UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television,
USC School of Cinematic Arts &
USC Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism
Transmedia Hollywood 3: Rethinking Creative Relations
April 6, 2012, USC
As transmedia models become more central to the ways that the entertainment industry operates, the result has been some dramatic shifts within production culture, shifts in the ways labor gets organized, in how productions get financed and distributed, in the relations between media industries, and in the locations from which creative decisions are being made. This year’s Transmedia Hollywood examines the ways that transmedia approaches are forcing the media industry to reconsider old production logics and practices, paving the way for new kinds of creative output. Our hope is to capture these transitions by bringing together established players from mainstream media industries and independent producers trying new routes to the market. We also hope to bring a global perspective to the conversation, looking closely at the ways transmedia operates in a range of different kinds of creative economies and how these different imperatives result in different understandings of what transmedia can contribute to the storytelling process–for traditional Hollywood, the global media industries, and for all the independent media-makers who are taking up the challenge to reinvent traditional media-making for a “connected” audience of collaborators.
Many of Hollywood’s entrenched business and creative practices remain deeply mired in the past, weighed down by rigid hierarchies, interlocking bureaucracies, and institutionalized gatekeepers (e.g. the corporate executives, agents, managers, and lawyers). In this volatile moment of crisis and opportunity, as Hollywood shifts from an analog to a digital industry, one which embraces collaboration, collectivity, and compelling uses of social media, a number of powerful independent voices have emerged. These include high-profile transmedia production companies such as Jeff Gomez’s Starlight Runner Entertainment as well as less well-funded and well-staffed solo artists who are coming together virtually from various locations across the globe. What these top-down and bottom-up developments have in common is a desire to buck tradition and to help invent the future of entertainment. One of the issues we hope to address today is the social, cultural, and industrial impact of these new forms of international collaboration and mixtures of old and new work cultures.
Another topic that will be addressed is the future of independent film. Will creative commons replace copyright? Will crowdsourcing replace the antiquated foreign sales model? Will the guilds be able to protect the rights of digital laborers who work for peanuts? What about audiences who work for free? Given that most people today spend the bulk of their leisure time online, why aren’t independent artists going online and connecting with their community before committing their hard-earned dollars on a speculative project designed for the smallest group of people imaginable–those that frequent art-house theaters?
Fearing obsolescence in the near future, many of Hollywood’s traditional studios and networks are looking increasingly to outsiders–often from Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue–to teach these old dogs some new tricks. Many current studio and network executives are overseeing in-house agencies, whose names–Sony Interactive Imageworks, NBC Digital, and Disney Interactive Media Group–are meant to describe their cutting-edge activities and differentiate themselves from Hollywood’s old guard. Creating media in the digital age is “nice work if you can get it,” according to labor scholar Andrew Ross in a recent book of the same name. Frequently situated in park-like “campuses,” many of these new, experimental companies and divisions are hiring large numbers of next generation workers, offering them attractive amenities ranging from coffee bars to well-prepared organic food to basketball courts. However, even though these perks help to humanize the workplace, several labor scholars (e.g. Andrew Ross, Mark Deuze, Rosalind Gill) see them as glittering distractions, obscuring a looming problem on the horizon–a new workforce of “temps, freelancers, adjuncts, and migrants.”
While the analog model still dominates in Hollywood, the digital hand-writing is on the wall; therefore, the labor guilds, lawyers, and agent/managers must intervene to find ways to restore the eroding power/leverage of creators. In addition, shouldn’t the guilds be mindful of the new generation of digital laborers working inside these in-house agencies? What about the creative talent that emerges from Madison Avenue ad agencies like Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, makers of the Asylum 626 first-person horror experience for Doritos; or Grey’s Advertising, makers of the “Behind the Still” collective campaign for Canon? Google has not only put the networks’ 30-second ad to shame using Adword, but its Creative Labs has taken marketing to new aesthetic heights with its breathtaking Johnny Cash [collective] Project. Furthermore, Google’s evocative Parisian Love campaign reminds us just how intimately intertwined our real and virtual lives have become.
