Photo Credit: Sylvain Masson
Over at The Wrap, Halfdan Hussey has an idea why Silicon Valley and Hollywood have made "strange bedfellows."
His general thesis as to why "Silliwood marriages" quickly fall apart is because of "culture clash". After all, there's the "maverick spirit" of Silicon Valley coming up against the "glitz and glamour" of Hollywood, to say nothing of the very different ways technology ideas and films get funded and the underlying philosophies that guide those approaches.
For all that, though, I find the theory unsatisfyingly vague. "Culture clash" can be used to explain a great many things.
My nearly ten years in Silicon Valley may not be entirely counterweighted by my nineteen months in Los Angeles, but more than three years in Chicago give me a comfortable distance from both. Here's how I see the problem in very basic terms:
- First, if you have a fast processor, large hard drive, and fat data pipe going into your house, Hollywood—indeed a large chunk of the entertainment industry—sees you as, above all else, a potential crook. Sure many consumers may, say, subscribe to a streaming or pay-to-download service, but the entertainment industry also realizes that any locks will only keep honest people honest.
- Second, if you're particularly creative and your processor is super-fast, the hard drive ultra-big, and the data pipe fat enough to squeeze Les Grossman through, Hollywood has another term for you: a potential threat. (Maybe not today, but sometime in the not-too-distant future given the increased level of sophistication you see in fan films and the like.)
Though innovation in processing, storage, and networking happens pretty much all over the world, the pre-emptive metaphor for technology innovation is... Silicon Valley. (This is why we have "Silicon Prairie", "Silicon Fjord", "Silicon Alley", "Silicon Tundra", "Silicon Flood-plain", and so on.)
Sure, there have been some big joint wins. Remember when SGI was on top of the world after Jurassic Park? For me, it was the first example—or just the most memorable one—of when Hollywood and Silicon Valley truly benefited from each other. Even people who weren't entirely plugged into the tech scene became at least peripherally aware of how the dinosaurs were rendered and made so lifelike. I remember that some, incredibly, could even name the company that was responsible.
But... Yup... As far as Hollywood is concerned, Silicon Valley remains the key enabler of thieves and mini-Fellinis with the audacity to nibble at Tinseltown's entertainment hegemony in the tiniest of bites.
Here is, where I think, the tension really lies. Hollywood absolutely needs Silicon Valley to deliver the innovations that make its product convenient and available to consumers. The technology industry is, of course, also critically essential to modern filmmaking, which increasingly relies on supercomputer-class systems that render, store, and transport digital characters and sets.
These same sets of technologies, unfortunately, also make it possible to obtain and distribute Hollywood's product through less-than-legal means. That said, the potential for abuse is not a sufficient argument for some of the wilder solutions that politicians have proposed.
Conversely, entertainment content that features progressively higher levels of technical sophistication (especially games, but movies, television and music as well) gives consumers a reason to buy new technologies.
Is this state of affairs likely to change? Well, one recently proposed solution has taken the form of big checks flowing to Southern California from the north, which I'm sure helps. That said, the "frenemies" conundrum may just end up being one of the business world's persistently insoluble quandaries.