Wake Up and Smell the Money

by Vicki Mayer, author of Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans: The Lure of the Local Film Economy

Probably no one in media studies loves tax policy. Or economic multiplier equations. Or state budget battles. I know that was not my own hook into becoming a doctor of all things fun and entertaining. And yet these things matter more than ever.

For media fans, tax breaks and other incentives are the tinder for what ignites Hollywood media production, and what sets many corporations, developers, economic policy wonks, and speculators on fire. Dedicated public money for a multi-million-dollar film shoot means less risk for studios and Wall Street investors who raise the financing. Public coffers for media infrastructure flip property values and attract schemers to house and entertain the industry’s mobile workforces. In the most ‘successful’ sites outside of Southern California, Hollywood production stokes the hopes for permanent jobs and stable redevelopment; all the while fueling a shadow economy of tradable tax credits and venture capital bubbles.

For myself, though, the language of multipliers became material, more visceral, when I couldn’t park within a block of my own doorstep because there was film crew who had rented my street for a week. I had an infant and groceries. It was summer hot. Everyone and everything was melting while I passed the trailers and catering. Nothing pisses a new mom off like parking. At least, that moment made me think: Who can own the street? How and how much does it cost?

It didn’t take long digging around production spaces that I realized that ‘no parking’ is the burden of only those privileged enough to own space, or even a car for that matter, in a place media producers find desirable and city governments find bankable. This opaque economy of public money for private incentivizing meant borrowing the budgets dedicated to education, health, and social services. Film students, for example, unknowingly traded in increased fees and debts in exchange for the promise they might work their way up a narrow and precarious ladder to full-time work. Unemployed creative workers have found themselves caught between precious few well-paid gigs, explosive rental prices, and the tatters of a safety net for check-ups. After 15 years of seeding Hollywood South, Louisiana is still one of the poorest and most unequal states in the U.S.

So next time we praise the series made in Atlanta, or Austin, or Albuquerque, it might be time for media studies to pay attention to who really got paid for that production, and if they get their money’s worth.


Vicki Mayer is Professor of Communication at Tulane University. She is coeditor of the journal Television & New Media and author or editor of several books and journal articles about media production, creative industries, and cultural work.

A free ebook version of Vicki’s new book, Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans, is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program. Download a copy now.

You can also follow her on Academia.edu.

 


Recognition from the Theatre Library Association

UC Press is proud to have been recognized by the Theatre Library Association‘s 2015 Book Awards.

Lois Weber in Early Hollywood by Shelley Stamp was awarded a Special Jury Prize for the 2015 Richard Wall Award, for an exemplary work in the field of recorded performance.

In order to distinguish the Theatre Library Association’s awards from other associations that focus on theoretical scholarship, jurors are asked to nominate only those books that provide evidentiary examples of an author’s use and interpretation of library/archival materials to support his/her topic. Library materials should be interpreted to mean any resources that libraries acquire—films, manuscripts, books, journals, reference books/databases, archives of ephemeral materials (e.g., newspapers, design sketches, playbills, posters)—in either their original format or in digital or other reproductions. As an association committed to furthering the advancement of archivists and librarians, as well as highlighting the diverse collections we maintain, the focus of TLA’s awards is on shining a light on the profession and the collections they make accessible and preserve.

Additionally, Menus for Movieland: Newspapers and the Emergence of Film Culture, 1913–1916, was a finalist for the 2015 Wall Award.

Congratulations to all the nominees and award-winners—we’re thrilled to be in such good company.


Ed Ruscha and the Great American West opens at the de Young

Ruscha cover image
Ed Ruscha and the Great American West, co-published with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Named as one of five “must-see” exhibits by the Wall Street Journal, ‘Ed Ruscha and the Great American West‘ opens this week at the de Young.

This stunning catalogue, produced in close collaboration with the Ruscha studio, offers the first full exploration of the painter’s lifelong fascination with the romantic concept and modern reality of the evolving American West. Take a virtual trip through some landmark images below (and then get thee to the museum, pronto).

 

To see more, get your own copy at your local bookstore, or purchase online at FAMSFIndieBoundAmazonBarnes & Noble, or UC Press (to save 30% on ucpress.edu, enter discount code 16M4197 at checkout).


Hilary Hallett on the Women Who Made Hollywood

Go West, Young Women!  cover imageColumbia history professor Hilary Hallett has been getting some wonderful advance praise for her new book, Go West, Young Women!, which explores the influx of women in early Hollywood and their role in the development of Los Angeles and the nascent film industry. The Huffington Post included Go West, Young Women! in their list of 10 Must-Read Books, noting that “university presses are publishing some of the best and most provocative books on film and film history.”

The book also appeared on The Page 99 Test, a blog that asks authors to publish the 99th page of their book and describe its significance. In Hallett’s entry, she looks at the meaning of the Horace Greeley quote that inspired the title for the book.

Last year, Hallett received the Western History Association’s prestigious Jensen-Miller Prize for Best Article in Women’s and Gender History for “Based on a True Story: New Western Women and the Birth of Hollywood”, which appeared in the Pacific Historical Review.

To read Hallett’s prize-winning article, subscribe to eNews in Sociology, History, California and the West, or Cinema. We’ll include a compliementary access token to the article through JSTOR, as well as a code to receive 20% off your next order. You’ll also receive updates on new releases in these areas, special discounts, and more. We hope you enjoy reading Go West, Young Women as much as we have!