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July 2012, Week 3


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James Crawford <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 16 Jul 2012 23:40:48 -0700
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This panel explores film labour and creative practices, as filtered through
the concept of "The Line."

The Line has long been a demarcation device in American commercial cinema.
It denotes those film personnel who are able to negotiate the terms of
their employment through individual contracts (above the line), and those
whose wages are set by unions and guilds engaged collective bargaining
(below the line). This financial distinction holds greater rhetorical
significance within the filmmaking community, connoting the difference
between creative personnel, who are afforded greater esteem than those
whose employ falls under mere craft inputs. Yet these demarcations have
never been as firm as the above/below-the-line distinction would suggest.
The employ of film extras in classical Hollywood, for example, held the
implicit promise of background actors being discovered and elevated to the
status of headline talent. Recent media scholarship has also examined
workers who do not receive credit and are “beyond the line,” but
provide crucial labor that supports media industries and content output--
these include the factory workers that assemble televisions and casting
directors for reality television.

This panel uses the idea of "The Line" as a literal and figurative occasion
to explore the legal, contractual, and employment concerns of creative
labour in film, television, and other media industries. It addresses the
underlying tension between the strict disciplinarity of media industry jobs
defined by union and guild contracts and fluid, ad-
hoc nature of creative employment. As the organising principle in film
labour practice, "The Line" subtends a great number of creative employment
decisions in commercial cinema, but it is also subject to being crossed,
blurred, bent, sidestepped, broken, and redrawn. These alterations are
particularly visible in this contemporary moment where new, relatively
inexpensive technologies have lowered the barriers to entry in
creative industries, and changed the relationships between creative
personnel and the labour organisations that have traditionally structured
their employ.

Possible paper topics might include, but are not limited to: labour strikes
and crossing picket lines; the jurisdictional divisions between competing
unions and/or guilds;
changing definitions of creative job titles in new media regimes;
persistent gendered or racialised associations with below-the-line jobs; or
explorations of jobs that support media industries, which might fall
outside of credit hierarchies (“beyond the line”).

Please submit abstracts (up to 300 words in length) to James Crawford (
[log in to unmask]) and Kate Fortmueller ([log in to unmask]) by Sunday, August
5, 2012.

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