The Conversation… with Scott Kirsner

Though this website is a direct result of my belief that new technologies are reshaping filmmaking, as well as the relationships that filmmakers have with their audience, I rarely write about the intersections between cinema, the web, gaming, and business. One the reason I don’t is because there’s already someone that does that much better than I could. His name is Scott Kirsner.

A journalist by trade, Kirsner is the author of “The Future of Web Video: Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers”, the editor of CinemaTech (his must-read blog) and a contributor to publications as diverse as has also contributed to Variety, Wired, Salon.com, and BusinessWeek, among others.

Recently, Kirsner announced a new event to be held this fall in Berkeley, called The Conversation.

The Conversation

 

Billed as “a gathering… intended to explore the new business and creative opportunities emerging in 2008,” The Conversation is “targeted to media-makers and technologists who want to understand and help shape the future of the entertainment industry.”

If the list of organizers and “conversation leaders” is any indication, The Conversation will be well worth sitting in on.

In anticipation of the event, Kirsner and I exchanged a couple of Q+A emails. I thought I’d share this (lowercase “c”) conversation with you:

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Your journalism has covered motion pictures, new technologies, the internet, and the intersections of all of these overlapping worlds. But I’ve, at least, always thought of you as a journalist — someone that reports, someone that analyzes. With The Conversation you’re an instigator, a participant.

I’m really interested in innovation, and how new ideas get introduced to the world. It’s fun to write about that, but it’s also fun to bring together people whom I’ve met in my journalistic travels, and get them talking to each other — in person. All kinds of cool sparks fly. That’s what we aim to do with The Conversation. I’ll be there to ask questions and instigate, sure, but I also expect that our participants will do a lot of that, too.

How did The Conversation got started (no pun intended)?

There were two dynamics, really, that led to its creation. One is that a lot of times at film festivals, the discussions about new technologies, new tools, and new business models wind up as a side-show to the main event, which is watching movies. We wanted to do something where mapping out the future and getting up to speed with what other creators are doing would be the central purpose. The second dynamic was that there used to be this great event that happened twice in Montreal, called Digimart. Lance Weiler, Peter Broderick, Tiffany Shlain and I all spoke at the second Digimart a few years ago. It was a great gathering… but it didn’t continue after 2006, and we wanted to keep its spirit alive and take it to a new geography.

One of the things the website says is that The Conversation is “definitely not a conference.” Why make the distinction?

Conferences, to me, are about listening passively. They’re often sold out to sponsors, which means they don’t serve the participants very well. They tend to feature the same old speakers delivering the same old PowerPoint presentations. We’re trying to avoid all that, and simply host a high-energy conversation among people creating change in the entertainment industry.

If you could only ask one question to all the people that will be attending — the presenters and the registered attendees — what would it be?

How is your relationship with your audience changing? That’s a topic I’m obsessed with right now — I think that some of the biggest changes over the next 10 years in TV, film, video, and games are going to revolve around that relationship between creator and audience.

 

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The Conversation unfolds October 17-18 in Berkeley, California. Visit the website for more information and to register.

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