Identity from Symbolic Networks: The Rise of New Hollywood.

This paper asks how the auteur identity emerged among New Hollywood filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s. While filmmaking is one of the most collaborative art forms, these filmmakers claimed the idea of autonomous auteur filmmaking. We analyze filmmakers' collaboration and co-citation networks between 1930 and 2000 to address the puzzle of New Hollywood filmmakers’ collective identity formation. Filmmakers make references when they borrow, for example, dialogue snippets, camera shots, or stills from other films. We show how a cohesive network of shared film citations to other films constituted the relational foundation for their collective identity. We argue that these symbolic ties of shared citations allowed New Hollywood filmmakers to realize their vision of autonomous auteur filmmaking, to construct symbolic boundaries from the studio identity of the previous Golden Age of Hollywood, and to develop a canon of films that still serves as a touchstone for filmmakers today. This paper was published in Sociological Science and is co-written with Henning Hillmann (University of Mannheim). [Learn more]

Artistic Referencing and Emergent Standards of Peer Recognition in Hollywood, 1930-2000.

In this paper, I examine the emerging and shifting standards of peer recognition throughout three historical periods in US-American filmmaking: the Golden Age of Hollywood, the New Hollywood period, and the blockbuster era. I ask how a film's repetition of artistic content from other films - i.e., references in the form of adopted dialogue snippets, camera shots etc. - shape its chances of being referenced. I examine to what extent novelty, literacy, and openness of the used references influence a film's attracted references. I analyze the reference styles of 4,418 US-American films released between 1930-1990 and show how the standards for peer recognition emerge and evolve over time. While films of the Golden Age were particularly recognized for including novel references, films of the New Hollywood and Blockbuster era benefitted from signaling literacy – i.e., including many references – and openness – i.e., using European references. With this research, I contribute to the current debate in the sociology of culture that seeks to understand how an artwork's qualities shape its recognition through contemporary audiences. This paper is forthcoming in Poetics.

The emergence of status orders in Hollywood filmmaking. 

How do status orders emerge in cultural fields? Our study sheds new light on this question by investigating the interplay of networks, status, and culture among Hollywood filmmakers from 1920 to 2000. Information on artistic references and collaborations of more than 13,000 filmmakers retrieved from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) allows us to examine long-term changes in the social organization of this cultural field. Our findings suggest that the distribution of social recognition—measured by filmmakers’ prominence in collaborative ties and artistic references—became more stratified as the field grew and matured. Furthermore, collaborations increasingly exhibited segregation according to filmmakers’ artistic status during the New Hollywood era (1960-1985). This period was characterized by the rising prominence of a new generation of filmmakers who established film as an art form in the U.S. Our article shows that contextual characteristics, such as a field’s size and institutional environment, can foster or impede stratification and segregation in collaborative networks among cultural producers. This paper is co-written with Mark Wittek (University of Cologne).

Archival Data.

This article discusses the benefits and challenges of using archival data in social science research. We illustrate that, despite challenges, seemingly “hard-to-get” archival data are often ideally suited to answer the kinds of research questions that analytical sociologists ask. We further distinguish traditional tangible archives—repositories of manuscripts that need to be accessed in person—and new digital archives such as the IMDb that are often associated with the idea of “big data”. Drawing both on exemplary studies in analytical sociology and our own experience with archival data sources, we consider where the latter offer new solutions for old problems and avenues for addressing important new questions. This paper is co-written with Henning Hillmann and was published in the Research Handbook on Analytical Sociology, edited by Gianluca Manzo. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. [Learn more]

The film festival sector and its networked structures of gender inequality

The global film industry is shaped by gender inequality. Women are structurally underrepresented in professional roles that include high levels of creative and economic decision-making power, such as directors, writers, and producers. In our study, we ask to what extent the film festival sector, a prestigious sub-field of the film industry, is structured by gender biases. To address this question, we conceptualize the festival sector as a one-mode network consisting of film festivals that are connected through screening the same film, and as a two-mode network consisting of films and festivals. The composition of film core creative teams (incl. directors, writers, and producers) varies by gender. While some films are made by mixed gender core creative teams, others are made by women-only or men-only core creative teams. We use data on 1323 films that circulate among 1523 festivals and apply network analysis to describe and disentangle the structural facets that underlie persistent gender inequality in the film festival sector. In the first step, we analyze to what extent the one-mode film festival network is connected through the circulation of films with varying gender compositions, and what festivals occupy broker positions in this network. In the second step, we analyze to what extent films of different gender compositions are equally distributed across the overall festival landscape. For the first step, we find that the festival network connected through films by women-only core creative teams is much sparser in comparison to the network connected through films by men-only core creative teams. We also find that the majority of festivals obtaining important broker positions in the network, has not signed the 5050 × 2020 Gender Parity Pledge, which has important policy implications. For the second step, we find that films by men-only core creative teams are on average screened at more festivals as compared to films by women-only core creative teams, and that the degree of distribution of films by men-only core creative teams is much more skewed indicating a more pronounced festival hit dynamic. This paper was published in Applied Network Science and is co-written with Martha E. Ehrich, Zhenya Samoilova, and Skadi Loist (all Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF). [Learn more]