Hollywood Makes an Appearance at TechCrunch (Panel Recap)

Proof that things are changing in online video: the TechCrunch conference has a Hollywood panel. Here are my notes. They’re a mix of quotes and paraphrase.

Michael Arrington, TechCrunch: Thoughts on collision of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, how they’re going to merge eventually?

Michael Yanover, CAA: I think Silicon Valley and Hollywood are finally getting to know each other. The two sides have been talking but not really listening to each other, and we’re finally getting to a moment where they appreciate and respect each other.

In Silicon Valley things are very iterative, things change and morph over time and it’s a process. In Hollywood things are more in the can; people create something and put it out there and get a response. You’ll see as there’s more of a convergence of television programming and online content, I think content will be created in a different way. I think as technology gets more advanced thing will be created with this interactivity and fan component from the beginning.

Arrington: Are your clients getting over their fear of Silicon Valley?

Yanover: Our clients are excited about this area. I think the studios and the folks at that level have been a little more reluctant. Look at Robert Zemeckis or Steven Spielberg, or starting with Charlie Chaplin, who would embrace technology and push the boundary.

Matthew Diamond, Alloy Media + Marketing: I think the consumer and our focus is the youth market, they don’t put these fine lines that we do between them. Whether they’re on their computer or watching television, they don’t put the line between it that we sometimes do.

Chris Henchy, Gary Sanchez Productions (Funny or Die):
This is the first I’ve heard of this conflict. I want to apologize if anyone from down south is giving you attitude (laughter). I’ve been up here for a couple days, things are great.

Arrington: Joss, apart from just being generally awesome, what do you think about this?

Joss Whedon (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog): The excitement that’s being generated right now really exists between the creative people and the public. As far as Hollywood, the great giant studios, I think they’re just trying to figure it out. They come to it with this great enthusiasm, how can we use this to not pay people, and how can we control all of it. There’s a huge bifurcation between what made YouTube and Funny or Die, and what people in studios are doing trying to create a successful television show where you pour in millions and you get back millions.

Sometimes they do it successfully, but I still think viral marketing is an oxymoron. There’s something that’s done naturally, and there’s something that’s placed. When it’s successful, I don’t know, maybe it’s “bacterial,” I don’t know. The point of Dr. Horrible was just to do something completely free, just to break the barrier. There was either it’s tiny or it’s ginormous. Everything is able to be cheaper, to move faster, and the studios just can’t embrace that yet, because they’re like dinosaurs, they move slowly and they take big steps.

Stan Rogow, Electric Farm (Gemini Division): I have a 15-year-old kid who only watches on the computer, didn’t know CSI was on CBS, only on YouTube. That’s why when two big networks got together they called it Hulu, because there’s negative connotations.

Arrington: Was YouTube the wake-up call?

Yanover: I think YouTube did capture a moment on a number of levels, just like the music industry had their wake-up call, this was the first time they were threatened. Changed things for Flash and Adobe. I think the low production value informed things for the creative community that you could have more guerilla-style production and you could be successful online.

Henchy: We’re learning as we go along. I had this idea that videos on Funny or Die should stay on Funny or Die. And this guy told me your videos will do better if they’re out there. So we’re looking at that now, these are all things that are evolving. I don’t think CAA would have let us do stuff where they put one of their biggest stars in a video that took $8 and 45 minutes to make [Will Ferrell in “The Landlord”].

Arrington: Sometimes I want to sit down at the television and just watch.

Rogow: All of us are trying to provide different opportunities for viewers to engage in different kinds of content in a different way.

Arrington: Do any studios get it?

Whedon: No… Fans said when Dr. Horrible soundtrack came out, this sounds better than the pirated one. Piracy is going to happen. But they also said quite plainly we want to pay for this.

Rogow: There needs to be some way to make money off of this.

Arrington: Are Hollywood stars engaging with their fans online?

Whedon: One way is to embrace it, one way is to cloak yourself to stay away from the mundane. I see Harrison Ford in the Jimmy Kimmel thing, and I say “Oh, that’s Harrison Ford.” It kind of takes away.

Pictured: Joss Whedon, courtesy of TechCrunch.