Making Media Work

Cultures of Management in the Entertainment Industries

336 pages

4 halftones

August, 2014

ISBN: 9780814760994



Also available in


Part of the Critical Cultural Communication series


Derek Johnson is Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries and the co-editor of A Companion to Media Authorship.

All books by Derek Johnson

Derek Kompare is Associate Professor of Film and Media Arts in the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. He is the author of Rerun Nation: How Repeats Invented American Television and CSI.

All books by Derek Kompare

Avi Santo is Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Old Dominion University. 

All books by Avi Santo

The management and labor culture of the entertainment industry. 

In popular culture, management in the media industry is frequently understood as the work of network executives, studio developers, and market researchers—“the suits”—who oppose the more productive forces of creative talent and subject that labor to the inefficiencies and risk aversion of bureaucratic hierarchies. However, such portrayals belie the reality of how media management operates as a culture of shifting discourses, dispositions, and tactics that create meaning, generate value, and shape media work throughout each moment of production and consumption.

Making Media Work aims to provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of management within the entertainment industries. Drawing from work in critical sociology and cultural studies, the collection theorizes management as a pervasive, yet flexible set of principlesdrawn upon by a wide range of practitioners—artists, talent scouts, performers, directors, show runners, and more—in their ongoing efforts to articulate relationships and bridge potentially discordant forces within the media industries. The contributors interrogate managerial labor and identity, shine a light on how management understands its roles within cultural and creative contexts, and reconfigure the complex relationship between labor and managerial authority as productive rather than solely prohibitive. Engaging with primary evidence gathered through interviews, archives, and trade materials, the essays offer tremendous insight into how management is understood and performed within media industry contexts. The volume as a whole traces the changing roles of management both historically and in the contemporary moment within US and international contexts, and across a range of media forms, from film and television to video games and social media.


  • “The volume speaks to a growing number of media researchers and students interested in the transformation of media labor and workplace politics in the making of media contents.”

    Cultural Sociology

  • "This collection by academics and researchers challenges the traditional and often stereotypical imagery of the entertainment and media industry’s management ethos across a range of media forms, from film and television to video games and social media.  With an interdisciplinary emphasis on configuration theory and organizational sociology, the book’s 13 chapters provide an intimate insight and perspective on the industry’s administrative leadership and its operations management. Summing Up: Recommended."


  • "Making Media Work marks a distinctive intervention in the study of management in the media industries. Drawing from a variety of perspectives and incorporating rare insights from industry insiders, this book promises to be highly influential for media scholars, providing a useful framework and extended focus on the work of intermediaries. A terrific book."

    —Alisa Perren, author of Indie, Inc.: Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood in the 1990s