Producers Guild Of America Conference Day 1

Sony Jet lag gets me up at 5.45am, and I prepare for the PGA conference. At 8am, Andrew, who I am staying with drops me off at the Sony Studios where I collect my badge to get me into the conference, which is across the road in the main studio complex.

As I walk down the backlot streets, all decked out to look like real streets for filming, I walk right past James Cameron who is on his way, with a small entourage, to his first seminar (which sold out before I even know I was coming! Doh!). Minutes later and I am in the main conference area which houses a small expo of organisations and companies like Kodak, film commissions, and special effects houses. Amazingly, the place is littered with copies of the Kodak InCamera magazine which featured a double page spread (centre pages at that) of ‘Gone Fishing’ earlier this year (original link here). Awesome.

I turn around and there is Gale Anne Hurd right in front of me, meeting and greeting various sponsors. I hover for a moment, trying to get her eye, but she is whisked off before I get my chance to say hello… Next time…

Several exhibitors are demoing new 3D TV technology. Even though I am a big fan of 3D (afte seeing The Creature From The Black Lagoon in 3D as a kid),I had been quite cynical about this ‘re-invention’, that is until I saw the demo. Frankly, it was gob smacking. Real 3D on a living room LCD or Plasma TV. So how does it work? Well first off, to get this in your home (when it arrives in high streets), all you will need to replace is your existing TV. Movies can be delivered off BluRay and I assume SkyHD if they choose. The actual TV has an active layer of polarising material over the screen, which is how the image is delivered to one eye at a time, creating the 3D effect. You still need to wear 3D polarising special glasses, and yes you do get the same old headaches. But for occasional events, such as sports, live concerts and blockbusters, there is no doubt 3D will add that little extra. The TV itself delivered normal TV images as per usual, and as I said, no extra hardware is needed. Will it take off? Who knows, but I do think the killer feature is that it’s a normal TV that can also do 3D – nothing else needed.

The first seminar I attended was about breaking into the business as a producer. The panel were all great, but essentially it all boiled back down to network, network, network, and if you get a foot in the door, be excellent and on the ball. So for me, no news there, just an affirmation of what I already believe.

The second seminar was much more illuminating for me – it was about story telling in the years to come, about convergence of technologies and business models, about creating communities and worlds around your project and thinking way beyond the movie. This isn’t just about merchandising and cashing in on other tie in products, it’s soooo much more. The speakers were all very good and the 'Gone Fishing' experience really fed into the basic message of creating a community around your story and involving that community where possible. The phrase ‘Transmedia’ has been coined to refer to this immersive experience where audiences evolve beyond passive viewers into collaborators, contributors and allies. It’s fascinating stuff and in some ways, part of where I sense my business models may be headed in 2009/10.

The final session was with some heavyweight VFX guys, headed up by Richard Edlund of ILM fame – I later shook his hand and thanked him for an excellent presentation on previsualisation. There was an indepth deconstruction of the sky dive onto the space drill from the recent Star Trek movie, which really showed the value of extensive previsualisation.

The high point for me was when the guys from Roland Emmerichs company gave us a sneek peak at a key set action piece from ‘2012’ where a megaquake hits LA and all hell breaks loose. It was fascinating to see how this all came together, and the result was audience pleasing mayhem. Apparently Roland Emmerichs key phrase is ‘Too much is not enough…’ And it showed.

One thing that struck me over and over was how almost every speaker constantly used words like story, character, movie, audiences, fun, entertaining, successful, story, story, character, movie, movie… and it was always with passion and enthusiasm. It felt very different to the much colder, and dare I say, aloof way in which so many meetings I have sat through in the UK played out.

A long day for sure and with the jet lag I am exhausted. Tomorrow is a day of more seminars and of course, the awards!

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author

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