Microsoft, Hollywood debate future of entertainment

A collection of artists and technologists gathered Tuesday to discuss the many ways in which the entertainment industry has been radically shifted.

The future of entertainment was the topic of debate for a star-studded panel that featured Twitter founder Biz Stone, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Microsoft Senior VP Yusuf Mehdi, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, musician T-Bone Burnett, Hangover director Todd Phillips andMad Men creator Matthew Weiner.
The future of entertainment was the topic of debate for a star-studded panel that featured Twitter founder Biz Stone, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Microsoft Senior VP Yusuf Mehdi, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, musician T-Bone Burnett, Hangover director Todd Phillips andMad Men creator Matthew Weiner. Ina Fried/CNET

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--While entertainment is as old as cave paintings and singing around a fire, technology is radically changing the day-to-day lives of filmmakers, actors, musicians, and other entertainers as well as those who consume their work.

That was the takeaway from a panel of entertainers, speaking Tuesday night at the SoHo Lounge here. The panel was part of a Bing event, where Microsoft announced a bunch of new entertainment features for its search engine, including the ability to watch more TV shows and listen to full-length songs from within Bing.

Some participants were clearly more on their host's message than others. Seacrest, for example, mentioned Bing quite often, suggesting at one point that lots of people were "Binging themselves."

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, meanwhile, referenced two Apple products--Garage Band and iMovie--as he talked about the democratization of entertainment through technology.

In any case, the fact that all one needs is a laptop to tell their story is a good thing, he said. "Better stories are going to be told because more people get to tell them." That, he said, is preferable to the world he inhabits, which he said is "lets admit it, an often narrow-minded Hollywood industry."

Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow said that content remains the focus, regardless of the medium or technology.

"I'm really content-driven," she said. "Technology is there as a delivery system," she said, adding that it is "a really fabulous delivery system."

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner said that the technology revolution is having much more impact on the business side of things, where it is downright scary. "I don't think entertainment changes," he said.

That said, it is being consumed in ways he never imagined, such as on cell phones. "I didn't design my work to be (viewed) on a phone," he said. But, he added, it is reaching a new audience, even if it is someone sweating at the gym. "It's thrilling," he said.

Technology is also allowing for nearly instant feedback for entertainers, via things like Twitter. Though instant, several panelists noted that it is not always the whole picture. "It is dominated by negative voices, at least in my head," Weiner said.

Weiner said he likes the fact that Twitter helps build an audience, but doesn't like the fact that people are Tweeting while they are watching.

"That bugs me," he said. "Just watch it and talk afterwards."

It gnaws at him as an artist, he said. "Part of being a writer is you do want to speak uninterrupted for some period of time."

"I don't believe in multistasking," he said, noting that people are doing multiple things badly, pointing to how badly driving mixes with talking on the phone.

 

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