Why the “Hollywood Model” Is the Future of Content Creation

Pretend, for a minute, that you’re a movie director.

Let’s say you had your first big hit last year—an epic drama about star-crossed lovers in Spain. You worked hard with an amazing crew and brilliant actors, and now you’re famous. Congratulations!

Now, in the wake of your hit, Disney says they want you to direct the new Marvel movie: Spiderman 7. Double congratulations! But now, I have question for you: Are you going to use the same team for this movie as your last one?

Probably not!

Sure, you’ll tap your most trusted crew members—cinematographer, editor, etc.—but you’re also going to need different resources to bring Spidey to life. You’ll want a big computer graphics department, different location and set design pros, and more. And you’ll probably hire a bunch of different actors for this movie than the last one.

This is The Hollywood Model.

Hollywood director

Illustration by Andrew Rae | New York Times Magazine

In the movie business, each project presents a unique challenge. Meeting that challenge means assembling a team that combines proven coworkers with new talent. I bring this up because I believe that the future of content production is going to look more and more like this model.

Whether you’re a publisher, marketer, or even a blogger, your “team” is going to use the Hollywood Model in the future. It’ll give you the greatest chance to tell stories that resonate with your audience.

As someone who’s coordinated a lot of content campaigns—and led numerous teams throughout my business career—I’ve spent significant time thinking about teamwork. I’ve been fascinated by the question of what makes certain groups of people add up to more than the sum of their parts. I ended up writing a book about this, and what I learned in the process helped explain what I’d been seeing across media and marketing.

The best creators don’t do the same thing over and over again. They continuously tap into different types of talent so they can push the boundaries of their field.

In other words, they aren’t afraid to think like Hollywood.

The Hollywood Model treats every problem as discrete. A new film means a custom cast, locations, and collaborators. Anyone who’s spent time on a film set studying will see something pretty astounding: Professionals with real expertise in their crafts can come together and make something amazing happen with very limited oversight. Lights, grips, sound, makeup, wardrobe—all of these work under the direction of leadership, but they don’t need to be told every little thing to do. They come together and make things happen.

The best creators don’t do the same thing over and over again.

In this setting, the director’s job is to set the vision and share as much information as possible with the team. Good directors empowers people. They don’t micro-manage the grips. They doesn’t hoard information so they can be the hero.

And when it comes time to cast a film, the director doesn’t just hire 20 actors with the best GPAs from Harvard or the same from the last film. A new film means new ground to break, a new story to tell, and a fitting group of people to make it happen. The best casts are chosen carefully for their ability to portray the story and to bring out the most in each other.

When production ends, the crew go their separate ways to other projects—until a new project unites some of them again. Steven Spielberg famously brings much of his crew back together for new movies, having found people he trusts to help execute his vision. But he also brings in new writers, actors, and technical specialists who breathe new ideas into his work.

I’m convinced that creative people of the future will think of themselves like directors. Their job isn’t to do everything, to know everything. Their job will be to assemble the right teams to tell the best stories. Over and over again.

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