November 15, 2010

Where’s Nessa?

If I’m honest I didn’t want to like LA. I thought it could be the type of place you get to and are desperate to leave. Friends of mine who live here have had me baffled for years. Don’t get me wrong I can understand coming here to get a sense of it. Like you would any place that is different to where you call home, but I couldn’t quite grasp why you’d leave everything European for here. However, from the moment I arrived I have felt utterly at home. The superficiality I was certain to find hasn’t surfaced yet and it’s been a week. Infact I’ve found everyone to be positively charming, quick witted and more than a little quirky.

Hotel staff are smart and helpful (unlike San Fran where anyone working in the hospitality industry seemed to be carrying a mighty big lump of rock on their shoulder about something or other – and very quick to tell you all about it too). But no, not LA. Maybe it’s the the wheat grass? – which i tried for the first time yesterday. It tastes good! Just like cut grass with a very sweet and slightly fiery hit at the end. Surprisingly pleasant.

Every day we’ve been met with between 5 to 10 senior studio managers and directors. All giving us their time and answering our – sometimes impertinent – questions. We’ve been shown some of the most up to date projects going on at both Walt Disney’s Research centre (from physbam simulation, asynchronous integration, to real time performance capture among so many others!) as well as a full afternoon at USC’s Institue for Creative Technologies, where they are working deep in the weeds on such things as Immersion, Virtual Humans, Graphics, Games and simulation, Narrative & Storytelling, and Learning Sciences.

San Francisco was definitely the right place to see first. It is so charged and fast pace that you get on the ball quick smart. It has definitely given me a sense of how differently the two cities operate too. Its the new school ‘v’ old shcool stand off. LA has the money and the power, together with experience and notoriety. They say how they love San Francisco and watch what goes on up there with calm and consideration (also reflective of the general LA attitude.) San Francisco on the other hand does not like being in the ‘little league’. It knows itself to be smart enough, and rich enough yet it still doesn’t get the credit. Silicon Valley and the larger Bay area is working hard to plough the way of the future and the studios aren’t playing ball. They are still peering over the fence. They are taking their time. Sitting back and seeing how it plays out. They’ll join the party – when they’re ready and by their rules.

Obviously this is not only dangerous for the film industry – especially when every CEO is admitting that piracy issues are what keep them awake at night – but it is also hindering the tech communities ability to grow. Where it will lead and how it will end no one knows. One thing is certain, social agencies such as ours have an important role to play in bridging the gap. Pirates are fans – albeit freeloading fans – and what we can do is give the studios the tools with which to communicate with them on their terms. Come into their space, give something more in exchange for loyalty. Help restore the value of ownership. It wont be easy by any means but with forward thinking men like Curt Marvis, President for Digital Media at Lionsgate in the arena it won’t be too long before his peers start to make radical changes to their attitudes towards digital too.

I’m happy to say I have plans this evening. After spending so many days in hotels it will be nice to enter my first LA home of the trip and see just how local people live… 🙂