“Lighting up screens around the world” : Sony’s local language production strategy meets contemporary Brazilian and Spanish cinema
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The local language production strategy (LLP) emerged in the early 1990s and developed into a key practice for major media corporations operating in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. This dissertation analyzes where Sony’s international production strategies intersect transformations in the Brazilian and Spanish film industries during the mid-1990s to 2010. The LLP strategy, widely perceived as a corporate product of globalization and market power of Sony, is simultaneously viewed as a culturally specific media product intended for local Portuguese or Spanish-language audiences using national tax incentive policies and talent. This project provides a multi-layered history of Sony’s trans/national practices, Latin American and European regional industries, Brazilian and Spanish national policies and conditions, and the creative agency and power of local film production companies. Adapted from Timothy Havens, Amanda D. Lotz, and Serra Tinic’s critical media industry studies approach and Paul du Gay’s “circuit of culture,” I conducted archival research and on-site field interviews in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Madrid, and Brussels with local producers, distributors, policymakers, lobbyists, and Sony executives. The study is grounded equally in box office data, co-production financing specifics, and cultural policy as well as first-hand accounts and industry discourse. Instead of labeling the LLP another all-powerful strategy of Global Hollywood, I explore the everyday practices, power relations, and complex negotiations involved in local and national agents working alongside large transnational media company to produce commercial films like Chico Xavier (2010) or Salir Pitando (2007). Sony’s local operations have to balance the global corporate strategy and logic with changing local conditions, policies, practices, technologies, and partnerships. Each location study illustrates a unique strategy and situation ranging from the quasi-autonomous operation in São Paulo to the short-lived, highly micro-managed Sony European operation in based in Madrid. I challenge traditional theoretical and industrial understandings of national cinema, media imperialism, media convergence, and the classification of Sony Pictures Entertainment as solely an American or Japanese company. What results is a close institutional analysis exploring issues such as what defines “local” media industries, the flexibility of the nation, and the position of transnational media companies outside the U.S.