interview Sources

A Film Commissioner for the State of Utah, Leigh von der Esch, who was also Treasurer (and later President) of the Association of Film Commissioners International, was contacted to identify successful film subcontractors in Utah and gain background on the industry. This office also oversees the United States Film Festival in Park City, Utah which is co-sponsored by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute. The Commissioner identified five individuals in a variety of roles who had been in the film industry since the late 1970s: a casting coordinator-Cate Praggastis, who cast the extras for Footloose; a cameraman-Bruce Aoki; a grippe/electrician-Bryan Clifton; a producer-Tim Nelson; and a talent agent Susie McCartey. The Film Commissioner was interviewed again after all the other interviews. The interviews were semi-structured which elicited more detailed questions and answers. The general questions focused on careers in film: 1) Tell me about what you do in the film industry 2) How did you get started? 3) What makes a career successful in the film industry? 4) Do you help newcomers get started? What about them makes you decide to help them? 5) What advice do you give these newcomers. All interviews were tape recorded. Four of the five interviews were transcribed. In the interview with the talent agent, the tape recorder malfunctioned so there was no transcription. This interview is not used in the analyses. The data were content analyzed, written up in a report and fed back to the informants who assessed it for its accuracy and the understanding of the film industry. This acts as a validity check on the data and interpretations by the researcher. For the purposes of the present study, the interviews were re-analyzed with a focus on identifying specific career competencies needed for success in the film industry.


Secondary Interview Sources

The 29 secondary interviews came from four published books that contained edited interviews but not interpretations by third parties: (1) Jason Squire's (ed.), The Movie Business Book, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983); (2) Joseph McBride's (ed.), Filmmakers on Filmmaking (Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, 1979, vol. 2); (3) Richard Koszarski's (ed.), Hollywood Directors 1941-976 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977); and (4) Fred Baker and Ross Firestone's (eds.), Movie People (New York: Douglas Book Corp, 1972).

The two books that served as supplementary sources for our interviews were: (1) A. Brouwer and T. Wright (eds.), Working in Hollywood (Avon: New York, 1991) and (2) E. Laskin (ed.), AFI: Getting Started in Film, (Macmillan: New York, 1992).

We focused on key technical roles and studio executives. Those interviews in the texts dealing with this study's focus were used and others (e.g., entertainment lawyer or publicist) were ignored. The interviewees were used in the content analysis: (1) Studio Executives (N=5): David Picker, Richard Lederer, Gordon Stuhlburg, Roger Mayer, Barbara Boyle; (2) Directors (N=5): Sidney Lumet, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin, Michael Ritchie, Sidney Pollack; (3) Producers (N=3): Joseph E. Levine, Robert Evans, Roger Lewis; (4) Writers (N=4): Robert Towne, Williams Goldman, James Salter, Terry Southern; (5) Role combinations of the prior four roles(N= 3): Mel Brooks, Joan Micklin Silver, Roger Corman; (6) Editor (N=2): Aram Avakian, Edward Dmytryk; (7) Other (N=7): Rod Steiger (actor), Joyce Selznick (Casting director), John Alonzo (Cinematographer), Quincy Jones (Composer), Edith Head (Costume designer), Paul Maslansky (Line producer), and Harry Horner (Production designer).




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