The topic was cracking Hollywood code at the LeanLA panel discussion in Santa Monica for an audience of 250 "hackers, technologists, founders, developers and marketers in the LA area," said meetup organizer Patrick Vlaskovits (@pv), author of The Entrepreneur Guide to Customer Development and The Lean Entrepreneur.
It was interesting for me coming from the other side of the discussion to hear the tech sector's adventures in Hollywood -- their needs, frustrations and successes, very much mirroring the plight of filmmakers in their need for financing, celebrity participation and to create the next big franchise.
"Please tweet the shit out of this," said Vlaskovits before introducing the all-male panel, visually re-enforcing the need for more female leadership in the tech sector. The speakers included: Brian Norgard, co-founder of Chill ; Eric Galen, founder of Music180.com; Matt Kozlov of Moonshark; Matt Mazzeo, Executive in Business Development at CAA; Matt Sandler, CEO and co-founder of Chromatik; Rob Bonstein, General Manager of The Creed Company; and Abe Burns, Digital Operations for Guy Oseary.
The question that drove the majority of the panel conversation is how to get a celebrity engaged in a startup, both as an endorsement or in the content and which ones are "the next Ashton Kutcher." Burns noted that celebrity isn't always required: "If you have a good product it's going to be used."
"But in an era when social gaming is a $6 billion dollar industry, celebrities are starting to take notice," said Kozlov. "Social games are now like movie franchises. Look at Angry Birds."
The panel agreed that the recent "Kill Hollywood" sentiment coming out of Silicon Valley is naive at best, noting that platforms will always require good storytellers and the capacity to license exclusive content.
The major frustrations included the glacial pace of Hollywood development as compared the lightening speed of the tech sector, the major complaint being that by the time a Hollywood entity takes a meeting, or even action, the technology has moved on. The other the perception was that the tech sector was a meritocracy, where the best ideas win. Many in the room had hit the wall that many of us in the industry take as a given, that "no" isn't always motivated and often times the best idea takes a backseat to, well, who knows.
"Ultimately, the future of Hollywood is certainly technology driven, Vlaskovits noted. "I think we are in the beginnings of a global entrepreneurship renaissance, it gladdens me that LeanLA can be tiny part of that."