Hollywood and The Future of Work

4 min read
WorkMarket Editorial Team
WorkMarket Editorial Team
Hollywood and The Future of Work


This year’s Academy Award nominees are getting ready to walk down the red carpet in their couture gowns and tuxedos, while millions of people around the world watch the Hollywood heavyweights vie for their gold-plated Oscar statuettes.

However, hardly anyone in the film industry or the viewing audience may recognize one of the bigger influences Hollywood has had on our society: the way we work. A New York Times article last year, “What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work,” shed some light on this topic.

“In the Hollywood Model, a project is identified and a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-term, project-based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-term open-ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime.”

The “Hollywood Model” has been in place throughout the movie industry for the past 50 years. But it was not always so in Tinseltown: In the studio system heyday of the first half of the 20th century, actors, directors and everyone else that created ‘moving pictures’ were studio employees, whether it was Warner Brothers, Paramount or MGM. These major studio conglomerates ruled the roost and kept long-term employees — even the biggest stars — under their thumbs.

But while this time period may have been called the Golden Age of Hollywood, it wasn’t so “golden” for studio employees and stars who chafed under the lack of freedom, or for the industry as a whole which basically functioned under the monopoly of a handful of studios. By 1954, the studio system era was over and the “Hollywood Model” was in.

Our modern economy is now “in the midst of a grand shift toward the Hollywood Model.” With millions of people and thousands of businesses embracing the on-demand economy, Corporate America is finally catching up. Better late than never. Here are 3 lessons that today’s executives can learn from their counterparts in the movie business.


Large and complex projects can be carried out by ad-hoc teams.

In Hollywood, ad hoc teams can carry out projects that are large and complex, requiring many different people with complementary skills. But it can work for today’s workforce as well. “The Hollywood Model is now used to build bridges, design apps or start restaurants. Many cosmetics companies assemble a temporary team of aestheticians and technical experts to develop new products, then hand off the actual production to a factory, which does have long-­term employees.”

This holds true for companies across a variety of industries, including Nintendo, Procter & Gamble and GE, which have all started embracing a more flexible and project-based approach to key strategic initiatives.

The new labor model is far more adaptable.

Rather than the old corporate and manufacturing model of tremendous amounts of investment in physical and workforce capital, the “Hollywood Model” of an on-demand workforce is adaptable, with the ability to scale as needed.

“Each new team can be assembled based on the specific needs of that moment and with a limited financial commitment.” By hiring workers for specific projects and with certain skills, businesses can embrace a variable cost model that allows them to be radically more efficient in the way they allocate and consume resources.

On-demand is particularly good for workers with highly-sought-after skills.

The “Hollywood Model” is certainly beneficial to businesses, but it’s also advantageous to many workers as well, particularly those with highly-sought-after skills. “Ask Hollywood producers, and they’ll confirm that there are only a limited number of proven, reliable craftspeople for any given task. Projects tend to come together quickly jumping castles, with strict deadlines, so those important workers are in a relatively strong negotiating position. Wages among, say, makeup and hair professionals on shoots are much higher than among their counterparts at high-­end salons. Similarly, set builders make more than carpenters and electricians working on more traditional construction sites.”

The “Hollywood Model” may have been born in the glamorous world of Tinseltown, but this new engagement model is now taking hold in businesses around the world.