Shouldn’t Hollywood take note that many of its most powerful writers, directors, and producers are starting to embrace transmedia in direct and meaningful ways by inviting artists from the worlds of comic books, gaming, and web design to collaborate? These collaborations enhance the storytelling and aesthetic worlds tenfold, enriching “worlds” as diverse as The Dark Knight, The Avengers, and cable’s The Walking Dead. Hopefully, this conference will leave all of us with a broader understanding of what it means to be a media maker today–by revealing new and expansive ways for artists to collaborate with Hollywood media managers, audiences, advertisers, members of the tech culture, and with one another.
PANEL 1 (9:15-11:15): “Realigned Work-Worlds: Hollywood/Silicon Valley/Madison Avenue” Denise Mann, moderator
This panel seeks to capture the unruly, still unfolding, wild wild west moment of cultural-industrial conversion taking place in both virtual and real-world workplaces as Hollywood looks for top-down solutions to engaging with consumers where they live–online. Once the dominant players in the content industry, Hollywood today is having to look as far away as Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue for collaborators in the 2.0 space. Many in Hollywood are trying to bridge the gap between the old and new ways of doing business, describing their operations as “Silicon Valley startups within a big media company.” Disney is buying out the founders of social experiments like Club Penguin, Togetherville, and Playdom in order to reinvent their family business for the connected generation. In each instance, Hollywood’s old guard is having to rely on a new generation of entrepreneurs from the tech and geek communities to teach them how to navigate the 21st century.
Panel Two (11:30-1:30): “Creative Economies: Commercial vs. State-Based Models”
Henry Jenkins, moderator
In the United States, transmedia production has been often coupled with issues of promotion and branding, because of the ways that production is funded in a Hollywood studio or network television models. But, around the world, in countries where there is strong state support for media production, alternative forms of transmedia are taking shape, which are governed by different imperatives (cultural, educational, artistic). How has transmedia fit within the effort of nation-states to promote and expand their creative economies? What can commercial media producers learn from these alternative models and approaches? How might these developments further expand our understanding of what transmedia is and what it can contribute to the language of storytelling? What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating transmedia content under these different kinds of creative economies?
Panel Three (2:30-4:30): “Working on the Margins–Who Pays for Transformative Works of Art?” Denise Mann, moderator
The independent film industry isn’t working any longer–so says powerful indie producer Ted Hope, who now advocates for using transmedia entertainment models that allow media-makers to engage directly with fans, and in the process, rethink old production, marketing, and distribution patterns that no longer make sense in the 21st century. A new generation of media-makers, actors, writers, directors, and producers are taking concrete steps to reinvent bottom-up entertainment for the contemporary, connected, tech-savvy audience. For some independent-minded creators, the best way to connect with today’s self-aware audience is by creating a self-mocking, self-reflexive web series like The Guild or Dr. Horrible. For others, the best way to engage with the audience is by creating collective works of art via star-driven companies like hitRECord or Funny or Die. The impulse behind each of these works of collective intelligence is to take art out of the rarified world of crumbling art-house theaters, museums, and galleries and put it back into the hands of the masses– creating an immersive, interactive, and collective works of transmedia entertainment, made by and for the people who enjoy it most.
Panel 4 (4:45-6:45): “Creative Intersections: How Comics Fit into the Transmedia Ecology”
Henry Jenkins, moderator
By many accounts, the comics industry in the United States struggles to survive, with mainstream titles facing declining readerships, despite some growth in the sales of independent graphic novels through bookstores. Yet, the comics industry has never played a more central role in the entertainment industry as a whole, with comics seeding more and more film and television franchises, and with comics performing important functions within larger transmedia projects. So, how can we understand the paradoxical status of the comics industry? In what ways are these other media outlets helping to subsize the production of printed comics? What kinds of advantages does content audience-tested through comics bring to other media industries? Why have so many television series sought to extend their narratives through graphic novels in recent years? As comics are brought to the screen, what do the producers owe to the fans of the original material as opposed to new viewers who may have little to no awareness of the series’ origins in comics? What lessons might transmedia producers learn from the larger history of extended universes and intertexuality within comics?
Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communications, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California. He is the author or editor of 15 books on various aspects of media and popular culture, including Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (1992), Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (2006) and with Sam Ford and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media: Creating Media and Value in a Networked Culture (Fall, 2012).
Denise Mann is Associate Professor and Head of the Producers Program at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. Her most recent book is Hollywood Independents: The Postwar Talent Takeover (Minnesota, 2008). Previously, Mann co-edited Private Screenings: Television & the Female Consumer (Minnesota, 1992) and has published articles on television and consumer culture in a range of journals. Mann served as an associate editor on Camera Obscura, a journal of feminism and film theory, for six years.
