Dr. Kate Fortmueller

Assistant Professor, Entertainment & Media Studies

About

Kate Fortmueller teaches courses in media industries and media theory. Her research focuses on media industry studies with an emphasis on labor.

View Curriculum Vitae

Education

Ph.D., Critical Studies, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
M.A., Critical Studies, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
B.A., Government and Italian Studies, Smith College

Research Interests and Activities

Dr. Fortmueller’s work combines political economy, media industries studies, and cultural studies. Her research on actors and below the line talent utilizes both archival evidence and ethnographic methods to explore historical and contemporary issues for people working in film, television, and digital production. Her work appears in Film History, the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Journal of Film and Video, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Media Industries, and Television & New Media.

Dr. Fortmueller’s book Below the Stars: How the Labor of Working Actors and Extras Shapes Media Production  and Hollywood Shutdown: Production, Distribution, and Exhibition in the Time of COVID are both forthcoming from University of Texas Press in July 2021.

She is currently co-editing an anthology on Hollywood unions and guilds and writing a second book for University of Texas Press about the effect of the pandemic on the entertainment media industries.

She is the co-chair of the Media Industries SIG in the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

Transatlantic Platform for Social Sciences and Humanities – Funding Kate Fortmueller

Mayer, V. (Lead PI, Tulane University), Fortmueller, K., Sakakeeny, M., Saas, W. (US team) Transatlantic Platform for Social Sciences and Humanities, $200,000 (US portion) disbursed by NSF to conduct a study on the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on cultural workers. This is a transnational collaboration, and the US team will share data with research teams […]

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Hollywood Unions Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: Hollywood Unions is a unique collection that tells the stories of the unions and guilds that have organized motion picture and television labor: the DGA, IATSE, SAG-AFTRA, and WGA. The Hollywood unions represent a wide swath of the workers making media: from directors and stars to grips and make-up artists. People today know some […]

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Hollywood Shutdown: Production, Distribution, and Exhibition in the Time of Covid Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: Hollywood Shutdown examines how the COVID-19 pandemic affected film and television production, influenced trends in distribution, reshaped theatrical exhibition, and altered labor practices. From January movie theater closures in China to the bumpy September release of Mulan on the Disney+ streaming platform, Fortmueller probes various choices made by studios, networks, unions and guilds, distributors, […]

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Below the Stars: How the Labor of Actors and Extras Shapes Media Production Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: Despite their considerable presence in Hollywood, extras and working actors have received scant attention within film and media studies as significant contributors to the history of the industry. Looking not to the stars but to these supporting players in film, television, and, recently, streaming programming, Below the Stars highlights such actors as precarious laborers […]

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Charisma and Hollywood Kate Fortmueller

From the 1910s through the end of the studio system in the 1940s studio heads and publicity departments crafted a system to manufacture and capitalize on the idea of charisma. Frequently emphasizing natural abilities, the Hollywood studio system worked tirelessly to mask bureaucratic structures and the work involved in crafting “charisma.” This chapter looks at […]

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Pandemic Hollywood: Global Media Industries in the Time of COVID-19 Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: In 2020, widespread shutdowns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted how we make, distribute, and watch media. Around the world businesses, cities, and borders closed in order to quell the spread of the virus, while Hollywood adapted to many of the changes often relying on its global reach for production networks and […]

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Hollywood Shutdown: Production, Distribution, and Exhibition in the Time of COVID Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: Hollywood Shutdown examines the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hollywood beginning with the closure of movie theaters in China over Chinese New Year and ending with Mulan’s bumpy September release on the streaming platform Disney+. One goal of this book is to answer the question: What happened when the coronavirus closed Hollywood? In […]

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Right Here in Hollywood: The Greatest Story Ever Told, the American West and the American Film Worker Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: The 1950s and 1960s saw a swell of films shot on location and abroad, often big-budget, widescreen epic films. These runaway productions represented a practical financial decision for Hollywood studios, incentivized by tax breaks, government subsidies, frozen funds and rising union salaries in the U.S. When George Stevens began pre-production on his Biblical epic, […]

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Time’s Up (Again?): Transforming Hollywood’s Industrial Culture Kate Fortmueller

Abstract:  In the 1970s, almost fifty years before the “Time’s Up” movement, women in Hollywood unions organized “women’s committees” to counter institutional sexism and address rampant underemployment. While the unions supported the general motive behind these committees’ efforts, women activists struggled to gather information about hiring practices and enact policy changes. To understand gender inequity […]

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Actors and the Anti-Rerun Campaign Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: The early 1970s marked a number of significant changes in the television landscape: new regulatory structures, the growth of cable, and shifts in programming including a steep rise in televised reruns. By 1972, reruns constituted over half of prime time network television. Although this practice benefited the financial bottom-line for producers, it was frustrating […]

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Time’s Up (Again?): Transforming Hollywood’s Industrial Culture Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: In the 1970s, almost fifty years before the “Time’s Up” movement, women in Hollywood unions organized “women’s committees” to counter institutional sexism and address rampant underemployment. While the unions supported the general motive behind these committees’ efforts, women activists struggled to gather information about hiring practices and enact policy changes. To understand gender inequity […]

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Hollywood Freelance: Extras, Actors, and On-Screen Talent Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: Actors are, and have always been, the biggest labor force in Hollywood. Although their faces might be familiar, how they have negotiated the extremely competitive and ever-changing business of Hollywood is typically a mystery. For many, at least those below the level of stars, work in Hollywood is inconsistent. Hollywood Freelance demonstrates how sporadic […]

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Below-the-Line Labor and Infrastructure in Hollywood Kate Fortmueller

From the ragtag crews of 1910s productions to the organized backlots of Classical Hollywood to the runaway productions of the last fifty years, Hollywood has employed a wide array of workers. Their duties have ranged from hanging lights and writing music to designing sets and casting talent, and their professional norms and practices have helped […]

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Voice actors and video games in the age of convergence Kate Fortmueller

Abstract: “What type of sword am I wielding?” For most performers in visual media this question is moot, clearly answered by the prop department – but for video game voice actors, understanding the imaginary weight and velocity of an object provides essential information to help them find the appropriate vocal range for a performance. Voice […]

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Teaching Specialties

Dr. Fortmueller’s courses are designed to help students understand the relationship between media studies and media making while giving them a fuller understanding of media histories. Prior to teaching in Grady College, she taught in the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and at Fairfield University.

Fortmueller, Kate
In the News

Kate Fortmueller examines entertainment labor practices in normal times and during the pandemic

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EMST faculty give recommendations for shows, movies, games

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UGA Today profiles Grady College assistant professor

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New EMST faculty member researches media industry labor

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