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Precarious Creativity

Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor OPEN ACCESS

Michael Curtin
Kevin Sanson
Copyright Date: 2016
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ffjn40
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  • Book Info
    Precarious Creativity
    Book Description:

    Precarious Creativityexamines the seismic changes confronting media workers in an age of globalization and corporate conglomeration. This pathbreaking anthology peeks behind the hype and supposed glamor of screen media industries to reveal the intensifying pressures and challenges confronting actors, editors, electricians, and others. The authors take on pressing conceptual and methodological issues while also providing insightful case studies of workplace dynamics regarding creativity, collaboration, exploitation, and cultural difference. Furthermore, it examines working conditions and organizing efforts on all six continents, offering broad-ranging and comprehensive analysis of contemporary screen media labor in such places as Lagos, Prague, Hollywood, and Hyderabad. The collection also examines labor conditions across a range of job categories that includes, for example, visual effects, production services, and adult entertainment. With contributions from such leading scholars as John Caldwell, Vicki Mayer, Herman Gray, and Tejaswini GantiPrecarious Creativityoffers timely critiques of media globalization while also intervening in broader debates about labor, creativity, and precarity.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96480-8
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Michael Curtin and Kevin Sanson

    In most parts of the world, screen media workers—actors, directors, gaffers, and makeup artists—consider Hollywood to be glamorous and aspirational. If given the opportunity to work on a major studio lot, many would make the move, believing the standards of professionalism are high and the history of accomplishment is renowned. Moreover, as a global leader, Hollywood offers the chance to rub shoulders with talented counterparts and network with an elite labor force that earns top-tier pay and benefits. Yet despite this reputation, veterans say the view from inside isn’t so rosy, that working conditions have been deteriorating since...

  2. Toby Miller

    The prevailing media credo, in domains that matter both a lot (popular, capitalist, and state discourse and action) and a little (communication, cultural, and media studies), is upheaval. The litany goes something like this: Corporate power is challenged. State authority is compromised. Avant-garde art and politics are centered. The young are masters, not victims. Technologies represent freedom, not domination. Revolutions are fomented by Twitter, not theory; by memes, not memos; by Facebook, not Foucault; by phone, not protest.

    Political participation is just a click away. Tweets are the new streets and online friends the new vanguard, as 140ism displaces Maoism....

  3. John T. Caldwell

    In the heady air of an MIT Transmedia conference, the “aca-pro” audience voiced appreciation as the futurist digital media consultant bragged about how nonhierarchical innovation hot spots like the one he’d created in his boutique company were poised to make old, conservative approaches to film and television production obsolete. Like dinosaurs and “Detroit,” he argued, lazy, inefficient “old media” film/TV production professionals—who, like the auto industry, had lived long past their prime—could vanish and no tears would be shed. The unequivocal message: good riddance. Another panelist, an edgy new media branding consultant, sketched out some of his own...

  4. Shanti Kumar

    In this chapter, I argue that Bollywood must be understood as a vital force of immaterial labor for the affective contagion of mass creativity in urban India. I focus on the some of the many reasons why politicians, policymakers, film stars, filmmakers, and business leaders in India are turning their attention to the infrastructure of cinema as a potential resource for attracting economic capital and creative labor in urban and semiurban areas. The fusion of cinematic infrastructure with urban architecture is most evident in Indian cities and towns that have, or are planning to have, a “film city” in their...

  5. Vicki Mayer

    Over the past twenty years, regional governments around the world and global film industry corporations have collaborated, if not colluded, to provide a steady stream of workers for film location shooting through legislated incentives. Seeking to reduce labor costs in relation to other fixed expenses, industry executives have successfully used incentives to reduce budgets. Meanwhile, regional policymakers have looked to film and television production as a panacea for anemic economic growth and declining employment indices.¹ Together, governments and industry have made labor into one of the primary fault lines in the political economy of film production.

    For the former constituents,...