Ivan Askwith is Senior Director of Digital Media at Lucasfilm, where he oversees strategic and creative direction for the wide range of online, mobile, social and cross-platform initiatives that make up the digital presence of Star Wars, Lucasfilm, and the company’s other properties. Previously, he was the Director of Strategy at Big Spaceship.
Morgan Bouchet is Transmedia and Social Media Vice President of the Content Division of Orange and is Director of the Orange Transmedia Lab . Orange is a brand of France Telecom, the main telecommunications company in France (and one of the world’s largest). Bouchet joined France Telecom in 2000, developing content experiences and Vod products before moving to transmedia and social media. Prior to France Telecom, Bouchet was manager of the New Media division of FKGB, a French entertainment marketing company.
Angela Chen Caplan
Angela Cheng Caplan is the President and CEO of Cheng Caplan Company, Inc., a boutique literary/talent management and production company based in Los Angeles, California, representing Academy Award nominated filmmakers, best-selling book authors, Pulitzer Prize winning journalists and world famous comic book creators such as Brian Wood
Director Katerina Cizek is an Emmy-winning documentary-maker working across many media platforms. Cizek directs the National Film Board of Canada’s Highrise series on residential skyscrapers. For five years, she was the National Film Board of Canada’s Filmmaker-in-Residence at an inner-city hospital, in a many-media project that won a 2008 Webby Award, a Banff Award, and a Canadian New Media Award.
Sara Diamond is the President of the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University, Canada’s “university of the imagination.” Prior to her presidency at OCAD University, Dr. Diamond was the Artistic Director of Media and Visual Art and Director of Research at the Banff Centre, where in 1995 she created the Banff New Media Institute (BNMI) and led it for 10 years. Dr. Diamond holds a PhD in computer science and degrees in new media theory and practice, social history, and communications from the United Kingdom and Canada.
Dr. Christy Dena is the director of Universe Creation 101, an organization that creates and consults cross-media narrative development. As a transmedia analyst, she collaborated with colleagues Tim Kring, Nokia and The company P on Conspiracy for Good, a Digital Emmy-nominated alternate reality experience (2011 Digital Emmy-nominated alternate reality experience. Another recent project includes curating and co-organizing Transmedia Victoria, an industry conference and workshop for the Australia Council of the Arts. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney, a postgraduate diploma in Creative Writing from University of Melbourne, and a B.A. in Visual and Performing Arts from Monash University.
Nick De Martino
Nick De Martino is a media and technology consultant and was Senior Vice President of Media and Technology at the American Film Institute for 20 years before retiring in 2010. Under his direction, AFI and Apple Computer developed the first training lab for Hollywood filmmakers, the beginning of many collaborations with high-powered technology companies (that also included Adobe, Intel, and IBM, among others). The Los Angeles Business Journal named De Martino a leader in technology twice, and in 2006, the Hollywood Reporter and the Producer’s Guild of America’s New Media Council ranked De Martino #3 in the “Digital 50” which recognizes digital innovaters.
Jennifer Holt is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. She specializes in the areas of media industry studies, film and television history, and media policy. Her current research looks at regulation and policy in the era of digitization and convergence. She is the co-editor of Media Industries: History, Theory, and Method (Blackwell, 2009) and author of Empires of Entertainment (Rutgers UP, 2011), which examines deregulation and media conglomeration from 1980-1996. She is also the Co-Director of the Carsey-Wolf Center’s Media Industries Project.
Ted Hope has produced Academy-Award nominated independent films such as 21 Grams (2003), The Savages (2007), and In The Bedroom (2001). Three of his entries to the Sundance Film Festival have won the Grand Jury Prize: American Splendor (2003), The Brothers McMullen (1995), and What Happened Was.. (1994). In the early 1990s, he co-founded Good Machine, an independent film production and distribution company that went to become Focus Features. Currently, Hope works from his New York-based indie production house, This Is That, which he co-founded in 2002. He is the recipient of the 2009 Vision Award from the LA Filmmakers’ Alliance as well as the Woodstock Film Festival’s Honorary Trailblazer Award.
