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Speaker Highlights Mobility in Hollywood

Aleks Syniec ’18, Clarke Forum Correspondent

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On Wednesday, March 29, Dr. Kevin Sanson from the Queensland University of Technology, Australia, gave a lecture that offered attendees a behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood operates.

In his presentation, “Location, Location, Location: Hollywood’s Precarious Mobility,” Sanson explained the global expansion of Hollywood as well as the labor that goes into producing movies and television shows. The reality is, Sanson argues, that crew workers and creative directors in Hollywood often work long hours for little pay. He cited various cases of deaths of crew members due to exhaustion and poor working conditions on sets. Furthermore, this trend is turning global now that production companies are seeking labor elsewhere.

Cities like Atlanta, Vancouver, Canada, Prague, Czech Republic and Glasgow, Scotland have all emerged as production hubs outside of Hollywood. Production companies are attracted to these new cities, said Sanson, not because of the diversity in scenery that they offer, but for the cheaper costs. In overseas locations and right-to-work states, worker unions have less of a stake in their working conditions. Oftentimes, the governments of these locations provide production companies with money back for shooting in their cities. Sanson’s research largely focuses on the interviews he has with local crew workers as well as location managers.

Sanson further explained that a good location manager is highly coveted for a production crew. A location manager is the one who makes it possible to shoot in a given area. This position involves negotiating with the city for filming rights, finding hotels and local businesses for the crew and “everything from finding where the workers will go to the bathroom,” Sanson states.

Often times, Sanson has found that location managers are young men who do not have a home but are constantly traveling. Their jobs rely on them having a multitude of connections to make sure a production company has everything they need in order to create magic.

When looking past the long hours of these global workers, Sanson has found that even though overseas cities invite Hollywood production companies, the effects they produce in that given city are temporary.

“It’s a really competitive market. If Budapest is offering a larger rate in returns, then Prague has to out maneuver Budapest or is forced to lose Hollywood production companies,” stated Sanson.

The lecture encouraged the audience as consumers to see behind the lights and cameras of Hollywood, and shed the light on the people making these movies and television shows happen.

“Walking into Sanson’s lecture, I expected discussion of a niche topic,” commented Sam Weisman ’18 in reaction to the presentation. “What I got was a detailed unpeeling of the film industry. Sanson wove a rich web of location managers, green-screen cities, and mobile production. These “process talks” reveal the complexity in the presumably mundane or niche.”

In an interview, Sanson emphasized that viewers cannot forget about the people behind the scenes.

“When we watch a movie, we don’t think we are seeing someone’s labor. A lot of the time the credit is given to the actors or the director. But it is crew members and location managers that are essential for a successful movie.”   

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Speaker Highlights Mobility in Hollywood