By Lance Weiler, February 24th, 2010

On March 27th The Conversation comes to Columbia University. Started in 2008, The Conversation is a look at the future of filmmaking and how advancements in technology are enabling new opportunities for filmmakers. The program for March 27th is extensive and will bring together a number of innovative thinkers in the space. For more information visit www.theconversationspot.com

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We had a chance to sit down with Scott Kirsner to discuss The Conversation.

Five questions about the Conversation

WorkBook Project: Can you explain why the Conversation and why now?

Scott Kirsner: We did the first Conversation event in the Bay Area, back in late 2008. There was lots of interest in doing an East Coast version, but it was tough to find the right venue, until Ira Deutchman at Columbia got involved and suggested we do it there. The time seemed right to bring people together to talk about digital distribution, social media, and all of the ways that the Internet and new technologies are changing the business of film and visual storytelling, creating all kinds of new opportunities (and also challenges, if you’re wedded to the traditional ways of doing things.)

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2008 speakers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis of JibJab

WBP: What are some of the innovations that you’re seeing in the space that excite you most?

SK: I’m personally really interested right now in the way new set-top boxes like Roku and Boxee are making it possible for anyone to create channels and deliver digital content to viewers’ televisions. That seems like it could have a really positive democratizing effect on the media landscape. I’m also interested in the experiments people are doing with episodic video on the Internet, trying to find business models that will support it, whether it’s sponsorship, advertising, selling merchandise, or eventually collecting the series on a DVD.

WBP: In your opinion what are the most pressing issues today for filmmakers or others working in the digital content space?

SK: There are three big issues, I think: what are the new forms and formats that are emerging, and how can you tell compelling stories within them; how can you continually expand your audience, and connect with audience members in meaningful ways; and how can you generate a solid financial return on what you’re doing?

WBP: What are some of the topics of discussion for the Conversation?

Using Twitter effectively as a filmmaker…creating content especially for the Internet…talking about films that have actually done well in digital channels…and Peter Broderick is doing a workshop about how to carve up the rights to your film (DVD, TV, digital, theatrical, etc.) to generate the most revenue.

WBP: What do you hope comes out of the Conversation?

SK: Well, as with the last one, I hope there’s a lot of spontaneous things that happen on the day of the event that we haven’t planned in advance. We have these opportunities to lead lunch discussion groups, so you can literally just jump up and declare that you want to talk about promoting your film at festivals, or getting lots of YouTube views, or whatever — and have a group coalesce around that. Another big goal for The Conversation is to bring together people who’ve actually been pioneers in lots of different areas, so they can share their stories about what has worked well for them — and what hasn’t. I think this event, like the DIY Days gatherings that you run, and like The Workbook Project itself, is really about giving people the information and tools to be smarter pioneers, and smarter businesspeople in this new environment we’re in.

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Lance Weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects.

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