[ Digital cinema, democratization, and other trends remaking the movies ]

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Videogamers: Your next job awaits

On Wednesday, I had a fun conversation with Allan Yasnyi, a well-regarded consultant and former TV exec, and the founding executive director of USC's Entertainment Technology Center.

We met at the Palm Restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd, always a fun spot. I basically asked Allan the same question a dozen different ways: why is it that movie studios insist on seeing new technologies as a threat, rather than an opportunity?

Allan had a great take on that. In the 1960s and 1970s, television executives who took the top jobs at movie studios brought in fresh ideas, reinvigorating the industry after it had flat-lined in the 1950s. He sees the industry as similarly stalled today. "And it will stay flat-lined until all the major studios are run by gamers," Allan says.

"It's historically the case that those who don't have legacy issues can think more creatively," he continues. "Gamers don't view digital as a barbarian at the gate. They understand what the audience wants." Allan says that bringing the audience into the experience, making it more immersive and more interactive, will be essential.

We talked a bit about machinima, and Allan seemed to like the notion of making a movie, and then offering the audience the ability to tell their own story using digital assets - like characters, sets, and music - from that movie. Couldn't that be a new revenue stream for studios? `You've seen the movie, now buy the digital paintbox and make your own spin-off or sequel...'

In the future, Allan imagines that movies will be perpetually edited to appeal to the tastes of different audiences. "If the 8 PM showing on Tuesday and Thursday needs to be different from Wednesday and Friday, that'll be possible," he said. One might be a family-friendly version, another racier. A football movie like "Friday Night Lights" might have added footage from the big game for special showings geared to hard-core sports fans.

Right now, piracy is the universal reason offered up in Hollywood for why new ideas shouldn't be tried, Allan said. "It's viewed as a reason not to do something," he said. "And there are always a thousand reasons not to do something. You have to find the one reason to do it."

Allan pointed out that while there aren't yet any gamers running studios, in the few months after someone new ascends to the CEO's seat, as Bob Iger just did at Disney, they have a rare opportunity to shake things up. He said that Iger's comments about tinkering with movie release windows could be a good sign of more experiments to come from Disney.

I'd say that, aside from what Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner are doing at 2929 Entertainment, Disney is definitely the player to watch right now.