Monday, December 27, 2010

New books on the media industries (and related book review assignment)

As the midterm assignment for my Media Industries graduate seminar (new syllabus to be posted soon), students write up book reviews of recent publications. 

The main requirements I have for selecting a book include:

  1. The book has to have been published in the last three years, thereby increasing the odds that the student can publish their review;
  2. A reasonable amount of the book has to focus on the media industries. (I leave the exact amount open for discussion between myself and the student – they need to make the case.); 
  3. Students have to be able to identify a venue to which they could send it for publication. Prior to writing their reviews, students are advised to read the submission instructions as well as look at sample reviews in a range of journals (e.g., Popular Communication, Cinema Journal, Television and New Media, Scope, etc.). Ideally, those students who are satisfied with their reviews can subsequently send them out for publication.
I tried this assignment for the first time last spring and the students told me they found it to be a worthwhile exercise. They were able to spend a week of the semester focusing on a subject that was of interest to them while also learning to craft an essay that suited the particular (and peculiar?) demands of the scholarly book review format.

A few caveats about this list: I have not had a chance to read many of the books on the list, and thus cannot speak to the extent to which all are focused explicitly on the media industries per se.  Also, not all of the books are by media studies scholars. Indeed, there is a rich body of work on the media industries being generated by journalists, mediamakers, media activists and legal scholars, among others. Further, if I knew the book was going to be released soon and saw that it was already listed on Amazon, I put it on the list.  It would be wonderful if could hyperlink each book to Amazon or add some articles to my list as well, but I can’t set aside that kind of time, at least right now.

Many of the books listed here have been recommended to me by others. Thanks in particular to Ben Aslinger, Jennifer Holt, Cynthia Meyers, and Mark Stewart for their suggestions. I also recommend checking out Aymar Jean Christian’s blog for a more extensive list of canonical essays and books.

If you have recommendations for additional books that I might include, please let me know. I hope this list can prove useful for others trying to keep track of this type of work which, much to my joy, seems to be getting larger and more diverse every year.

Books on the media industries (since 2008) below the jump:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In Media Res, Two Months In (and the Fall 2010 Call for Curators)

It's been a little over two months since I started serving as Coordinating Editor for In Media Res. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a terrific group of Georgia State grad students to help with the administrative, recruiting and technical tasks. I am pleased with how all is progressing thus far, and we have a (long and growing) list of additional goals for the site that we hope to institute over the course of the next several months.

One of the most immediate changes we have decided to enact involves moving away from individual open submissions to focusing instead solely on theme weeks. We have found that the best conversations can be generated when a group of people are focused on discussing the same topic over the course of the week. We also hope that this set-up can prove valuable pedagogically, as an entire week's conversation might be assigned for a class to read, watch and comment on.

I would love to hear any suggestions you might have regarding additional improvements we can make to the site. In addition, if you have used posts for either teaching or research purposes, please let me know -- it is helpful for us to get a better sense of how the site is used (as well as how you might like to use it in the future). You can email me at aperren at gsu dot edu or through the In Media Res email address (inmediares.gsu at gmail dot com).

Another change we are implementing involves meeting to arrange our schedule on a quarterly basis. Individual In Media Res staff members handle a given week. Each theme week coordinator then decides whether they would like to recruit curators on their own or have their week be part of the general quarterly call. We will meet in early November to plan for our spring schedule, so if you have any ideas for future theme weeks -- or would like to help coordinate one -- please do contact us.

Below the fold are the weeks for the Fall 2010 Schedule for which we are currently accepting proposals from interested curators.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Publications!

I'm happy to report that a couple of articles that I worked on last year have come out in the past few weeks. Both of these articles came out quite quickly (at least in terms of scholarly publishing).

The first piece, "Business as Unusual: Conglomerate-Sized Challenges for Film and Television in the Digital Arena," is part of a special issue from the Journal of Popular Film and Television on the state of TV edited by Ron Simon and Brian Rose. I feel honored to be included in the company of Jonathan Gray, Victoria Johnson, Laurie Ouellette, Derek Kompare, Daniel Chamberlain, Denise Mann and Max Dawson. My essay surveys the diverse ways that film and TV divisions of media conglomerates are circulating their content online. Even since I completed it last summer, certain companies have shifted their strategies. Nonetheless, I hope it provides a useful snapshot of a particular historical moment.

