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Hollywood Meets Silicon Valley: Women in Film's Interactive Seminars, Part 2

By Christopher Carson

After forming its New Technologies Council in 1994, Women in Film held a series of seminars in Los Angeles to showcase some of the opportunities for creative professionals that are emerging as a result of the marriage between the entertainment and computer industries. Part 1 of this article appeared in ID, March 1995. Read more: "Hollywood Meets Silicon Valley: Women in Film's Interactive Seminars, Part 1"

The second Women in Film Interactive Seminar, held June 15, 1994, and entitled "A Primer and Practical Guide to Interactive Multimedia," wrapped up by discussing games for women and girls. Women and girls represent enormous yet virtually untapped market niches in the interactive software business. Women comprise 52 percent of the world's population, and there are more than 15 million girls between the ages of four and twelve in the United States alone. Women and girls have tremendous buying power, yet they seem to be largely turned off to most of the adrenaline generating "twitch games" that men and boys love so much.

If interactive software developers recognize that most girls do not like the same kinds of games that most boys do, then the important question becomes "What sorts of games might girls enjoy?" One panelist felt that girls would enjoy the Jackie Kennedy Fashion Game, which allows users to choose the wardrobe combinations that former First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore to various prominent events in the 1960s and '70s. This CD-ROM title is supposed to teach girls both fashion sense and historical facts. Users not only learn about actual important events but also make discoveries about periods of fashion. According to the presenter, answering a question in­correctly is just as entertaining as a correct answer, because interesting facts are learned either way. The audience did not appear totally convinced, however, and one participant questioned whether, by teaching a false sense of ideals, the content of this title wasn't as damaging to young developing minds as a shoot-'em­ up game might be.

The seminar panelists did agree that in order to be successful, interactive software for girls should be competitive without being combative. The characters should have depth and should be active, not victims. The game should re­ward the player for a wide range of skills, not just one or two. A title might allow the user to choose or design a character, a game, a city, or even an entire world. It should focus on creativity, concentration, and memory. A game should let everyone feel good instead of only allowing a few to feel successful at the expense of others. Games for girls should also incorporate problem solving and the ability to create order out of chaos, such as the popular title Tetris. The true challenge, or course, is to find a game that girls and boys both enjoy.

Women in Film's Interactive Seminars concluded on September 28 with "Doing Business in the Interactive World." The panelists discussed the so­-called convergence of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, declaring it more a conflict than a consolidation. The main problem is apparently the lack of effective communication. Most business deals between film and video producers and distributors and computer software producers and distributors are difficult and protracted due to the vast differences in language and business structure. The film industry has been around for a long time and has established specialized processes, skills, and terminologies along its evolution. The software industry needs to learn from these models and adapt them to fit their individual requirements. Silicon Valley is also eager to learn how to adapt successful Hollywood storytelling models into their software titles.

Another large dissimilarity between the two industries is that each seems to have different concerns. The Silicon Valley software industry seems to be more interested in technology than in money, New York's film and TV industry seems more interested in content or intellectual property than in money, and Hollywood seems to be more interested in money than in either content or technology. As far as business models for marketing interactive titles, the most suc­cessful one will likely be a combination of the Hollywood film and TV model and the publishing industry's book-selling model. In order for someone to be successful in the interactive world, she or he must learn to speak the languages of both industries. In order to execute successful interactive deals, one must know who is buying and what they are currently looking for and find (or devise) a way to get to them.


Christopher C. Carson is an award-winning producer and director of documentary, in­teractive, and virtual reality projects with Reverie Productions in Santa Monica, CA.