& this morning's session: Seamus Blackley & Co on "The Hollywood Model". The panel are tucking into Bloody Marys, and discussing whether the Hollywood Model of production is viable (amongst other things) for the international games production industry.
Premise: Talent rules in Hollywood, and talent = revenue.
Neil Young, EA
Seamus Blackley, CAA
neil young: if you decode what "hollywood model" means, it means a common vocab, a common process, funding, a common labour pool familiar with the tools & tech of trade, and ability to operate at scale and be predictable. so does EA operate a hollywood model? well, yes, if you look at it from that perspective. it operates a strong studio process. a consistent model across the company for developing concepts. it aligns the centre of the game with the need of the audience. understand first what the game is, you prototype - have the discipline not to scale the teams before you know what you're building.. and aspiring for a common platform. we're not aspiring to *be* hollywood, it's a lame thing to aspire to be. we need common vocabs that we have inside EA to across the whole industry. the hollywood model is a challenging idea to imagine how we'd get that model across the industry.
seamus: we have all this production capacity. the basic premise I hear again and again from publishers is 'how do we take risks on new ideas in a responsible way?' . One of the salient lessons in hollywood is bringing in talent to work on problems to which they're best suited: using people in the smartest way possible. it's the games that noone saw coming like the sims that change the industry.. i guess.. how from your perspective brad do you see - good or bad- the way that publishers deal with risk?
brad: a lot of the publishers don't have the budget that ea has. who are the right people to bring in? hollywood talent is expensive. a film script writer can't write the 400 pages of gamescript easily.
seamus: how do you bring in the right GAME talent? at the right point? at the right scale? having a set team is a really shitty way to take risk. you have a set piece of staff there the entire time.. the guy who does physics can't do interface.
neil: we're past that point. you reward focus inside the organisation. stage one was programmers wanting to earn more money so they became managers, that was shit. we moved on. second level is programmrs doing lots of things, physics, whatever. also shit - we reward them now for specialising. most great creaive endeavours is the unique vision of 1-5 people. you have to figure out org models that put those people together, give them the opportunity to explore the ideas, do internal packaging and selling - and at the right moment it's a Go. You move thru a number of stages to get to 50 people, etc.
seamus's job includes the 'meet & greet', a very serious hollywood meeting where creative talent are introduced to each other to see if they get along, to see if they will create 'relationship'.
seamus: "if you have an industry-wide process as you said, neil, then you wouldn't need the centralised behemoth that is EA, it would dissolve. The frightening leap is ... where you see that taking a bet on an idea and collaboration between people who are passionate about that idea - if you can do those projects without the encumberance of the people who don't fit, who are sitting on your payroll, that's where it gets interesting. In hollywood the funding is supplied by the studio, then there's a network of people who 'put things together'. They all come from different places and get assembled on the one project. CAA pioneered 'packaging' - putting talent teams together. This is the production model of Hollywood, rather than having people on payroll. CAA owns the 'social network': it learned to police itself over a 20-30 yr period, and it's decentralised. it's a distributed network. there's ultimately a guy with a cheque somewhere, but fundamentally there's no one person in charge, and there's no expectation of it either."
(all notes, and sometimes slightly paraphrased, obviously...)