The second piece, "Producing Filmed Entertainment," is a chapter in Mark Deuze's new edited collection, Managing Media Work. This essay looks at how decisions made with regard to labor, technology, locations, and marketing are having a substantial impact not only on the opportunities and constraints facing those working in production but also on the types of commercial film and television content shown on various screens. Again, I'm excited to be included with the diverse group of cultural studies, communication, media studies and management scholars in this collection.

I also recently wrote about my experiences at Comic-Con for the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Media and Cultural Studies website, Antenna. I'm hoping to blog more about the event here in the next few days... 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A New Look, A New URL

Media Industries and Other Stuff was a good starter name, sure, but it proved to be far too clunky and unwieldy. Please welcome the newly re-branded and oh-so-simple The Media Industries (  (As long as you think this re-branding effort is better than, say, the one shown above, I'm happy.)

Along with a new name, you will notice that the site has a spiffy new look. I have also gone through and updated the links throughout, adding some new ones and deleting dead ones. As always, please do contact me via Twitter ( or email (aperren at gsu dot edu) if you have any suggestions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Advice for Aspiring Film & TV Writers: A Chat with Burn Notice's Michael Horowitz

As part of research for an essay (forthcoming), I recently interviewed Burn Notice staff writer, Michael Horowitz. After years of developing a career as a feature film writer, Horowitz transitioned into television writing at the start of the second season of Burn Notice. We chatted at length about how much more fulfilling he often found writing for TV to be these days, as opposed to writing for feature films. During the course of our conversation, he also offered some useful advice for those interested in writing for both film and television, which I wanted to pass on here.

AP: Do you have any recommendations for people who want to become writers?

MH: There is some basic advice that I got a long time ago. Everybody who is trying to do any version of this, I think will succeed. If you really want to write anything for film or television, there is no better litmus test: Write ten scripts and throw them away. And just keep powering through. Everybody just gets obsessed with their first script. Stuck on it forever.

AP: Yes.

MH: And I think nothing gets you better faster than writing a script, giving it to some friends. Have them read it and give you notes. Then go do a revision – actually go through and take it all the way to the end, you know, like two drafts. Then throw it away. Because it’s terrible. And then do it again. I legitimately think I would say do ten [different scripts] if you can. I sort of wish I could go back in a time machine to the college me, when I had endless stamina for writing and all the time in the world and liked to stay up all night. Write ten and throw them away. Five is more reasonable for people, but just keep powering through stuff. If you want to do TV, if you want to do hour-long series, you should be writing one episode of every show. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Call for Curators: In Media Res (updated June 26, 2010)

As you might have noticed, I put this blog in hibernation while I focused on finishing a couple of major projects. However, now that those projects are winding down, I hope to be posting here more frequently. One of the big pieces of news on my end is that I will be taking over the position of Coordinating Editor of In Media Res from Avi Santo. If you aren’t familiar with In Media Res, it is a website devoted to experimenting with collaborative, multi-modal online forms of scholarship. Every day, a different individual provides a 300-to-350 word impressionistic provocation to accompany a 30-second to 3-minute clip of their choosing. It is one of several projects affiliated with the MediaCommons digital scholarly network. (I highly recommend checking out this week's fantastic posts on fan/celebrity relationships while you are there!)

Avi has developed and run an amazing site for several years, and it will be hard to match what he has accomplished. Fortunately, I have a terrific team of graduate students at Georgia State University that will be helping me out. With a larger team working on the site, we hope to build on what Avi has created. I will post more information about our plans over the next several months.

In the meantime, below is our summer call for curators. I hope you will consider curating a clip for one of these theme weeks. Proposals need not be any longer than a sentence or a general idea. Additional guidelines will be provided upon receipt of your proposal (don't worry, we handle the tech).

Summer Call for Curators

In Media Res is currently seeking theme-week curators for the period of July 19, 2010 through September 17, 2010. Please forward this CFC to anyone you think might be interested in taking part. Descriptions of the planned theme-weeks included below are meant as a guide only—individual contributors have wide berth for their own creativity and interests.

July 19-23 Gulf Oil Spill. We encourage curators to employ examples of official and unofficial discourses, images, videos and responses about the spill.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Books on the Media Industries

This semester, my graduate students are doing a book review for their mid-term assignment. They are being asked to follow the instructions of a particular publication that actually would publish such a review. To help them get started, I pulled together this list of recent books on the media/cultural industries.

