ALL FLUX

Nowhere is this trend toward constant flux…

…more evident than in the entertainment industry centered in southern California. Hollywood’s “cultural-industrial complex” includes not just film, but also music, multimedia, theme park design, TV production, and commercials.

Giant film studios no longer make movies. Loose entrepreneurial networks of small firms make movies, which appear under the names of the big studios. In addition to various camera crews, about 40 to 50 other firms, plus scores of freelancers, connect up to produce a movie; these include special effects vendors, prop specialists, lighting technicians, payroll agencies, security folks, and catering firms. They convene as one financial organization for the duration of the movie project, and then when the movie is done, the company disperses. Not too much later they will reconvene as other movie-making entities in entirely new ad hoc arrangements. Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling has his own inimitable way of describing the flux of “Hollywood film ad-hocracies.” To make a movie, he says, “You’re pitchforking a bunch of freelancers together, exposing some film, using the movie as the billboard to sell the ancillary rights, and after the thing gets slotted to video, everybody just vanishes.”

Fewer than ten entertainment companies employ more than 1,000 employees. Of the 250,000 people involved in the entertainment complex in the Los Angeles region, an estimated 85% of the firms employ 10 people or fewer. Joel Kotkin, author of a landmark 1995 article in Inc. magazine entitled, “Why Every Business Will Be Like Show Business,” writes: “Hollywood has mutated from an industry of classic huge, vertically integrated corporations into the world’s best example of a network economy. Eventually, every knowledge-intensive industry will end up in the same flattened, atomized state. Hollywood just has gotten there first.”

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK