Outlander: The Intersection between Business and Creativity

It’s interesting as I was reading Hollywood the Dream Factory I became very aware of the time in which the book was written.  The book was published in 1950, during the Old Hollywood System days; however a lot of what Hortense Powdermaker observes within the Hollywood film industry still remains quite prevalent within today’s filmmaking. Hollywood

is still a business in a lot of ways. The studios don’t have the same kind of control that they did in the 1950s, but Hollywood is still one of the largest film industries in the world. The way in which we see Hollywood hasn’t really seemed to change. As Powdermaker observes “Hollywood itself is not an exact geographical area . . . it has commonly been described as a state of mind, and it exists wherever people connected with the movies live and work(18).”   As time progresses some things

change, but I think the ideology of business practice within the film industry doesn’t change it only becomes more prevalent. The change: The studios no longer hold as much power within the system, no longer owning theaters across the country. The film industry now has to compete against television and other mediums of entertainment. The goal: to make a profit, this remains the same from the Old Hollywood System.

While doing the reading and watching The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) I found myself trying to connect both to my life currently and where exactly I may find myself in relation to this big business of Hollywood, but also to current film or television projects that seem to relate to Powdermaker’s case study. I found myself connected as a viewer.

I thought of the Starz series Outlander in relating to many of Powedermaker’s observations. Starz (if you read the Wikipedia article I hyperlinked) is not based in Hollywood, but rather Colorado. Starz as a cable network holds a lot of the same


Starz Poster for the Series Source

business practices that a film studio does. Studios have been forced to diversify and as a result have become muli-national corporations. Studios often are used to produce cable content.  Cable networks create original television programming that is only available to subscribers. In order to make money unlike film studios cable networks make the majority of their money through cable subscriptions not just from customers subscribing, but mostly from other cable providers for the right to carry the channels and content. Instead of using well-known actors the show cast virtually unknown actors, besides Tobias Menzies, who was known for his role in Game of Thrones. However the goal is still the same to make a profit.

Outlander is a Starz television series created by Ronald D. Moore based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon. Large scale television series are created very much in the same way that a film is created. You have pretty much the same

components which as Powdermaker discusses looks very much like an assembly line. “Although the production of movies, with its reliance on gossip columns and its lack of stability, is unbusinesslike in many ways, at the same time it has some of the characteristics of the assembly line. Producer, writer, director, actor, cameraman, cutter, musician, make-up man, set designer, and many others all have set place and timing in the production (31).”


Ronald D. Moore and Terry Dresbach Source: New York Times article on the couple

Ronald D. Moore is the executive producer of the series. I thought of this particular series while reading because Moore got the idea for this project from his wife Terry Dresbach (The costume designer for Outlander). The Outlander novel is one of her favorite books and she approached her husband with the concept for the show with co-producer Maril Davis. Producers are creatives who oversee everyone else in the production process. Powdermaker parallels the position with that of a foreman overseeing workers working an assembly line.  In Moore’s case before he got his big break working on the Star Trek television series he was a college dropout waiting for his big break while working as a receptionist at an animal hospital. Moore also wrote the pilot episode for the show Outlander, which was the only adaptation Gabaldon could stand. As Gabaldon puts it herself, “This is the first thing I’ve read based on my work that didn’t make me turn white or burst into flames.”

In the case of this television series that to answer the question Powdermaker raises, “The fundamental question of whether producers in general are really necessary(130)?” I think in this case yes. “The producer should know how to pick a good story and how to select the proper men to help carry it through (130).” I think in the case when the story and the project you are trying to create not only reflects on your personal life and becomes a personal story that you want to adapt and convey and you create a work environment filled with intimate relationships and past project connections. I would definitely say that Moore has done this. In Moore’s case as an executive producer “Much of the producer’s power is similar to that of the front-office executive. Both tend to project onto the movies their own personalities, their ideas of love and sex, their attitude to mankind, and their ‘solutions” to social problems (116).”

I used Outlander as example since I felt that the way in which it was created really shows how the film and television industry can work together and create content like Starz and HBO original programming. I also used Outlander to represent how the entertainment industry has completely changed with the advent of technology. The movies are no longer the number 1 choice in entertainment. They now have to compete with everyone else. The industry has revolutionized while maintaining the major business aspects of the traditional old Hollywood film style while changing with time and technology.

I also think the series is a great example of a combining the two important concepts of creativity and business to create this entertaining and successful television show that appeals not only to fans of the book series, but really anyone.“The


Source: Variety Interview with Terry Dresbach about Outlander Costume Design

essential attitude in Hollywood, and out of it too, is to try and escape this essential dualism: Making movies must be either business or art, rather than both (25).” In this case it can be both business and art. I wasn’t a fan of the books until I watched the first half of season 1 last year. I was procrastinating on homework one weekend and Starz provides a free first episode to every series so I watched one episode and became interested enough to continue watching. Once I was hooked to the show I needed to find out what happened following the cliffhanger in the mid-season finale. So before the next half of the season came out last spring I bought the first book and now I’m currently reading the fifth book in the series while I’m waiting for the second season which will be out sometime next spring.


  1. […] Last week I discussed the concept of business and creativity as it relates to the Starz television show Outlander. I touched on a few concepts like a lot of the changes from Old Hollywood System days to now. Most of these changes have been a result of the advent of new forms of technology. The film industry is then forced to change with technology in order to continue to appeal to the audience and compete with other forms of media that come along with new forms of technology. […]

  2. […] few weeks ago I posted about the Starz television show Outlander. The show has significantly increased tourism to the […]

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