Meet three inspiring women at the forefront of film and technology’s convergence
San Francisco and Los Angeles might be neighbors or even siblings, but general conversation about the two cities tends to center around the fact that they’re worlds apart. SF and Silicon Valley conjure up images of tech nerds in hoodies; LA and Hollywood are associated with glamor and on-screen stardom. The former also eats, sleeps and breeds disruption; the latter leans towards re-making the same movies over and over and over.
In recent years, though, the cities have been converging as their associated industries do the same. A two-way street is emerging between film and technology, and it’s affecting all facets of the media world — from the use of drones for cutting-edge content creation to new platforms aiming to solve the ever-elusive problem of how exactly to monetize art.
Last week, a Bay area film and tech panel put on by the Producer’s Foundryaddressed the rapid convergence of film and technology. But speaking with the participants also shed light on another convergence taking place between the two worlds — this one regarding a gap that still needs to be bridged.
Hollywood and Silicon Valley boast some of the most high-profile instances of gender inequality, with both the film and tech industries being notable, historic boys clubs.
Meet three women from the panel who are not just bridging the two cities, but are also helping bridge that gap.
Maya Zuckerman, Creator, Co-Founder of Transmedia SF
Born and raised in Israel, Maya Zuckerman moved to the Bay area over a decade ago. She is the co-founder of Transmedia SF, where she helps everyone from corporate clients to fringe groups tell their stories with emerging and converging technologies.
“A good product doesn’t matter without a good story,” she explained. Maya boasts an impressive background in film and visual effects, working with big feature films and on game cinematics such as “Prince of Persia” and “Ghostbusters” for companies such as Ubisoft, EA, Vivendi, Sega and Activision.
“My journey through both the visual effects and startup worlds has definitely been a lonely one,” Maya said. She noted that her first job out of school was in Israel and, while it was a predominately male environment, it was quite supportive. “When I moved to America, I was a bit dumbfounded at how unsupportive the environment was. As a girl, especially in my twenties, I wasn’t treated as an equal. I had to make a lot of noise to be heard. I think it’s getting better, but there definitely needs to be much more awareness to create a space for women and not have to fight so hard to be at the same table.”
Maya added that a similar boys club exists in Hollywood. The good news, she says, is that technology is lowering barriers to entry and thus leveling the playing field in the media world. “Technology is a great enabler for content to come in different ways, which makes the space much more open. Gender, race and content are all reforming around changes in media.”
Dana Loberg, Co-Founder & CEO, MovieLaLa
Dana Loberg was born and raised in LA, working in the creative development and production department at Fox Studios before breaking into the advertising world in New York and then migrating to San Francisco where she transitioned to tech.
As co-founder and CEO of MovieLaLa — a movie marketing and data analytics platform which will plans to raise its Series A funding round in the near future — she now splits her time between SF and LA. One thing she’s noticed: Hollywood remains light years behind the rest of the tech world. Marketing is the most obvious example, as studios still spend tons of money on billboards and TV commercials despite the cord-cutting trend.
“Hollywood is having a hard time adjusting from traditional marketing to a digital, global marketing approach,” Dana explained. “Mobile Hollywood marketing is usually little more than a one-off SnapChat campaign.” The goal of MovieLaLa is to build the next generation’s IMDB by making both marketing and the in-theater experience hit the Silicon Valley trifecta: mobile, personalized and social.
Why hasn’t this already happened? “A lot of tech companies in the movie space haven’t built enough relationships in Hollywood,” Dana explained. When it came to launching MovieLaLa, she would travel to Hollywood to meet with studios and understand their problems and goals before heading back to Silicon Valley to build the tools they needed.
Dana agreed that a gender gap exists in both places. “While there is definitely growth with regards to the number of female entrepreneurs, female investors seem few and far between,” she said. “In Hollywood, there are definitely more men at the top as well.”
Her advice: “Whether you’re an investor or an actress competing for a role, remember that it’s always a struggle as a minority — and remember that it’s important to support one another.”
Angie Wang, Filmmaker, “Cardinal X”
Dana found that support from Angie Wang, another panel participant. Besides investing in MovieLaLa, Angie is also a filmmaker. She moved to Silicon Valley around two decades ago while working in the tech industry and just completed her first film — a semi-autobiographical drama called “Cardinal X,” which was produced by Rick Bosner (“Fruitvale Station”) and stars Francesca Eastwood (Clint’s daughter).
A first-time filmmaker with no previous education or experience in the industry, Angie agrees that technology has helped lower the barrier to entry and says her background in tech helped teach the “hustler’s spirit” needed to break into either world — especially as a female.
At the same time, though, she sees San Francisco as overrun by technology. “The city has lost some of its soul,” she says. “Our technology is outpacing our humanity.”
That’s yet another gap Angie hopes to bridge with film. She believes women are often boxed in not just within the film and technology industries, but with regards to broader issues like sexuality — something that takes center stage in her movie.
“In this day in age a lot of women feel like they have to fit some man’s view of sexuality. To me, sexuality is a manifestation of where we are as a society and the fact is that women get objectified, taken advantage of and preyed upon,” Angie said, adding that technology often makes the world even more dangerous for women.
Angie is optimistic that film, which offers women the chance to tell honest stories, can be a pathway to change. “Film is a great way to impact people and really hook them in the gut,” she said.
Alyssa Oursler is a freelance writer covering tech, investing, gender & entrepreneurship. Her work has appeared on Business Insider, MSN Money & more. Follow her on Twitter or check out her personal site, “Tea in a Coffee Shop.”