So, that happened: MPAA Creativity Conference

The Motion Picture Association of America, in partnership with Microsoft and ABC News
Creativity Conference
(File under: you invited me!  Also, no surprise, the food was good and the perks nice—you could get your photo made in a James Bond pose with the swirl around you, among other things. Stormtroopers accompanied the MPAA intro: is that really the message you want to send?)
Chris Dodd, MPAA: Film & tv industry = greatest innovators of the country. 1.9 million jobs dependent on flim & TV industry. More than 450 unique online services available for legally streaming movies & TV, more than 100 in the US.  MPAA created a website,, to find them. Tech & content support and rely on one another (Microsoft).
Fred Humphries, Microsoft: Industry is sustaining America’s global competitiveness. Microsoft invests more than $10 billion in R&D each year. Devoted to empowering 300 million young people.  (Wonder about the young people they’re not devoted to empowering …)  Need policies and programs to enable us to do more—gov’t, entertainment, and tech sectors discussing future of growth.
Tom Sebroski (sp?), ABC News: ¾ of consumers about to own smart device.  We don’t want to be left out.  Will we be surfing 500 channels or telling our fridge to play Scandal?  ABC News now available on the Apple Watch and X-Box. We are learning how to tell stories in 6 seconds; storytelling is the heart of the endeavor. Instantly we’re all storytellers w/power of social media w/ability to curate and form our own narratives with one click.  Charleston, SC footage as example.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House Republican Conference Chair
Interviewed by John Carl, White House correspondent for ABC News
Rodgers: our office looks a lot like a startup, because we want to encourage that culture.  (Oh, for Evgeny Morozov commenting on this.) 
Carl: did fictional portrayals of Washington inspire you?
Rodgers: American history, biographies.  (I guess the answer is no.)
Carl: portrayals of Washington are so dark right now—Scandal, House of Cards.
Rodgers: that is a concern; people ask about it.  (Earlier she jokingly blamed House of Cards for Congress’s low approval ratings.) Congress is based on relationships, getting to know each other and finding common ground. People are hungry to get things done.  (Like the TPP, I guess?)
Carl: what’s necessary for creativity to prosper?
Rodgers: Americans taking the risk to fail.  Smart, creative people with ideas for positive impact.  (Wow, this is more anodyne than I thought it could be.)  Sometimes the status quo stamps down any new approach on Capitol Hill. Potential to improve federal gov’t delivery of services—Veterans Administration.  A private company knocked on my door and said it could help.  App providing appointments for doctors that accept your insurance.  The VA gives lots of reasons it can’t do that.  Need to embrace new tools.  (For a very small fee.)  Need to start embracing the ideas of these companies w/in the gov’t. Education, encouraging blended learning.  Bringing tech into the classroom—a student spends a portion of time one on one w/teacher, a portion in a small group, and a portion on the computer, watching a video or getting curriculum from different perspective & taking a test.  Kids love it!
Carl: Trade and the TPP.
Rodgers: I’m optimistic it will pass. 
Carl: you are giving President authority to make the deal.
Rodgers: in the negotiations, this is different than past years. Congress laid out a long list of criteria, and has the committees of jurisdiction allowed to vote up or down if it meets our intent. That provides more oversight.  I’m hopeful.  Good vote on Ways & Means.  Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the country.  We want to make it here and export it there.
Jim Williams, FAA manager.  Unmanned aircraft. We figured out how to approve these aircraft, but can’t grant exemption to everyone at once—has to be individual companies.  Movie companies were attractive model.  (Now we get a drone demo. I think this is also the Star Wars music playing, which again makes me a tad nervous.  I don’t have a lightsaber to fend the drones off.)
Aerial mob drone guy: drones allow continuous motion across 360 degrees, allowing new film angles, movement along path. Low-altitude aerial cinematography: crane shots, etc. can be gotten and combined: we can fly through a front window and out the back door of a building, which is the only way to get that shot.  New creativity, budget savings—a lot faster to set up.  Not just a creative tool—used for many different jobs.  We’re very proud that we’re creating new things with our hands.  Can be used to inspect power lines, turbines, oil pipelines; security robots to monitor a facility; labor resource.  (He’s talking about creating new jobs but the description is of technologies that will allow employers to shed jobs.  That’s not to say these innovations are bad, but query what jobs they create.)  We feel very creative in that we’re developing new businesses. 
Howard Lukk, Indie Filmmaker and Uber Geek: Most of the stuff in Back to the Future 2 is here, except for the flying cars.  (He left out the other part of the quote: “The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.”)
Sidhant Gupta, Researcher, Microsoft: What inspired him growing up was Stargate: SG1.  (One of us!) What tech do they have, what’s next?
