Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

The Role of the Media in the Co-Production of Identities in a Filmmaking Company

Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

The Role of the Media in the Co-Production of Identities in a Filmmaking Company

Article excerpt


This article focuses on the role of organizational storytelling and identity formation of a Danish filmmaking company, Zentropa Entertainment Productions Company (a.k.a. Zentropa). Identity formation, as storytelling, is taking place in a context of multiple voices, polyphony, and is performed in dialogue. The article explores how identities are co-produced through the interaction between the organization and external actors by their story interaction. The study illustrates how the identity of a filmmaking company emerges from identity stories and how they are co-produced with the media. We argue that the rebellious 'Maverick' identity of Zentropa has emerged through its interaction with the media through "counter stories." Finally, the study shows the difficulties that Zentropa encountered trying to maintain its rebellious 'Maverick' identity.

Keywords: identity work, media, co-production, narrative


What role does the media play in the co-production of the identity of a filmmaking company? The purpose of this article is to investigate and understand the narrative forms and processes through which an enterprise organizes and attempts to handle some of the paradoxes involved in creating and maintaining an ongoing identity. The article argues that an important factor in the formation of the identity of organizations is related to the ongoing relationship and exchange between the organization and its surroundings. The research draws from Zentropa Entertainment Productions Company (a.k.a. Zentropa), a Danish filmmaking company known as a rebellious 'Maverick' (Becker, 1982). The company is known as a critical and artistic voice in contrast to mainstream, profit oriented, 'High Concept' filmmaking firms (Wyatt, 1994).

The aim of the article is to illustrate how the rebellious 'Maverick' identity of Zentropa is emerging through its specific interplay with the media. Like for other businesses, the media constitutes an important external relationship for filmmaking companies (Becker, 1982; Wyatt, 1994; Lampel, Shamsie and Lant, 2006), because film companies are highly dependent on positive publicity and media hype when new films are released. Media portrayals, reviews and understandings of filmmaking organizations and their products are also invaluable in attracting investors, audiences and international recognition.

Filmmaking companies are of interest for several reasons. First, their products, the films, are important cultural creators of meaning (Harbord, 2002). Second, the companies represent the type of culturalcreative organizations that are becoming more widespread (Pine and Gilmore, 1999; Caves, 2000) and ones from which other businesses may learn (Lampel, Lant and Shamsie, 2000; Caves, 2000). Third, filmmaking companies are, through their products, in the business of storytelling. Fourth, in an increasingly globalized and standardized film industry (Harbord, 2002) small rebellious filmmaking companies, like Zentropa, constitute an interesting contrast to the mainstream, high concept film industry (Stevenson, 2003; Hjort and MacKenzie, 2003; Alvarez et al. 2005).

In the paper, we will elaborate upon the identity production of Zentropa. We will analyze the specific ways in which identities are created, both externally and internally. But first, we review the literature on narrative identity studies, with an emphasis on the performative part of narrative studies.


The theoretical framework for this study is rooted in theories of identity construction (Albert and Whetten, 1985; Gioia, 1998; Pratt and Foreman, 2000; Albert, Ashforth and Dutton, 2000; Gioia, Schultz and Corley, 2000) and in theories on narrative organizational studies (Czarniawska, 1997; 1998; 1999; Gabriel, 1995; 2000; Boje, 1991; 1995; 2001). When Albert and Whetten (1985) asked the questions: who are we, and what kind of firm is this, they were seeking to characterize organizational identity as a self reflective question, with three main features. …

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