Gareth Kay is Chief Strategy Officer of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, an ad agency based in San Francisco. He joined GS&P as the Director of Digital Strategy in 2009. Prior to joining GS&P, Kay was Head of Planning at Modernista!, where he oversaw the strategic direction of all accounts including Cadillac, HUMMER, Napster and (RED). Gareth began his career in the UK and worked at TBWA, dfgw and Lowe. Gareth serves on the boards of Boulder Digital Works and the VCU Brandcenter, and sits on the Google Creative Leadership Council.
Katherine Keller is a “Founding Tart” and the current Culture Vultures
Editrix at Sequential Tart. She is married to Ralph Mathieu, owner of
the Eisner nominated Alternate Reality Comics. (Yes, she married her
neighborhood comic shop owner.) In her day job she works at the Lied
Library, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is passionate about
comics, pop culture, fandom, and open access publishing.
Joe LeFavi, is a transmedia producer and brand strategist who launched consultancy Quixotic Transmedia in 2010. His company provided the transmedia strategy for Immortals (2011), Relativity Media’s highest grossing film. He has also collaborated with I am Rogue, Lionsgate and Crest Animation. In addition, his company has published motion comics for Platinum’s Cowboys & Aliens, numerous titles for Archaia such as Immortals and Johnny Recon, and over 100+ titles for The Jim Henson Company, which includes their line of Archaia graphic novels.
Jordan Levin is founding partner and CEO of Generate, a management and cross-platform production company in Los Angeles. Levin is best known for co-founding the WB, where he where he helped develop a distinctive brand of young-skewing shows (Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and served as the youngest-ever network CEO.
Sheila C. Murphy
Shelia C. Murphy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Screen Arts & Cultures at the University of Michigan. Murphy is also the author of How Television Invented New Media (Rutgers UP, 2011). She received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Rochester and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Visual Studies from the University of California, Irvine. From teletubbies to cybernetics, television to “convergence,” net.art and hacking, her interest lies in visual discourse of and cultural rhetoric about how, why, when and where we use computers and incorporate them into our everyday life.
Jose Padhila is a Brazilian filmmaker and producer. His credits include Bus 174, Elite Squad, and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, a trilogy that explores corruption and brutality in Brazil. Elite Squad won the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2008, one of Padhila’s many filmmaking awards. Upcoming films include Robocop, Words with Gods and Rio, eu te amo.
Mike Richardson is the current president of Dark Horse Comics, a comics publishing company he founded in 1986, as well as the president of Dark Horse Entertainment, which has developed and produced numerous projects for film and television based on Dark Horse or other licensed properties. Dark Horse publishes many licensed comics, including comics based on Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Predator, Mass Effect, and Conan; the company also publishes creator owned comics such as Frank Miller’s Sin City and 300, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, Paul Chadwick’s Concrete, and Michael Chabon’s The Escapist.
Mark Verheiden is a writer for comics, movies, and television. He is a co-executive producer for the television series Falling Skies for DreamWorks Television and the TNT Network. Verheiden was also a writer and consulting producer for Heroes and a a writer and co-executive producer on the television series Battlestar Galactica. Verheiden’s introduction into writing comics came in June 1987, when he penned The American, which was published by Dark Horse Comics. Verheiden has written many series for Dark Horse based on both the Aliens and Predator series of films.
Mary Vogt is a costume designer who has been Emmy-nominated for her work on Pushing Daisies (2008). She was the costume designer for the Men in Black movies, Batman Returns (1992), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), and the 2010 Tamil (South Asian) science fiction blockbuster, Endhiran (Robot).
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Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre, USC Cinematic Arts Complex, Los Angeles
The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes are available for Parking Structure D (PSD) for $8.00 at Entrance Gate #4, located off Jefferson Blvd. at Royal Street (east of Hoover Street). The School of Cinematic Arts is down 34th Street (heading away from Figueroa) from the Parking Structure. To view a map of the Parking Structures and Entrance Gates, visit http://web-app.usc.edu/maps/
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Extra Event: Teaching Transmedia
As more and more colleges and universities are teaching courses in transmedia enertainment, crossmedia design, and convergence culture, Transmedia Hollywood wants to invite people interested in exchanging resources or trading experiences to gather for a special “birds of a feather” meeting at the Annenberg Innovation Lab on the eve of the conference — April 5 — at 7 pm. If you want to come, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org