Sharing his views with Producer/Director Reginald Hudlin (Django Unchained), J.J. Abrams deftly danced around content-related questions about the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, only stating his preference to shoot in Los Angeles (even though the film is already slated to begin production in London in early 2014). Since Abrams’ Bad Robot has so many film and television projects currently in production or development, he talked about his role in the company and the importance of his staff of talented people to keep all those projects moving forward on a day-to-day basis.
Iconic Producer Jerry Bruckheimer (The Lone Ranger) provided key insights during his session with Entertainment Journalist Pete Hammond, speaking quite candidly about the structure of his company and the people on staff that develop and produce a large volume of film and television projects. Bruckheimer talked about his evolution from working on TV spots for a Detroit ad agency to his current status as an A-list producer. It was especially interesting to hear his frank discussion about how he was able to resurrect The Lone Ranger by finding creative ways to reduce costs by millions after Disney canceled it due to budget issues. Bruckheimer made a strong point about never giving up on a project he believes in, as there are always ways to make things work if one is passionate and creative enough.
Other Produced By sessions reflected the diversity of PGA content for a variety of platforms and genres. Talks covered the gamut, ranging from blockbuster theatrical releases and online Hulu content to using video games as a launching pad for potential franchises. One panel focused on the latest industry buzzword “transmedia” — and everyone on the panel seemed to have a different definition. Essentially, transmedia involves producing complementary content for a variety of platforms (i.e. theatrical, TV, Internet, games and mobile devices), each of which explore the world and characters featured in the primary intellectual property (IP) platform. For example, the Syfy series “Defiance” is complemented by an online game of the same name that’s set in the same universe.
On the legal side, one fascinating session featured some of the most prominent entertainment lawyers talking about contracts, contract enforcement, and things a producer and legal team can do to make sure those contracts are honored, especially when it comes to profit participation. Nuts-and-bolts sessions included a case study presentation by Adobe that demonstrated how Filmmaker Kyle Alvarez used Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe video tools to take his new film C.O.G. from ideation to creation to a screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in record time; a joint presentation by ARRI and Technicolor on the current state-of-the-art workflows in production and post; and Entertainment Partners’ session on maximizing a production budget by strategically taking advantage of domestic and international production incentives.
The organizers of this year’s Produced By Conference once again offered attendees an overflowing wealth of topics to choose from — this was both a blessing and a curse, as every other hour offered three different sessions. Note to the PGA: The information and insights of these sessions are often so intense, it seems almost criminal that no one captured these sessions for archival purposes, so attendees can later catch up on the sessions they missed. And as for that bald eagle, she was a guest of Piksik LLC, an Alaskan production services company specializing in film and video support services. The Piksik folks were, of course, touting the benefits of and their assistance with shooting in Alaska. Needless to say, the opportunity to get up close and personal with a real, live bald eagle proved to be one of the biggest hits of the event. A splendid time was had by all.