Monday, July 13, 2015

Crashing the Party: "Inside the secretive, exclusive social networks of Hollywood"

The ability to get inside a self-selected elite is one of the signs of a first-rate social intelligence.
And profitable.
From The Kernel:
“Information has always been currency,” says Shane, who insists on sharing only his first name. He’s an assistant to a television director. Hollywood, where Shane works, is like any other industry town—built on professional connections, on who you know as much as what you know. These days, that often means digital networks, and in Hollywood they’re called tracking boards—usually email listservs or private Facebook groups that disseminate privileged information, including job openings, deals, leaked screenplays, and the latest film and TV screeners. They’re the digital manifestation of all those informal connections that power the West Coast dream factory, with all the pros and cons that implies.

First of all, they’re exclusive. To get in, you have to know someone. The more established boards market themselves to anyone, though anyone likely to access them tends to be already privileged enough to know they exist. At elite board Beth’s Job List, joining is free but requires extensive industry credits, union affiliation, and a member’s referral—all in exchange for ads for sought-after jobs posted exclusively to users. With hundreds of people vying for the same job, by the time these leads leak to other boards, the positions have usually been filled.

Exclusivity tends to reinforce the status quo, as networks help those with access while remaining virtually invisible sources of power to those on the outside. A few Hollywood job boards, like NextGenFemmes, with its mission to “foster a community of young female professionals to build successful leaders in the entertainment industry,” welcome new members and seek to build new kinds of networks. Other boards, like Binders Full of Women, Comedy Ladies in L.A., L.A. Women’s Film Crew, and Women of Cinematic Arts also cater to women, but there are far fewer well-known boards for people of color and other underrepresented groups.

In addition to being exclusive, some sites turn a profit from the information trade. They’re connection brokers, promising access for a fee. The two most popular tracking board sites, the Tracking Board and TrackingB, charge annual premiums. TrackingB’s About page describes the site in the dramatic cadence of a spec script: “Key information is exchanged. Connections are made. Projects are tracked as they heat up or cool down. Writers are discovered. And big deals are made.”

Adam Insider, the anonymous founder of TrackingB, is similarly humble, saying, “You name the studio, agency, or production company, and we’ve got someone from there on our board daily.” Although Insider does not disclose how many viewers visit the site, he says it’s “in the thousands.” (Online estimates indicate about 11,300 desktop visits per month over the last six months.) To access his site, subscribers pay $99 a year; at the Tracking Board, it’s $79....MORE