Sherry B. Ortner adopts a neoliberal framework to address the role of producers in independent filmmaking

In previous previous posts, I have discussed Not Hollywood (2013):

Not Hollywood (2013) focuses upon the production of value in independent filmmaking

Producers are energetic people who are really good at getting people to say yes, Sherry B. Ortner notes

As I begin to work on the current post, it occurs to me that brief texts may at times have more appeal than longer ones.

As Chapter 5 proceeds, Sherry B. Ortner, whose early work focussed on the Sherpas of Nepal, notes that a high proportion of independent producers have elite educational backgrounds.

In contrast, a significant proportion of independent filmmakers have little or no higher education.

She notes that the proportion of women producers was nearly zero in the 1970s and is currently nearly 50 percent.

Ortner refers (p. 153) to the view that the role of art gallery owners “is analogous to the role of independent producers in the film world.”

Generation X

In this book Ortner, who, unlike some observers, views “neoliberalism” as a useful analytic tool, is working within a conceptual framework that she outlines (pp. 151-152) thusly:

  • Neoliberal economic policies starting in the 1970s favored a com­bination of deregulating American business and finance and cutting back on state-supported public services. The effect has been to create a polarization of the American class structure, with a few people moving up into, in some cases, rather spectacular wealth, and the large majority of the middle and working class either sliding down or hanging on by their fingernails. Generation X was the first generation to feel the effects of this economy.
  • Technically, of course, Generation X refers to everyone born starting in the early 1960s, but in reality it was a class-specific term refer­ring to young people in the now precarious and insecure middle class. Independent filmmakers tend to come from that class/generation loca­tion, and I have argued that many of their films speak from and to the anxieties of that time and place in the class structure.
  • Independent pro­ducers are on the whole also demographically part of Generation X, but most of them come from the more successful part of that class location, the handful of the (upper) middle class that made it up through what might be thought of as the neoliberal funnel.
  • The breakout of independent film in the 1990s may be seen in part as a product of a productive synergy between these two elements of the newly configured middle class in neoliberal America, more versus less successful, more versus less secure.

[End of excerpt; I have set the longer original text into shorter paragraphs, for ease of online reading]

Elements that go into making a good independent producer

Based on her research, Ortner notes (p. 155) that “having good taste, having a good personality and a knack for ‘relationships;’ and having a lot of personal drive/forcefulness/ perseverance (what social scientists often call ‘agency’) are the core ele­ments one needs to be an effective and successful independent producer.”

She adds that “all of these are closely tied to the high-capital backgrounds – whether material or educational or both – of independent producers.”


Updates: Also with regard to research related to cultural practices: A Nov. 29, 2014 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Give to others – and save yourself?”

The article mentions two books: Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (2013) and Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (2013). The article also quotes an author whose books include The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make you Happy, But Does (2013).

A resource of interest is the study entitled: Buddhism Between Tibet and China (2009).

Also of value is a study entitled: Buddhist Warfare (2010), which I have highlighted in a previous post:

Buddhist Warfare (2010) highlights connections between Buddhisms and violence

A Sept. 30, 2015 New York Times editorial is entitled: “Slipping Backward in Nepal.”

A Dec. 19, 2015 Guardian article is entitled: On strike at 8,848 metres: “Sherpa and the story of an Everest revolution: Jennifer Peedom set out to make a documentary about the untold role the Sherpas play in helping wealthy western climbers conquer Mount Everest, but when an avalanche hit during her shoot, she ended up with an even bigger story.”

A Feb. 27, 2015 CBC The Current article is entitled: “Mt. Everest guide calls for better working conditions for Sherpas.”

A March 5, 2015 CBC The Current article is entitled: “Checking-In on Sherpas, immigration limbo, tax-free tampons & more.”

A caption for a photo at the latter link reads: “It has been nearly a year since 16 Sherpas were killed in a devastating avalanche on Mount Everest. And now, with a new climbing season on the horizon, many Sherpas say the risks they’re being asked to take on the trek to the summit are just too high. ”

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