  6. Violaine Roussel

    “Now, everything in the talent agency business is different forever,” commented a talent agent I interviewed after the announcement, in late 2013, of the acquisition of the sports marketing giant IMG (International Management Group) by the major agency WME (William Morris Endeavor). Indeed, in the past decade, Hollywood talent agencies have had to undergo drastic changes, for which they are also largely responsible. These changes are intrinsically connected to transformations that have simultaneously affected and been generated by the studios, who are the agencies’ counterparts on the production side. This organizational mutation creates consequences in creative terms: it directly affects...

  7. Petr Szczepanik

    Political economists and network theorists offer different assessments of the global relations of motion picture production. While spatially extended webs of productive labor are central to such approaches, neither explains specifically how these webs are constituted or how they operate in peripheral production ecologies. What is more, they do not consider the implications of the knowledge transfers and power hierarchies emerging from such transnational production contexts. By contrast, this chapter offers a concrete analysis of these issues in Prague’s postsocialist film and television industries. It focuses on the segregation of the local work world and on barriers inhibiting transsectoral knowledge...

  8. Matt Sienkiewicz

    On September 11, 2001, Afghanistan’s media sphere was one of the sparsest in the world. Few newspapers had survived the previous half-decade of Taliban rule, during which the nation devolved into a “country without news or pictures,” according to Reporters Without Borders.¹ A single radio station, Radio Sharia, was in operation—the lone remnant of a bygone Soviet era marked by relatively sophisticated, if centrally controlled, broadcasting practices. According to the architects of the American-led invasion that would ultimately overthrow the Taliban regime, this lack of media was not only a symptom of totalitarianism but also a cause. Free media,...

  9. Tejaswini Ganti

    “Immy, can you tone it down a bit?” I was watching a film shoot at the Marriott Renaissance in Mumbai in July 2014, and the director, Vikram Bhatt, was instructing the lead actor, Emraan Hashmi, about his body language during a tracking shot where he had to stride resolutely across the hotel’s ballroom. When Bhatt’s assistant director began to block the shot for Hashmi, Bhatt bellowed in Hindi from his position in the back of the room, “Arre beta, thode dheere se jaao! [Hey son, go a little slower!].” He then spoke on the phone in Gujarati with a marketing...

  10. Juan Piñón

    The transformation of the Latin American television industry clearly exposes the profound impact of neoliberal policies throughout the region, including the multiplication of distribution windows, trends toward media concentration, and changes in the modalities by which global media corporations are rooting in local and national television industries. Miller and Leger argue that runaway productions are the means by which Hollywood outsources production to developing countries to realize cost advantages via flexible labor, low wages, low prices, tax incentives, cheap accommodations, and access to material, cultural, and symbolic infrastructure, all the while maintaining tight central administrative and financial control.¹ This New...

  11. Jade Miller

    Just as Hollywood production frequently departs the greater Los Angeles area for less expensive shooting locations worldwide, Hollywood studios have also expanded their interests globally, investing in everything from Bollywood studios to telenovela-producing corporations.¹ In this sense, the Los Angeles-based film and television industry is indeed a multilevel “global Hollywood,” as Miller and his colleagues convincingly illustrate in their so-titled book.² Accordingly, the individuals who make up global Hollywood’s workforce are both geographically diverse (in “runaway production” locations from New Orleans to Prague) and industrially diverse, working on domestic film and television productions as well as major international projects, all...

  12. In this chapter, we examine the conditions of precarity in porn work, situating those conditions in the context of a changing industry and a political economic moment in which uncertainty is the most stable feature. Though we can link precarious conditions to their social contexts, we do not suggest that such conditions are inevitable or historically neutral. As Chuck Kleinhans insists, “Precarity is not a necessary result of [global political economic] changes. Rather, it is a deliberate policy and aspect of neoliberalism in its relation to the labor force.”¹ Porn workers’ precarity emerges out of an industry struggling in the...

  13. Kristen J. Warner

    This chapter makes a case for precarity as a historical state of being for marginalized men and women of color in the entertainment industries. As a preface to underscore what follows, I want to recount two recent experiences that make explicit the larger stakes I’m concerned with here. First, at the originating conference for this collection, a key debate focused on the gendered division of labor and how debates about “progress” often obscure the ongoing marginalization of women from the screen media workforce. Scholars made resoundingly astute points about the ways women continue to suffer under the tyranny of patriarchy...

