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Structure and Logic of the Field of Movie Directors in Germany

Werkstatt-Eintrag am 29. Juli 2016

Vortrag am 28. Juli 2016 auf der Jahreskonferenz der International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) in Leicester. Vorgestellt wurden erste Ergebnisse einer Studie zum Berufsfeld Filmregie in Deutschland.


„Structure and Logic of the Field of Movie Directors in Germany“ – der Titel meines Vortrags auf der diesjährigen IAMCR-Konferenz lässt unschwer erkennen, welcher Theorieansatz Pate stand für diese explorative Studie zum Berufsfeld Filmregie: Pierre Bourdieu. Explorative Studie auch deshalb, weil sich die Materialbasis (gegenwärtig 27 Interviews mit deutschen Filmemachern) in den kommenden Monaten noch weiter hin zur theoretischen Sättigung bewegen wird.

Der Abstract des Vortrags:

This paper has a cinematic sociological purpose and aims to explore the field of movie directors in Germany. It reveals that German cinema is far away from being an art for art’s sake, but has a strong political and social dimension that puts into question its autonomy.
“The Lives of Others”, “Rabbit without Ears”, “Suck me Shakespeer”: German film does well at the box office with an audience of up to 30 million people per year (cf. Cooke, 2012). This success easily makes us believe in the potential of movies to initialize socialization and integration processes, and to form part of society’s cultural identity (all the more so because of the multiple ways of exploitation outside the cinema). Certainly, movies have an economic value, too. They are the outcome of a complex and diversified working process, and at the same time, public institutions sponsor them like no other mass medium. Thus, film policy measures are also supposed to influence the movie directors’ practice of constructing social reality. In this spirit, throwing a light on their work contributes to analyze the dynamics of audiovisual communication and the production culture of fictional entertainment from a sociological point of view – with the greater goal to enlarge film studies’ connectivity to social sciences (cf. Caldwell, 2008).
In order to meet these expectations, the study refers to Pierre Bourdieu’s (1993) understanding of the field of cultural production and considers the practice of movie directors as an interaction of habitus, capital and the logic of the field, in particular regarding its autonomy. Major sources are 27 expert interviews with German directors from both mainstream and niche productions, which were examined with the aid of a category system.
The findings show that the German field of movie directors is highly professionalized and requests mastering all facets of film making as well as solid network resources. At the same time, it is shaped by economic unsteadiness and implies a big portion of idealism. The directors consider themselves as artists trying to affect public agenda. However, their practice also reflects the film boards’ parameters of profitable casts and the exploitation partners’ demands of TV appropriate settings and genres. Said otherwise, the constraints of other higher ranked fields are not only characteristic of the field of movie directors’ market-driven pole. Since the directors of small-scale productions completely depend on public sponsoring, the autonomy of the whole field is at stake.

Bourdieu, P. (1993). The Field of Cultural Production. Cambridge: Polity.
Caldwell, J. T. (2008). Production Culture. Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Cooke, P. (2012). Contemporary German Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

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