Professor David I. Levine                                                                                             Spring 2002

Haas School of Business                                                                                               UC Berkeley


BA 24: Films About Work


We will watch movies about workers, bosses, unions, and how they get along.  We will use these films to explore basic questions about how workers are motivated, what makes for more and less effective leadership in different circumstances, the effects of unions on workers and firms, and discrimination by race and gender.  We will also consider issues about how filmmakers use their craft to convince viewers of their point of view.  The class includes comedies (Nine to Five), dramas (Apollo 13), classic movies (On the Waterfront) and contemporary ones (  Students will compare these movies with workplaces they know, and draw conclusions about workplaces, about films, and about their relationship.


Jump directly to: Class Procedures  | The Movies | Watching a Movie  | Typical questions about a movie.








Jan. 22

Modern Times (first 20 minutes) VHS 999:47 

Read notes on watching a movie.

Working Together (?)



Jan 29

Nine to Five (1980, 110 min.) DVD 949

Watch in class.

Feb. 5

Apollo 13 (1995, 140 min.) DVD 845

Watch prior to class.

Feb. 12

Glengary Glen Ross  (1992, 100 min.) VHS 999:1072

Watch in class.

Paper topic due.

Feb 19

Office Space (1999, 89 min.) VHS 999:2844

Watch prior to class

What do Unions Do?



Feb. 26

Norma Rae (1979, 114 min.) VHS 999:2419

Watch prior to class

March 4

On the Waterfront (1954, 108 min.) VHS 999:18

Guest speaker Katie Quan Watch prior to class

March 11

Roger & Me (1988, 91 min.) VHS 999:439

Watch prior to class

Women at Work



March 19

Rosie the Riveter (1987, 65 min.) VHS VIDEO/C 1927  

Watch in class




Class Procedures


The class meets in Haas F318.  The class is for 1 unit. Tuesday 1-3 most days, but 1-4 on days we watch films in class: Jan. 29, Feb. 12 and March 19.


To watch films: For the weeks we do not watch films in class you need to go to the Media Resources Center at 150 Moffitt Library.  If three or more of you come at once you can watch it on a bigger screen without headphones.  I recommend you establish a default time such as Friday 2-4.


Contact me by email Levine@Haas.Berkeley.Edu, phone 2-1697, or by dropping by my office (Haas 671). 


About you:  Please email me your name, potential major(s), a list of past jobs, any background you have related to films, and 2 sentences about yourself.


The class Web page is Faculty.Haas.Berkeley.Edu/Levine/Ba24.  Essential information such as required readings will be posted to that page, and you must visit it each week.


Subscribe to the class email list BA24-1 at I assume people check email at least twice a week.


The format of the class is largely discussion; thus, attendance is mandatory.  See me if you must miss a class.


Grades will be based 60% on class discussion and 40% on short papers each week.  Unless otherwise noted, it is required that students watch all movies carefully before class.  “Watching carefully” means that you take notes during the film and you write up thoughts after viewing it.  You must bring these notes to class and be willing to share them with us all.


Weekly writing assignment: Each week you owe me about 5 paragraphs (2 double-spaced pages).  These can be on any of several topics:

1. Answer the “questions to consider” for each film.

2. Relate the films we see to workplaces or current event stories you are familiar with.

3. Relate the films we see and the principles of management we discuss to other movies, TV, and other media images of work.  For example, talk about management styles in the TV show ER, or relate On the Waterfront and Norma Rae to your aunt’s teachers union.

4. Write about how a film affected you, or other thoughts about a film and the workplaces it represents.


Our class representative Chris Pawlik <> will give me feedback periodically about how class is going.  If you are uncomfortable sending me any feedback, please send it to him

The Movies



Modern Times (1936, first minutes)    Jan 22.


Related Web site:


Working Together (?) 


Nine to Five (1980, 110 min.)  Jan. 29


We will watch this film during class.


