"We are in the future and the future is now," said producer Paula Wagner in her intro to Loyola Marymount University School of Film & Television's annual Steed Symposium, which mounted a heavyweight industry panel to talk "The New Disruptors: Content, Devices and Distribution." The symposium moved to CAA this year for its seventh go-round moderated by the ex-CAA agent who once ran Cruise/Wagner Productions and UA.
Loyola assembled a volatile mix of old disruptors–both wily former HBO chief Michael Fuchs and brilliant ex-Warner Bros. Homevideo czar Warren Lieberfarb, "the father of the DVD," were disruptive enough to be ousted from power–and new: Snagfilms' Rick Allen, Yahoo's Ross Levinsohn (who once worked for Fuchs), YouTube's Sara Pollack and new media filmmaker/marketer Lance Weiler.
While we've all attended plenty of panels addressing these issues, this mix proved enlightening. For one thing, Fuchs and Lieberfarb provided historical context: we tend to forget that it took maverick innovators with multidisciplinary skills like RCA's Robert Sarnoff (TV color, tubes, cameras) and Bill Paley (the long-playing record, recording, mono and stereo LP) to build NBC and CBS and network broadcasting, or the folks who to laid the coaxial cables that allowed cable television to disrupt the hegemony of the three networks, or invented the DVD business that fueled the studios for decades. Now Snagfilms is reinventing multiple platform distribution for indie filmmakers, and Yahoo and YouTube are presenting as well as creating content for millions–in concert with Hollywood. The big issue, everyone agreed: How to curate the plethora of choices out there for viewers.
"Big old media companies don't innovate," reminded Levinsohn. "News Corp. buys MySpace and it dies. None of these companies has ever been at the forefront…Many leaders are fearful, not willing to take the chances that Silicon Valley is taking." Google and Apple are the dominant forces changing the entertainment world today, he suggested, partly because they don't hang their business strategies on how they will play on Wall Street. In ten years Apple disrupted the music, telephone, film and television industries and "how we all consume," he said.
On the other hand while Silicon Valley may be fearless, they aren't creative in the way Hollywood can be–and right now never the twain shall meet. The two sides don't understand each other's language. And the players who bridge those worlds will win.
(More on the panel is here.)