  14. John Banks and Stuart Cunningham

    In this chapter, we pay full attention to the structural conditions and human cost of precarious labor in a particular local instance of the games industry. But at the same time, we attempt to shift the debate on precarity from the existential (the creative individual attracted to industries promising autonomy and meaningful work and finding only casualization, no work/life balance, and poor management) and the totalizing (all work under regimes of neoliberal hypercapitalism is increasingly characterized by precarity; indeed a whole new class—the precariat¹—is posited as emerging) to a focus on analysis for actionable reform.

    Significant “creative destruction”²...

  15. Anthony Fung

    People often fantasize about Hollywood’s workforce being composed of innovative people imbued with refined tastes and aesthetics. They are further imagined as being well paid and therefore able to enjoy a rosy bohemian or bourgeois lifestyle, as opposed to other industrial workers. This romantic vision of the hip Hollywood creative may be apocryphal, but few would deny that the industry has long prospered because it has been able to foster and harness the creative energies of its employees. Moreover, Hollywood has served as a model for other creative industries in the United States, including gaming, animation, software, and information technology...

  16. Michael Keane

    Job security is under unprecedented threat in many developed nations as a consequence of the mechanization of work.¹ In addition, rising production costs are seeing the relocation of production to low-cost locations. This is a well-known story. Emerging economies are achieving substantial growth by providing cheap labor and preferential investment policies. For China, already an economic powerhouse, a foreign country’s insecurity is a their security: the “made in China” phenomenon manifests in products that are designed elsewhere and fabricated in China. Much of this outsourced production involves components. Economists call this “tradein-tasks,” “unbundling,”² or OEM (original equipment manufacturing).

    In this...

  17. Marwan M. Kraidy

    This chapter elaborates the concept of revolutionary creative labor. The Arab uprisings, particularly the conflict in Syria, have given rise to a notion of creative resistance. Various activists, journalists, academics, and curators have used that phrase to celebrate a gamut of expressive practices and forms encompassing graffiti, digital memes and mash-ups, handheld banners, political rap, and others.¹ The wording combines two terms with overwhelmingly positive connotations that evoke human ingenuity and agency. But ifcreative resistanceis to convey anything beyond a nebulous concept of ingenious rebellion, it needs to be systematically explored and situated vis-à-vis notions of activism, creativity,...

  18. Herman Gray

    Conceiving of social inequality as a salient object of research for media industry studies is a tricky business. As a research matter, approaching inequality is mired in if not now displaced by a cluster of terms likediversity, multiculturalism, difference, lifestyle, andniche. Media’s role in the production of inequalities based on class, race, gender, and sexual identification is displaced onto questions of access and representation, multiculturalism and diversity, branding and audience appeal. As the subject of media industry studies research, approaches to the study of diversity often direct researchers to see diversity as a discrete outcome and empirically track...

  19. Allison Perlman

    When Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), narrates the history of his organization, he tells a story of continuity and change. The core mission of the group—to integrate Latinas/os into more jobs behind and in front of the camera, ameliorate derogatory images of Latinas/os in the media, and advocate for telecommunications policies that serve the needs of Latina/o publics—has remained consistent since the NHMC was founded in 1986. What has changed, according to Nogales, is the organization’s strategies, which have evolved with the group’s experiences in media activism and advocacy. In his...

  20. Miranda Banks and David Hesmondhalgh

    Across the world, trade unions have played a major role in efforts by workers to improve their conditions, defend their rights, and promote social justice in people’s working lives. Yet in the recent “turn to labor” in media and cultural studies, there has been little sustained consideration of unions.¹ The collective action and bargaining offered by unions are crucial in providing a means of limiting the problematic working conditions that, as a number of researchers have shown, are apparent in much media work, in spite of easy and flawed assumptions that the media industries provide high-quality or “easy” jobs.² The...

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.