Juju Chang, Co-anchor of ABC News Nightline: lifelong Star Trek fangirl.  Engineers are often inspired by creative works.
Lukk: Engineering is a creative field.
Chang: then take the tech and infuse it into the creative process.
Lukk: historically it took 10-15 years for technology to become commercial (film, radio, TV).  But the creative side doesn’t change in terms of storytelling: that’s still the core.
Hollywood is wrestling with VR—changing the passive experience of what the filmmaker wants us to see. VR = look around and see new things, not just the actors.  Audience can have control. How do we get the story across?
Gupta: in video games, you still have cut scenes with director controlling. Still trying to figure out how to let the viewer run the show.
Lukk: most of the time the audience isn’t interested in selecting its own ending.  Game design and filmmaking are likely to merge.
Gupta: in a game if you don’t do well you criticize yourself; in a film you criticize the director.
Haptic technologies: trying to use bursts of air so that it feels like you get feedback from the physical world, e.g. when you hit a curb in a game. Trying to detect gestures without putting a camera everywhere.
Lukk: computational cinematography: use multiple cameras to capture different parts of a scene, allowing sophisticated visual effects.  (That is very cool.)
Gupta: we are moving towards making medical devices to diagnose cancer by sensing in the same way.
Daniel H. Marti, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Executive Office of the President: IP industries accounted for over 60% of US exports.  Recorded music, software, etc. over $156 billion dollars. That’s why it’s so important to protect IP and open foreign markets to US creative content.  This year’s IP Day theme is “Get Up! Stand Up!” for music, invoking Bob Marley’s song—an anthem for human rights. Tap into this spirit/call to action to speak up for artistic communities the world over. Respect right to make a living off artistic labor, and reject those who believe that theft of creative output is acceptable.
Creativity = human expression, building communities. Sharing brings communities together and helps create common identities.  (Well, it depends on what you pay, I guess.)  We need to build a safe, secure, and stable internet.  Fostering multistakeholder processes in which all participants—government, private sector, civil society—can marginalize antisocial/criminal activity. Stakeholder responsibility promotes environment conducive to creativity. Promote innovation in those in the business of connecting creators and consumers. Respecting IP promotes tech for communicating creativity. Desire to tell stories to wider audiences has long chain of innovation, creating new industries along the way—print, film, radio, TV.  (Interesting how all of those industries have an early and sometimes extended history of copying w/out paying that enabled them to get off the ground.  Sauce for the goose?)  (Also I am a little creeped out that he just straight-up introduced a Microsoft ad for its holotechnology, as if he worked for Microsoft and not for the US government.  Truth in advertising?)
U.S. Representative Karen Bass (CA-37): “I represented Fox when I was in the state legislature.”  Upside of redistricting, I got Fox back.  (So she is literally the representative from Fox?)  Stories and characters once thought unmarketable have been catapulted to fame: 12 Years a Slave.
Nancy Utley, President, Fox Searchlight Pictures: some interesting stuff about getting films at film festivals—you could see why she got into this business.  Also discussed that her movies aren’t very effects-driven/tentpole, and screens are pretty big at home, so they need to get people to go to theaters/not wait for Netflix. Sometimes it’s a star, sometime it’s participating in a cultural conversation, sometimes it’s just very different (Black Swan), or awards; it’s easier for older people who don’t mind going out as much.
Juju Chang, ABC Nightline (chair)
Lori McCreary, Executive Producer, “Madam Secretary,” and President, Producers Guild of America
Barbara Hall, Creator & Executive Producer, “Madam Secretary”
Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational & Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State: In Egypt, met with high school students: one asked “do you see drag races every day?”—his impression of US was determined by Fast and Furiousfilms—people who haven’t visited the US think of the US as being its films. No way to overstate the impact of our media globally.  The Interview of course; House of Cardsis popular among the Chinese leadership, who thinks it’s reality-based.  It would be great if film & TV portrayed other countries/the people of other countries as more complex and human in their aspirations.
U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-3): don’t trivialize the hard work of these jobs; women don’t get as many bites at the apple as men do in these jobs. So don’t make them frivolous characters.
This discussion was mainly interesting because of how ego-boosting it was for non-Hollywood types in DC—what did the shows get right and wrong—and for Hollywood from DC’s perspective—how important and influential they are. It’s the entertainment/political/industrial complex.
Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader: Culture, creativity, good jobs.  I had a depressing realization during her conversation with Chris Dodd: Sarah Palin is probably not even two standard deviations away from regular politicians on the word salad scale.  Pelosi finished with: you wouldn’t steal a sweater, so you shouldn’t steal movies because they are property—it’s in the Constitution.
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