Depending on whom you talk to, the role of the Internet as a venue for content distribution is either the Wild Wild West or more of the same. The peer review system breakdown associated with the rise of social media means no more “gatekeepers,” a situation that is problematic for those consumers and producers still mired in oldthink, or the notion that entertainment and new media are two separate entities. With the succinct goal of “helping people 'get' social media,” the Social Media Club LA, founded by Heavybag Media partner Jackie Peters, provides a invaluable service (and pizza!) to professionals and enthusiasts attempting to grapple with the growing pains involved in the current media transition.
The prevalence of these growing pains explains why BlankSpaces was packed yesterday for the 5th bi-monthly SMCLA meet-up. The evolution of creative content getting hip to Web 2.0 can be visualized as sort of downward flow chart, passing from music (arguably the most savvy), to politics/news, to film, art, then fashion and finally through to architecture. Already having covered Social Media 101, Social Media & Music, and Social Media & Politics, last night's panel was focused on increasing new media literacy as it relates to the film industry – whether it's training directors so they know how to Twitter, helping people with digital rights management, or trying to make sense of the critical mass involved in a Snakes on a Plane-type phenomenon.
The sparse room was a bustling hybrid of industries, which a show of hands revealed as roughly split between technology and film. Many of the attendees were independent filmmakers wanting to know how to use social media to finance a movie, a feat similar to what actress/writer Jessica Mae Stover accomplished with her sci-fi opus Artemis Eternal or, as panelist Anita Ondine explained, how to use the Internet's inherent bottom-up nature advantageously. The filmmakers behind stealthisfilm.com, for example, partnered with digital pirates to get their film out there, resulting in six million page views with viewers demanding to buy copies. An underlying yet major theme of talk was how to convert the eyeballs on your Facebook/Flickr/YouTube page into dollars because, as speaker David August put it, “Landlords don't take impressions.”
The most potent sign of the changing times however wasn't anything put forward by the panelists; One look at the thumbs twitching rapidly across room confirmed my suspicion that almost 80% of the audience was Twittering. Next to me Efren Toscano of Techzulu was live-streaming the event on multiple 2.0 levels, including fielding IM comments about how, um, attractive one of the speakers was as well as relaying questions from some of the over 200 online followers. Keeping in line with the Social Media Club mission, the conversation about new media and film went beyond the room into the echochamber of the blogosphere – proving that Siliwood, or the convergence between the “illusion” of Hollywood and the “zeros and ones” of Silicon Valley, is a force to be reckoned with – it's epicenter (last night at least) located near the corner of Wilshire and La Brea.
Tickets: $10.00 non-members, SMCLA Members and Students – Free