There’s a big divide between Hollywood and Silicon Valley these days and I’m not referring to the lonely six-hour stretch of the 5 Freeway. I traveled that road last week to take some meetings and noticed differences in the landscape between the two locales and it’s something more than the change from palm trees to pines.
In Hollywood, there’s a certain insistence that one is the last on to sign on to a project, to be the last piece of the puzzle that gets the project a “greenlight.” Investors are reluctant to be the first ones to dive in, most preferring a “packaged” project that already has stars, directors and some initial financing attached. Often, stars won’t sign on until a suitable director and screenplay are in place. Usually, agents will wait until money is there before they sign any of their clients to a project, ensuring that they get what they hope to be a generous 10% commission. Which all goes back to the investors waiting for these elements to fall into place before they’ll put up the money. The system is a catch-22 that can drive an entrepreneurial independent filmmaker crazy.
This “last-one-in” philosophy extends to many facets of the business – last one to show up to a meeting or lunch, there’s no wait; last ones to commit to digital technology or a streaming video service; last ones to realize that this way of doing business is causing some of the most creative minds to forgo Los Angeles for Palo Alto.
Contrast that with Silicon Valley, the land of early adopters. In conversations about the players in the start-up world (gossip is at least a commonality between us), a person is often referenced as “the third or fourth one ‘in’ at fill-in-the-blank start-up” or “the first investor” on a particular venture. There’s a certain pride that comes with taking a risk on a new idea early, as opposed to hopping on and taking credit when it’s a done deal.
The “first-one-in” mentality implies a certain amount of foresight and skill. This entrepreneurial spirit finds older investors teaming up with young tech school dropouts and creating the most innovative games, social media sites and interactive technologies, many of which are not just forms of distribution for us but actually supplanting the content we create down here.
It’s probably no coincidence that filmmakers who’ve been early adopters have fled the antiquated methods of Tinseltown – Lucasfilm and Pixar, both computer graphics-heavy and highly profitable film enterprises spring immediately to mind. Perhaps it’s time to introduce Hollywood to a physics term that the science majors in Silicon Valley are probably more than familiar with – “the path of least resistance.” It’s the road that people want to take in getting great ideas off the ground. And that road, at least for now, seems to be heading north.
Gina Hall is a writer/producer with more than 10 years experience in television, documentary and feature film production. She is a graduate of USC’s school of Cinematic Arts and lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @GScottEnt.