I've attended my fair share of entertainment industry-related conferences in Los Angeles in the past few years. Perhaps my favorite is the Produced By Conference, put on by the Producers Guild of America. It's a who's who of top-tier producers in film, television and new media collected for a weekend of speaking sessions, workshops, networking events, tech demos and more. It's the place to be to learn about current and evolving trends in production, distribution, finance, marketing, as well as branding and media strategy.
At my first Produced By Conference in 2010, I had just completed my first feature on a micro-budget. My goal was to figure out just what I was doing in regards to marketing and distribution. I attended panels with names like "Smashing Windows: DIY and the New Hybrid Distribution" and "Mobile Nation -- Creating and Distributing Content That People Will Watch Anywhere." I left the conference with a great sense of clarity and put together a series of action steps that led to my feature getting onto cable VOD, Netflix Watch Instantly and various other platforms. I don't know if I would have been able to make this happen had I not attended the Produced By Conference.
Just prior to last year's conference, I decided I did not want to produce and direct another indie feature I had written. I had fallen out of love with the script, and I also felt as if I had gotten too close to the sun when it comes micro-budget indies. After having directed, produced and marketed one while blogging about my experiences, it became clear to me that the project absolutely has to be a labor of love, or it's really not worth the time and energy. (After all, getting rich off of a micro-budget indie like Paranormal Activity is akin to winning the lottery.) While I fully support the idea of anyone making and marketing an indie feature for the experience, especially instead of going to film school, I personally needed to take a step back and evaluate just what the hell I was doing before I could take a leap forward.
At last year's conference, I attended an excellent panel with showrunners Marc Cherry (Desperate Housewives), Damon Lindeloff (Lost), Andrew Marlowe (Castle), and Darren Star (Sex and the City). I attended a keynote with Mark Gordon and Harvey Weinstein, two producing legends who shed much light on the current state on the entertainment industry. I watched Marshall Hershkovitz interview NBC Chief Robert Greenblatt, and I witnessed Eli Roth drop knowledge for rebellious indie producers like few others can. I left the conference thinking that I wanted to collaborate more and also have some amazing, original comedy pilots in my arsenal. I've spent the last year heading down this path, and all signs have been indicating that I've made the right decision. While I don't have another micro-budget indie under my belt yet, I could always produce and direct another soon.
Anyway, what I love about the Produced By Conference is just how much ground it covers. It doesn't matter if you've yet to produce your first feature or you just produced a sequel to Transformers, there will be panels and workshops that should be of tremendous value. I'll be attending my third Produced By Conference this year, and I'm especially looking forward to the panels "Marketing Innovation: Finding and Keeping Your Audience," "TV's Mega-Producers: Storytelling Across Multiple Series and Networks," "Passion Projects: Making Films Everyone Says Will Never Get Made" (with Brian Grazer and Peter Berg) and "The New Networks: The Future of Original Programming." More so than just about any other conference I can think of, the Produced By Conference has been a great source of clarity for me. It's one conference that I look forward to attending each year, and if you're serious about producing on any level, I couldn't recommend it more highly.
The Produced By Conference in association with the International CES takes place June 8-10, 2012 on the historic Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City.