Required reading: Before class, read these essays on the Web that help understand films and how to think about them:


Optional reading:


Questions to consider as you watch the movie:


Possible paper topics:


Related article:


Apollo 13        Watch prior to class for Feb. 5


Questions to consider

·         What management practices helped or impeded cooperation?


Related Web site: NASA’s Web site on Apollo 13


Comparison movies: The Right Stuff, Aliens II.


Possible paper topics:


Glengary Glen Ross  Watch in class Feb. 12. 


Each group’s paper topic is due today.


Questions to consider:

·         What are the several bosses’ motivational techniques?  Why do you think they are or are not effective?


Comparison movies:


Related Web sites:


Possible paper topics:


Office Space               Watch prior to class Feb. 19


Questions to consider:


Related books:


Related Web Sites


Related movies

What do Unions Do?


Norma Rae (1979, 114 min.)  Watch prior to class Feb. 26


Questions to consider:

·         After 3 minutes, what do you think about the health effects, working conditions, and management of this workplace?

·         How does Norma change during the course of the movie?

·         Some critics have noted the film, by emphasizing Norma and a single union organizer, downplays the number of people, particularly blacks, who were involved in the organizing drive.  Do you agree? 


Related book: Crystal Lee: Woman of Inheritance (1975)


Related movies

·         Matewan. A great movie about a union organizing drive in a coal town.

·         Harlan County U.S.A.  On the 1973 Kentucky coal miner's strike

·         American Dream. Academy Award winner best documentary on a Hormel strike.


Possible paper topics:


Related Web sites:


On the Waterfront   Watch prior to class March 4


Katie Quan, a former top official of UNITE (the successor to the successor of the textile workers union in Norma Rae) will come talk to class for 90 minutes.  Bring her questions about working conditions in textile mills, organizing drives, what textile unions do, the rationality of workers’ fears that unions lead to job loss in textiles, etc.  You are each responsible for bringing two insightful written questions to class. 


Questions to consider:


Possible paper topics:


Roger & Me (1988, 91 min)  Watch prior to class March 11.


Related Web sites:

·         A Short Bibliography of Reviews and Articles in the UC Berkeley Libraries:  


Possible paper topics: Interview people who have been laid off and compare their experiences with that of the movie.  Read new accounts of the GM layoffs in Flint and elsewhere and compare them to the movie.


Related articles:

Women at Work


Life & Times of Rosie the Riveter   Watch in class March 19


Five women reminisce about their jobs and working conditions during World War II. Includes topics of sex discrimination, the women's movement, and the role of movies and radio in helping mold public opinion during World War II. 1987. 65 min. Video/C 1927


Possible paper topics:


Related Web sites:

Watching a Movie


As you watch the movie, it is important to take notes.  Most viewers of a film are caught up in the story, and not paying attention to all the issues we will discuss in class.  Your job will be to be much more attentive to issues of conflict, power and motivation.


Two styles of note taking are often effective.  One style is narrative, with notes each few minutes. The other style considers specific people, and discusses their actions and motivations.  Three or four people per film is usually sufficient.


Typical questions about a movie


The key questions for this class are usually:


Other questions that you should consider include:


What did you learn from this film?  What surprised you? 


How do the time period, place, and industry affect the story?  How do the protagonists’ occupation, age, race and sex affect the story?  How would the story work in a different country or industry, a different time, or with the race and sexes of bosses and workers reversed?


What is the point of view of those creating the film (writer, director, etc.)?  What are they trying to convince you of? 


What means does the writer use to convince you of his or her view: more or less sympathetic or attractive characters, desperate situations, humor, etc.?  Were these mechanisms effective?


In what ways is the film realistic?  In what ways is it unrealistic?  Why did the author and director decide to be unrealistic?  How do goals such as making money, appealing to an audience, making a political point, and satisfying important stakeholders affect the film?


Pick another movie we have seen.  How does that film help us understand this one?  How do they differ, and why?


Looking at the movies in this course as a whole, what themes have we ignored?  Which occupations, industries, and demographic groups are under-represented in this course?  Which are under-represented more broadly in American films and TV?  Why do you think they are under-represented?