You'll see that my definition of both "industry" and "recent" is a bit loose (some books below were published about five years ago, and thus wouldn't be considered viable for actual publication). Nonetheless, I think this is a useful exercise to undertake. I have included both trade and academic publications on this list as well.

I am not aware of a place online where book-length publications on the media industries are located -- if you do know of a place, please let me know! The most recent list I have seen is
Jason Mittell's on Amazon, which is quite helpful but a few years old at this point.

I hope that you will add suggestions of other books to this comments section -- I am sure I have missed many titles, and would love to continue to build this list as an online resource. At some point I will try to create a separate Amazon list as well.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Requiem for a Heavyweight

Last night, a colleague called me for some advice. She was updating a handout she gives to her students every semester that covers the major distributors of specialty (aka indie aka independent) film. Before she began rattling off company names, I tried to convey to her how depressing this was going to be.

The conversation went something like this:

Her: Paramount Vantage?

Me: Gone.

Her: Warner Independent?

Me: Gone.

Her: Picturehouse?

Me: Gone. Gone. Gone. Also, cross off ThinkFilm. And New Yorker Films. Note that New Line has been downsized. Focus has cut back. IFC buys lots of films but doesn't pay much.


Me:   And I don't know where you should put Miramax. It's all but dead. But I don't think that Disney will actually *kill* it.
Then I woke up this morning. What was the first thing I saw? A zillion tweets along the lines of "RIP Miramax," "Miramax killed by Disney," etc.
Sharon Waxman of The Wrap broke the story this morning, and as she notes, this news does not come as a surprise to anyone who has been following indie film. There are any number of moments that one can point to when it was clear that Miramax was on its way out. One could cite the moment when Robert Iger replaced Michael Eisner at Disney and the Weinsteins left the company in 2005 or, more recently, when the Weinsteins' replacement, Daniel Battsek, announced he was leaving in late October 2009.

In spite of the fact that Miramax's fate had long been sealed, it was startling for me to see that this moment had actually come to pass. It is odd to me to mourn the death of a company, of all things. And yet for both personal and professional reasons, the end of Miramax hits me fairly hard.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Syllabus: History of Independent Film (undergrad)

Course description:

This course will first trace the roots of commercially-oriented, low-budget fiction films and then examine their contemporary status. We will explore the industrial, socio-cultural and formal-aesthetic characteristics of independently produced, distributed and/or exhibited narrative features. A wide range of films will be analyzed, ranging from genre films to art films to studio-based indies. In addition, we will address the validity and usefulness of the label of “independence” within the present media context.

A key emphasis throughout the course will be on the relationships between independents and Hollywood, and the ways in which definitions of independence have changed over time. Special attention will be paid to the business of independent film throughout the semester.

In the first half of the course, we will survey the history of independent films in the U.S. through the mid-1970s. During the second half of the semester, we will examine the rapidly changing independent landscape of the past three decades. Among the many issues to be discussed are the role of film festivals and film markets in making and marketing movies; the importance of new platforms such as VOD and the Internet for filmmakers; and the role that specialty divisions such as Fox Searchlight and Focus Films have played in contemporary Hollywood.

Please note: In general, this class will not discuss non-fiction, avant-garde and experimental cinema.

Objectives and outcomes: By the end of the course you should be able to…

Assess how and why certain types of independent films developed as they did at particular historical moments;

Understand the shifting relationship between independent films and Hollywood product;

Recognize the changing meaning of the term “independent” during the course of the 20th century;

Appreciate and critique the different ways that scholars research and write about film history.


Please note: Chapters and articles should be read for the *following* class meeting.


Jan . 11 (M) Introductions

Book: Tzioumakis, Introduction

Screening: Baghead (2008, 84m)

Jan. 13 (W) Defining Independence

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 1 (pp. 19-30)

Packet: Cooper, “Studio History Revisited: The Case of the Universal Women”

Part I: 1910s-1945: Independent Film in the Studio Era


Jan. 18 (M) Independents in the Age of Silent Cinema

Packet: Regester, “The African-American Press and Race Movies, 1909-1929”

Screening: The Blot (1921, 80m)

Jan. 20 (W) Independents in the Age of Silent Cinema, cont’d

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 1 (pp. 30-62)


Jan. 25 (M) Independent Production in the Studio Era

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 2

Screening: Detour (1945, 67m)

Jan. 27 (W) Poverty Row in the ‘30s and ‘40s

Packet: Selections from Taves, “The B Film: Hollywood’s Other Half”


