Early in my career, I found myself having to run interference between Silicon Valley and Hollywood. In those days, Hollywood was more afraid of Silicon Valley and how it could impact them. The MP3 music wars had just started, and they feared something similar could happen to TV and movie videos.
On the other hand, they deeply embraced the digital tools Silicon Valley was giving them to create special effects and content as well as provide the next generation of editing tools that helped advance their industries. I made many trips down to MPAA to meet with officials to discuss how Silicon Valley and the TV and Movie industry could work together and was even asked to address key members of the American Film Institute about the future of tech on their industry.
In one of my more unusual claims to fame, I was the first to suggest to one of the largest talent agencies that they needed to add a clause to all of their famous clients that made sure the stars they represented owned the digital rights to their performances. I remember the agent, who represented some of the top talents in the music industry, abruptly leaving the meeting we had and getting on the phone to his lawyers to get this clause in place fast.
But it took Hollywood another two decades to finally understand and embrace the fact that Silicon Valley could really help their industries thrive and now they are more in step with their digital future.
That does not mean they are not still afraid of Silicon Valley. The fact that Netflix, Amazon, and Apple are becoming TV and movie studios of their own, mean’s the competition is more significant for them. On the other hand, those studios and production companies who view Amazon, Apple, and Netflix as collaborators and work with them, gain serious partners whose distribution gives them millions of new customers for their programs.
However, the group in Hollywood that is benefitting the most from Silicon Valley today is the current and fledgling talented actors, actresses, writers and producers that have struggled to get their work and talent recognized by the giant movie and TV studios. Now they are getting a chance to have their work looked at by Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and others and get more opportunities to be seen and heard. This is especially true for indie film and documentary producers and the various talented people involved in these projects.
I once had the privilege of having lunch with the late Harry Anderson, the lovable judge on TV’s Night Court, who told me about his struggle as an actor to get discovered and that his choice to be cast as the judge came about from chance contacts and some real luck. He was a struggling actor that as he said “really got lucky” and this show propelled him to fame. Harry Anderson was also a talented writer and, even with his success, was still having some of his work and projects rejected for various reasons.
I have been speaking with friends in Hollywood who have told me that, thanks to Netflix, Apple Amazon and others in tech who are backing many new video projects that the creative juices in Hollywood have accelerated and more writers, producers, actors and actresses who are very talented are finding new projects being green-lighted.
In fact, my friends tell me there is an insatiable appetite from these big tech firms to find and back a plethora of video projects to meet the growing demand of their customers for on-demand streaming content.
I am especially pleased that these tech giants are backing all types of documentaries that, for decades, were hard sells in Hollywood. While movies and TV series that tell stories are in highest demand, documentaries can also tell stories and at the same time deliver educational content and even calls to action.
I have spent time with actors and actresses as well as some producers in Hollywood and watched their struggles to get their video projects brought to the big or small screens. While this may not be the golden age for Hollywood as it was in the early days, the advent of tech companies becoming movie and tv producers is important. Their need to get all types of content for their streaming services, is bringing a new kind of glory days to this creative community that has some of the most innovative and talented people on the planet.