Ryan Seacrest smiled as he began the panel with this fastball: "What is the future of entertainment?" But the group of industry innovators jumped right in.
From left to right: Biz Stone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Todd Philips, Ryan Seacrest, Yusuf Mehdi, Matt Weiner, Kathryn Bigelow, T. Bone Burnett, and Phil Spencer.
Ryan Seacrest held down the fort by holding panelists to a time limit and making sure that everyone got a chance to speak. What more could you ask of a moderator?
Yusuf Mehdi, Senior Vice President of Bing, focused the group on three topics: the future of entertainment, fan/consumer interaction, and sources of inspiration.
Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker: "I'm really content-driven. So I think that technology is there as a kind of fabulous delivery system, but I think that the emphasis is on content and idea. What's the future of that? What's the past of that? I think it's constantly challenging the ideas, challenging the medium, challenging what entertainment can do in our lives. Is it there to enable us to escape, or is it there to inform us? I think of film as a place where the news leaves off. As the news becomes more entertaining, I think film needs to become more informative."
Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter: "A friend of mine that I grew up with is actually in the TV industry, and he recently shot the finale of House using a camera that cost $2,000 that you can buy on Amazon.com. And he also made a lot of changes in terms of process, to save a lot of money through the course of a season. I think when you talk about the future of media and entertainment, you also have to talk about how the process can be improved, and how it can be streamlined, and how it can be optimized to be cheaper, and get people home on time."
Microsoft Games VP Phil Spencer: "So much of our medium over the last decade has been about one-way access: pressing a disc, sending millions of them out, hoping people play your game. Now you see things like Farmville that go out, and in about nine months, you have 30 million people playing your game online. So access to those customers is extremely interesting. But it's actually two-way access, actually letting people tell you what they like, and not finishing the end of the story before you start the beginning of the story, letting the community tell the story with you."
Todd Philips, director of The Hangover: "The word is out on a movie very quickly nowadays. That interaction with the audience, that quick feedback has changed even the way Hollywood markets things. It seems to me, now, their marketing is true to what the movie is. In other words, they're not trying to trick the audience anymore. I think it's great, and it also makes people make better products."
Matt Weiner, creator of Mad Men: "The idea that you would want to write your own version of things while it's going on, or talk about it while it's going on, and have your iChat on this side [of the screen] and your porn on this side [of the screen] and the Mad Men in the middle, it's just like, 'don't watch it!' I'm going to come to your house and take away your TV!"
T. Bone Burnett, composer: "Barnett Newman said that 'time washes over the tip of the pyramid.' Meaning that there's plenty of room at the bottom of the pyramid to put a lot of things, but time washes it down in the sand very quickly. But if you put something right on the top, it stays there. So the artist's job is to put something right on the top."
Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt: "The tradition of storytelling is a communal thing. If you go back before traditions of movies or even built theaters, way way way back, it's a bunch of people hanging out around a campfire, all talking and singing over each other. We're in the middle of some growing pains as a culture, and that's why people's instinct, when they're watching a show they love, is to want to say something. That obviously does conflict with a tradition that I love, of the proceeding stage. But I think where we're heading is back to where storytelling always came from, which is a communal thing, and I think that's beautiful."
Director Kathryn Bigelow began by questioning entertainment's purpose in our lives:
Is it there to enable us to escape, or is it there to inform us? I think of film as a place where the news leaves off. As the news becomes more entertaining, I think film needs to become more informative.
Matt Weiner, creator of Mad Men, ruefully brought up the fact that people were consuming his show on their phones:
I didn't design my work to be seen on a phone... that's three years of my life, and you watch it sort of disappear in ten seconds while you're sweating [on the treadmill].
Music composer T. Bone Burnett deadpanned, "I think that machines will replace human intelligence, and we'll all be part of a Pavlovian focus group." Seacrest quipped, "Thank you all for coming, the bar is open."
Creative minds huddled together at Bing's "Future Of Entertainment" dialogue at the SoHo House in West Hollywood yesterday evening to discuss the future of the Entertainment Industry, fan/consumer interaction across changing media platforms, and sources of inspiration. KIIS FM radio host (and E! News anchor, and American Idol host, and...) Ryan Seacrest moderated the panel of gamechangers while Bing Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi provided topics and asked questions.
The panelists included Matt Weiner (creator of Mad Men), Kathryn Bigelow (director of The Hurt Locker), Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter), Todd Philips (director of The Hangover), musical composer T. Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack), Microsoft Game Vice President Phil Spencer, and Joseph Gordon Levitt (starred in 500 Days of Summer).
After paying the obligatory homage to classic Hollywood traditions of filmmaking, the panel didn't mince words about what they thought could be replaced. Joseph Gordon-Levitt admitted, "HD video doesn't look the same as film, and I love the way that film looks. But I'll tell you what, I love is being able to make something with just me and two other people" without having to worry about lighting and hitting marks.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone joined in: "It's very expensive. There seems to be a lot of, frankly, bloat and expense involved in shooting something like film." Hangover director Todd Philips added: "You don't need an uncle in the movie business now to make a movie - you can do it at home... the access that technology across the board is providing is just unprecedented."
Mad Men creator Matt Weiner ruffled a few feathers when he blasted multi-screen viewing with a rant about fans tweeting during his show:
The idea that you would want to write your own version of things while it's going on, or talk about it while it's going on, and have your iChat on this side [of the screen] and your porn on this side [of the screen] and the Mad Men in the middle, it's just like, 'don't watch it!' I'm going to come to your house and take away your TV!
Microsoft super-gamer Phil Spencer's reaction: "I guess there is a fundamental question of who the entertainment is for. Is it for the creator or for the people being entertained?"