Why isn’t there even more nepotism in Hollywood?

Alan Crede emails me the following:

It seems there’s a lot of nepotism in Hollywood (the Sheens, Clooneys, Douglases, Arquettes, Goldie Hawn-Kate Hudson, Aaron Spelling-Tori Spelling, etc.).

But it seems for every Angelina Jolie with industry connections, there’s someone like Brad Pitt (an outsider from Missouri).

My question is why is it not *all* nepotism?

I’m struggling to think of a bit of a theory of economic theory that could explain the equilibrium that we see other than the (question-begging) contention that, in order to maximize profits, Hollywood producers cast the ablest actors available to them.

Imagine a talent selection system with many different levels of filters and many, many applicants and also few winners.  The first level could be something as simple as “does anyone even look at your photo shoot or ask you for an audition?”  Let’s also say that nepotism gets you past the first filter, or maybe a bit more, but not past the final filters.  They won’t let you star in a movie just because you’re Goldie Hawn’s daughter (by that time most of her clout is gone).  Nonetheless relatives of famous actors, actresses, etc. still will end up considerably overrepresented on the screen.

There is also someone known who can vouch for you, albeit not always with perfect credibility: “Believe me, if you give my brother this role, he won’t ruin the movie promo efforts with a cocaine addiction.”  And so on.

You will be remembered more easily: imagine a director saying “hey for this bit part, why don’t we get what’s-his-name, you know the brother of [xxxx].”  It is then easier to work your way up.

Being the brother, sister, etc. of a famous actor gets you publicity and makes for a good story.  It draws interest from viewers, just as I was keen to have met Alex’s brother in Toronto last year.  That will help your chances too.  At the same time, talented outsiders still will make their way through the process and achieve stardom.

Nepotism and focality are closely related and they often reinforce each other.


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