Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Larry, Gross


This thesis examines the role of professional socialization in cultural production, particularly in the popular arts. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a graduate program of narrative filmmaking, it asks "what is taught and what is learned in film school?" and answers those questions through an account of two critical domains in film school practice: aesthetic repertoires (including narrative and stylistic competence in cinema), and the social identity of the student director. It also considers the ideology of "talent" in the school community.

Aesthetic practice in the school extends from classical to "New" Hollywood, the former based on narrative clarity, continuous space and time, and goaloriented protagonists, the latter varying those conventions through the limited use of ambiguity as a narrative and stylistic element.

The ideal role of the director in the school and in student filmmaking is the auteur, the film artist who uses narrative and stylistic principles to express a "personal vision", and who writes, directs and edits her or his "own" films in an otherwise collective production process.

Beyond a set of tasks, the title "director" also connotes an identity--who you are as well as what you do. In coming to identify themselves as directors in the school, students cultivate "persona," or distinctive personal styles.

Through task set, vision and persona, and also through the attribution of talent as an intrapersonal trait, the film director as singular artist merges, despite the divided labor of film production and a populist aesthetic based on a large and heterogeneous commercial audience.

Included in

Communication Commons