Katharina Burgdorf, Henning Hillmann
Creative Revolution through Symbolic Collaboration Networks. The Case of the New Hollywood Movement

Networks in the Global World, St. Petersburg, July 04th to July 06th, 2018

How could a small group of newcomer directors, armed with little more than a novel artistic vision (auteur theory), revolutionize the field of Hollywood filmmaking? In classical filmmaking producers and studios dominated. The new way promoted the leading role of directors. Classical narratives and visual styles were defined by temporal continuity. The new style favored non-linear narratives. Yet it is one thing to espouse a new aesthetic vision, but another to actually change the entire organization of film production. Turning artistic ideas into films requires team work to pool resources and overcome material contraints. Yet at the heart of auteur theory is the belief in the director as a unique artistic genius, the very opposite of team work. How, then, did they succeed in shifting an entire cultural field if their very identity implied a strong normative prohibition against collaboration? Drawing on longitudinal networks among 10,433 filmmakers in 6,976 film projects, we show that symbolic rather than actual collaborations within this avantgarde ensured the cohesive organization necessary to change the field of film production. Material resources were necessary to make films, and young filmmakers used the opportunity provided by Hollywood to experiment within the old studio-system. Working within commercially-driven studios threatened the movement's ideals and led to a modularized network with small clusters that ran the risk of becoming disconnected from each other, thus eroding the organizational foundation of the avantgarde. We show that a cohesive network of symbolic collaborations--shared references to their idols used by filmmakers in their own works--emerged among New Hollywood filmmakers. The dense symbolic ties fulfilled several functions at once: they were in line with the normative prohibition of actual collaboration; they signaled a shared artistic identity; and they offered a means to distinguish themselves from the established Hollywood elite.