The Business (Books) Behind the Oscars

The Business (Books) Behind the Oscars

A general view of Oscar Statuettes backstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

SourceChristopher Polk/Getty

Why you should care

Because what goes on behind the scenes is just as interesting.

It’s Oscar season, the time of year when your friends start referring to movies as films, noting the cinematography and mise-en-scène, and pondering the artistic legacy of Hollywood today. But what gets lost in the highbrow conversations is the behind-the-scenes business dealings that shape every minute detail of our beloved on-screen expressions. So, who is paying for what? How are careers really made? And are we doomed to blockbusters since they’re supposedly the only ones that can make money these days?

Those are just a few of the questions addressed in our curated collection of Hollywood business books. Enjoy the show.

The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood
by Edward Jay Epstein

Ever wonder how decisions are made in Hollywood? The Big Picture delves into the economic, political and social logic that propel the business, from exploring what makes money (popcorn, video games and franchises) to how star power is developed (matching on- and off-screen personae). Don’t worry, Epstein spices it up with juicy anecdotes, like how Meryl Streep had to beg for the lead in Sophie’s Choice and then was told to lose 10 pounds and undergo cosmetic dentistry.

The Movie Business Book, Third Edition
edited by Jason E. Squire

This one breaks the industry down by job: producer, director, talent agent, entertainment lawyer. Squire describes it as a “map of the business.” The upcoming fourth edition will emphasize new revenue streams, microbudget movies and the growing Chinese film market.

Hollywood Game Plan
by Carole M. Kirschner

Looking to break in? According to Columbia University professor Maureen Ryan, this guide discards the “tropes and myths” of the industry, and instead relays practical information, from the importance of internships to the requirement that you check any entitlement at the door. Of course, as Ryan points out, “a book can only take you so far.”

The $11 Billion Year
by Anne Thompson

Thompson, former deputy editor of Variety, takes on the 2012 film slate that brought in an impressive $11 billion at the box office, but also had a surprising number of duds, shake-ups and missteps. Her 300-plus-page exploration catches the industry at a time of perhaps less optimism than ever before. “The old days of studio largesse are over,” Thompson writes, calling for Hollywood to adapt or fail.

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