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Hollywood Workers Increasingly White-Collar, College-Educated

Hollywood Workers Increasingly White-Collar, College-Educated

As the entertainment industry has transformed amid the streaming era, so too has its workforce, which is increasingly white-collar and college-educated.

That’s according to a new research report released Thursday from Otis College of Art and Design, “‘Die Another Day’— Hollywood transformed in the streaming era,” which scrutinizes the changing composition of Los Angeles-based Hollywood workers and L.A.’s status as the premiere place to work in entertainment. Between 2013 and 2022, the share of the workforce in L.A. County occupied by creatives (like directors and writers) and managers (middle managers, executive and lawyers) rose from 59 to 66 percent, while the share of specialists (technical experts like financial analysts and programmers) increased from 10 to 13 percent, according to the study.

Meanwhile, the percentage of entertainment workers that are college-educated in L.A. County jumped from 46 percent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2013 to 68 percent in 2022. “An industry that was once a fertile source of jobs for workers without college degrees has become ever more dominated by Creatives, Managers, White Collar Specialists, and other members of America’s educated class,” the report states. “More than ever, Greater Entertainment resembles an elite club that workers qualify to enter.”

The study, which was conducted by Westwood Economics and Planning Associates and drew its findings from Bureau of Labor Statistics and California Employment Development Department data as well as interviews with industry professionals and policymakers, largely looks at what it terms “greater entertainment.” This includes not only traditional film and television, publishing and broadcasting, but also sectors like independent artists, writers and performers (a category including influencers), software publishing and Internet publishing and streaming.

Within these sectors, the type of college degrees held by workers in L.A. County changed between 2013 and 2022. General business degrees increased by 71 percent, and business management and administration degrees, as well as film video and photographic arts degrees, shot up 61 percent. Meanwhile, drama and theater arts degrees and communications degrees dropped by 11 percent, and English degrees dropped by 20 percent.

According to the study, the greater entertainment industry in L.A. County also became increasingly ethnically diverse during this same period. “Interestingly, these changes seem to be driven by changes within the industry’s core occupations,” the report stated, noting that the percentage of white creative workers fell from 71 percent in 2013 to 60 percent in 2022, while the percentage of Black creative workers rose from 5 to 9 percent. Meanwhile, the share of white managers decreased from 65 percent in 2013 to 58 percent in 2022, while the share of Hispanic managers rose from 13 to 21 percent in that period.

When it comes to the status of L.A. as the nation’s most important hub for entertainment jobs, the report suggested that the city still remains the “marquee destination for Film and TV production.” L.A.’s share of national film and television employment did take a hit during the 2023 actors’ and writers’ strikes, dipping from 35 percent in 2022 to 27 percent in 2023. But, the report contends, as L.A. loses some of this employment, those jobs aren’t going to any one alternate location in particular but are instead dispersing to multiple different places. In 2013 and 2023, L.A. and New York remained the two top centers of film and television employment; no other city had more than a two percent share. “The absence of new centers of activity is important because Los Angeles has scale and cluster advantages over its competitors,” the report states, with a high concentration of in-demand workers, suppliers and soundstages.

L.A. film and television workers also are paid high wages, earning about 60 percent more on average than peers nationally. The report pushes back against omnipresent fears of “runaway production,” or work leaving L.A. for lower-cost locales, emphasizing that some of the most in-demand workers live in and around the city. “If workers were the same from one place to the next, Los Angeles-based companies would move to other locations, where they could cut labor costs. Instead, studios pay higher wages to workers in Los Angeles because local workers have skills that they cannot find in other locations,” the study says.

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Still, in what will come as a surprise to no one who has followed the state of traditional Hollywood, the nature of entertainment work has changed between 2013 and 2024. The report finds that employment in the film and television industry in L.A. County has fallen 17 percent in the last decade. Meanwhile, the software publishing industry has ballooned 149 percent, the independent artists, writers, and performers sector rose 38 percent and the Internet publishing and streaming business grew 31 percent. Another, more surprising growth business? The performance and management sector, comprised of fine arts and sports facilities workers as well as talent representatives, which grew 50 percent. “This sector captures many live and in-person aspects of entertainment. While the sector saw steep declines during the pandemic, live experiences have been a growth center for Greater Entertainment over the past decade,” the report explains.

Overall, greater entertainment employment in L.A. County was up 8 percent, largely due to these over-performing sectors. “As traditional parts of the Entertainment Industry have shrunk, others have bloomed,” the report stated.

In a statement, Westwood Economics and Planning Associates principal and University of Hong Kong assistant professor Dr. Patrick Adler summarized, “Los Angeles is still the apex of the entertainment industry, but the industry itself is undergoing once-in-a-generation changes. It is less dependent on film and television studios, more oriented towards online content creation, live events and gaming, and also much more technical and managerial than ever.” Adler added, “What it means to work in Hollywood is starkly different today than even 10 years ago.”

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