Cinema by design: Hollywood as network neighbourhood

Sutton, Damian (2009) Cinema by design: Hollywood as network neighbourhood. In: Design and Creativity: policy, management and practice. Julier, Guy and Moor, Liz, eds. Berg, Oxford, pp. 174-190. ISBN 9781847883070. [Book Section]


This paper uses recent theories of capital equivalence and social agency to help understand how contemporary design companies react to and exist within the new economies of film production and the industry of cinema. Furthermore the paper suggests that cinema production as a whole - from concept to merchandise - is better understood in terms more appropriate to the design or architecture office. Where cinema is normally discussed in terms of ‘art’ and ‘authorship’, this approach helps understand the creative effects of interference and delegation that its naturally heterogeneous processes entail.

The paper considers, by example of Alex McDowell’s independent company MATTER, ART AND SCIENCE (MINORITY REPORT, BREAKING AND ENTERING), how research and development methods normally associated with a design office are employed in the visual realisation of cinematic worlds. The design office relies on the creative atmosphere epitomised in the conference table, whereby people from differing backgrounds and with different responsibilities share ideas and collaborate on creative decisions. Yet whilst this approach has been developed by McDowell as a response to the demands of an industry reliant upon information technology and the rapid exchange of specialised knowledge, it reflects a wider pattern of cinema production as it has emerged as a formalised industrial practice.

As Bruno Latour has suggested, the office itself is the point of articulation, interference and delegation in industrial networks. In the film industry, we might offer the office as the site of creative decisions developed by creative and ‘non-creative’ people responding to economic, social, cultural as well as artistic imperatives. Added to this is the equivalence of capital accelerated by information technology, connecting the studio production to the merchandising account. As McDowell argues, this makes the design/realisation office of a film - once simply the production design office - now the central production office for the whole project.

The paper combines research into contemporary production practices with contemporary social theory to argue that studies of both the industry and aesthetic product of cinema are best served by an approach that takes into account the roles of interference and delegation that are fundamental to creativity in design.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords (uncontrolled): cinema; production design; actor-network theory; Hollywood
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Visual Culture and Curating cluster
Item ID: 7267
Depositing User: Damian Sutton
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2011 15:40
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2017 15:36

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