Feb. 1 (M) Poverty Row, cont’d

Packet: Schaefer, “‘The Monster that Caters to Thrill-Hungry Youth’ – The Drug Film”

Screening: Reefer Madness (1936, 67m)

Feb. 3 (W) Classical Exploitation Films

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 3


Feb. 8 (M) Classical Exploitation Films, cont’d

Packet: Wilinsky, “Reading for Maximum Ambiguity: A Consideration of the Art Film”

Screening: Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, 18m); Lost Boundaries (1949, 99m)

Part II: 1946-1974: The Transitional Era

Feb. 10 (W) The Rise of Art Cinema

Packet: Wilinsky, “‘Any Leisure That Looks Easy is Suspect’: Art House Audiences and the Search for Distinction”


Feb. 15 (M) Art Cinema, cont’d

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 4

Screening: Bucket of Blood (1959, 66m)

Feb. 17 (W) Exploitation Films of the 1950s and ‘60s

*Hand out exam review sheet*


Feb. 22 (M) Exploitation Films, cont’d; exam review session

Screening: Schlock! The Secret History of Movies (2001, 89m)

Feb. 24 (W) *Exam #1*

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 5 (pp. 169-177; 184-187)

Packet: Film-Maker’s Cooperative Statement


March 1 (M) New American Cinema

Packet: Marguilies, “John Cassavetes – Amateur Director”

*Full semester mid-point: Last day to withdraw and receive a “W”*

Screening: Faces (1968, 130m)

March 3 (W) New American Cinema, cont’d

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 5 (pp. 177-184; 187-191)

Packet: Wyatt, “From Roadshowing to Saturation Release”


March 8-10 ***Spring Break***


March 15 (M) The “Hollywood Renaissance”

Packet: Heffernan, “Inner City Exhibition and the Genre Film”

Screening: Night of the Living Dead (1968, 96m); Start Billy Jack

March 17 (W) In-class screening: Continue Billy Jack (1971, 114m)


March 22 (M) Exploitation, ‘70s-style

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 6

Screening: Female Trouble (1974, 92m)

March 24 (W) Exploitation, cont’d

Packet: Levy, “The New American Independent Cinema”

*Discuss final paper assignment*

Part III: 1975-Present: From Independents to Indiewood


March 29 (M) Independents, 1975-present: An Overview

Packet: Carson, “John Sayles, Independent Filmmaker”; King, “Alternative Visions: Social, Political & Ideological Dimensions of Independent Cinema” (pp. 197-222)

Screening: Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980, 110m)

March 31 (W) Overview, cont’d

Packet: Levy, “The New African American Cinema”

*Proposals due at the start of class*


April 5 (M) The New African American Cinema

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 7

Screening: Hollywood Shuffle (1987, 78m)

April 7 (W) Mini-Majors in the 1980s

Book: Tzioumakis, Chapter 8 & Epilogue

Packet: Rich, “New Queer Cinema”

Outside Screening: CHOOSE ONEMy Own Private Idaho (1991, 104m) or The Living End (1992, 92m)


April 12 (M) The 1990s-Era Ultra Low-Budget Moment

Packet: Perren, “sex, lies and Marketing: Miramax and the Development of the Quality Indie Blockbuster”;

Lane, “Just Another Girl Outside the Neo-Indie”

Screening: Walking and Talking (1996, 86m)

April 14 (W) The Rise of the Studio-Based Indie

Packet: King, “Introduction: Indiewood in Contexts”


April 19 (M) The Institutionalization of Indiewood

Packet: McDonald, “Miramax, Life is Beautiful, and the Indiewoodization of the Foreign-Language Film Market in the USA”

Screening: Life is Beautiful (1998, 116m)

April 21 (W) Indiewood, cont’d

Packet: Newman, “Indie Culture: In Pursuit of the Authentic Autonomous Alternative”


April 26 (M) The Fall of Indiewood

Packet: Tryon, “Desktop Productions: Digital Distribution and Public Film Cultures”; selections from Filmmaker, indieWIRE

Screening: Four-Eyed Monsters (2006, 70m)

April 28 (W) New Millennium, New Directions

Recent articles to be posted on ULearn

Look at:;;;;

*Hand out exam review sheet*

*Final papers due at the start of class*


May 3 (M) What’s Next?

May 5 (W) *Final exam from 12:30-2:30 p.m.*