Brian Clark, one of the original figures in the conceptualization of Indiewire and a major player in the transmedia and immersive storytelling communities, died today in New York surrounded by family and friends following a brief battle with cancer. He was 46.
Clark co-founded the new media production company GMD Studios in 1995 and continued to run it for nearly 20 years. In 1997, he served as a producer and managing member of Indiewire during its initial iteration as a newsletter. "indieWIRE is a brand, dammit," he wrote in an internal memo to staffers during the late ’90s, using the spelling that distinguished the site in its early days. "The independents are there, ready to be led together… and it’s my belief that bringing them together will be at times explosive, at other times inspirational."
While GMD Studios sold Indiewire to SnagFilms in 2008, Clark remained an active member of the film community, moderating panels, traveling to festivals and conferences, and remaining at the forefront of the movement to explore the future of entertainment. To that end, he was a perennial figure in the emerging field of transmedia studies.
"What I admire about Clark is that he cuts through the crap," wrote scholar Henry Jenkins, one of the pioneers of transmedia theories, introducing a lecture by Clark at USC in 2011. "He’s got a track record as someone who has worked across the entertainment industry… He has the pragmatic streak of someone who runs his own business and has to pay the bills, even as he enjoys the visionary speculations that excite many of us about the new forms of creativity that are emerging at the intersections between old and new media. And he’s wickedly smart."
Friends and colleagues in the film community noted Clark’s lively personality and tendency to single out oversimplifications of trends in the industry with a distinctive wit and incisiveness. Memorializing indie filmmaker Sarah Jacobson after her death in 2004, Clark wrote that her passing stimulated "a nostalgia for the D.I.Y. movement of the mid-1990s, before independent filmmaking because perceived as quite so important and proper a thing to do… Maybe that nostalgia will give way to a re-commitment, and an embracing of those ideals again among more filmmakers."
In closing, he added, "Note to self: In memory of Sarah, make sure to emphasize subtle sneer/wink combo when I use the phrase ‘Indiewood.’"
Despite his work in transmedia, Clark always regarded the term with a degree of skepticism. "As a community, we have this tendency to really tie ourselves into knots over words," he said in a podcast discussion earlier this year. "This happens a lot when you talk a lot about this language of how you make objects. It’s not so much that the object is what’s important as the experience of the object. The meaning is applied by the audience… We have a really bad time as new media people trying to say things that aren’t objects are objects. Maybe we would get further if we were talking about the experience of things."
Over the past week, support poured out on his Facebook page with a meme that had friends and fans sharing what they had learned from him.
At the time of his death, Clark was in the process of developing a new business, Tell-Tale Heart, with several partners.
He is survived by his parents Gene, Carol, and Max.
To get an idea of the energy and intelligence he brought to the world, watch these panels moderated by Clark at DIY days and at last year’s New York Film Festival Convergence conference.