Why straddling makes no business sense
It’s long been a cliché that French film directors consider themselves artistes divorced from and even disdainful of commercial concerns. A new academic study co-authored at University of Cambridge Judge Business School and HEC School of Management in Paris finds there might be good reason for that.
The just-published study looked at 983 films involving 323 French directors over a decade (1988-1997) to examine what happens when directors “straddle” the artistic-commercial line to also serve as producers – in order to measure “the extent of sanctions imposed by the original community (film artistry) relative to the benefits received from the new community (business).” In academia, such straddling is known as “logic combination.”
Looking at how such films fared both commercially (at the box office) and reputationally among the artistic community – based on awards such as the Cesar, France’s top cinema award, the Oscars, and recognition at the Cannes Film Festival – the study found that “for directors, artistic penalties may override commercial benefits.”
It found that a film director’s standing in the artistic community is “impaired” by repeated participation as a producer, and that performance at the box office benefits only if directors “remain close to the boundary” separating directing and producing – in other words, keeping their distance from the business of making money through films and not losing their identity as artists.
“In the context of French cinema, the original artistic community is less inclined to bestow further recognition to directors who repeatedly combine logics (direction and producing),” concludes the study – entitled “Logic combination and performance across occupational communities: The case of French film directors” – which was just published online in the Journal of Business Research, before appearing in print in the journal later this year.
Yet, the findings for French film directors don’t necessarily extend to some other communities, including Hollywood directors, because directors in Hollywood “do not customarily benefit from the same cultural recognition as artists and from the same degree of control” over their films as do their French counterparts.
“There is undoubtedly something unique about the French film ecosystem, but we think these findings are useful in looking at the combination of roles in other creative industries as well,” says the paper’s co-author Allègre Hadida, University Senior Lecturer in Strategy at University of Cambridge Judge Business School. “As multitasking develops across industries and functions, the issue of how so-called ‘straddlers’ are received in both their old and new communities is an important one for strategy studies.” The study’s co-author is Rodolphe Durand of HEC School of Management in Paris.
Noting that other “cultural entrepreneurs” such as well-known restaurant chefs who become TV celebrities or franchise into new geographic areas also “combine logics,” the study says that its findings may prove relevant to understanding “the extent of sanctions imposed by the original community relative to the benefits received from the new community.”
The decade 1988-1997 was chosen by the authors because it was a very stable period for French filmmaking, owing to French tax benefits for cinema established in 1985 and steady investment in cinema production by company Canal Plus, and because the decade chosen predates many changes brought about by digital technology since the arrival of DVD players in France in 1998.
For followers of French film, that decade included such well-known movies as Conte d’hiver by Eric Rohmer, Les Visiteurs by Jean-Marie Poiré and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf by Leos Carax. The 323 directors studied made at least two films released in France during the decade covered by the research.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”