Making American television series: A study of experts in the production process
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Khitrov, A. (2020). Making American television series: A study of experts in the production process (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.71015
This thesis addresses the question of why and how makers of contemporary American television series obtain knowledge about social and political issues from people who have expert knowledge about these issues. I divide this question into three parts: why do TV makers need experts? Why and how do experts come to Hollywood? And how do the TV makers and the experts work together? In other words, this study seeks to answer the question of how social and political consultants, on the one hand, and the television makers, on the other, work together to translate expert knowledge into television stories. In order to answer this question, I carry out a Bourdieusian field analysis of contemporary American television series production, which allows me to identify the social conditions that make this knowledge transfer possible, and thus better to understand, in Sheila Jasanoff’s words, ‘institutionalized ways of knowing things’, and the ways in which meanings and social categories come into existence, are reproduced, challenged, and altered in that particular sector of social space where popular TV series are produced. My thesis is based on fieldwork that was carried out in Los Angeles over 10 months in 2018–2019. A total of 159 interviews were conducted with consultants, showrunners, producers, actors, and other key players in Hollywood. Through a thematic analysis of my data, I identify four major expertise providers — the state, social movements, research organisations, and independent experts — and I develop a model of expertise exchange in the field of Hollywood TV. I argue that expertise in Hollywood is a distinctive form of capital that experts and Hollywood professionals exchange for other forms of capital in several fields. Hollywood professionals exchange it for symbolic capital within the industry and in the field of power. Agents of the state, social movements, and research organisations exchange it for symbolic capital in the field of power. Finally, independent experts trade their knowledge in order to accumulate economic, social, and symbolic capital within the industry. I show how expertise transfer happens on the micro-level on set (for example, how an expert trains and assists an actor on set), on the meso-level (the interests of a small advocacy group to promote a particular image or idea), and the macro-level (financial interests and strategies of large networks). Existing studies of expertise transfer have mostly focused either on state organisations, social movements, or science communication. My study, which draws on unique data, brings these spheres together and explains the common and relational logic that underlies expertise transfer in Hollywood. These findings allow us to better understand how one of the most influential entertainment industries in the world creates meanings and ideas that then become widely accessible to global audiences. Thus, this sociological, empirical study of expertise provision tackles broader questions about the nature of knowledge production and transmission in the modern world.
hollywood, expertise, television production, television series, technical advisors, consultants
Cambridge International & Leslie Wilson Scholarship (The Cambridge Commonwealth, European & International Trust and Magdalene College, Cambridge); Fieldwork funding (University of Cambridge, Department of Sociology); The Graduate Tutors’ Research Fund (Magdalene College, Cambridge); Postgraduate Award (University of Cambridge, Student Registry); Forth Year Graduate Bursary (Magdalene College, Cambridge).
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.71015
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