Infopike Pioneer Returns

NAME: Lucie J. Fjeldstad

DESCRIPTION: Former high-tech missionary to Hollywood for IBM.

LAST SEEN: Riding the comeback digital trail.

Way back in the early 1990s, when “CD-ROM” and “interactive” were the utterings of an alien tongue and the information superhighway was but a penciled line sketched on a dreamer’s map, Lucie Fjeldstad showed up in Hollywood to preach the digital gospel in the name of IBM.

“Publishing, filmmaking and music,” the 48-year-old exec told Variety in 1992, “when their world turns to digital, you won’t be able to think of these as separate industries.”

But after a few heady years of appearing on panels, lunching with studio execs and zooming across town pushing digital production, multimedia, fiber optic distribution networks and high-level mergers, Fjeldstad suddenly dropped out of sight, “riding horses in Northern California” being the last item printed about her in these pages.

It’s a story of a woman ahead of her time.

As a vice president for the giant computer company, Fjeldstad led a team of hip, young, bright execs on a mission to convert Hollywood to something it has always loved portraying on the screen, but dreads in real life: the future.

The stirrings of “the next new thing” are always attractive in the entertainment business, however, and the idea that IBM was putting its corporate riches at the service of Hollywood made even a Selectric seem sexy. As Big Blue’s point person in the early days of media merger frenzy, Fjeldstad had her share of excitement.

“Everybody is dancing with everybody,” she told Variety in ’92 when an IBM union with Time Warner was widely rumored. “I wasn’t this popular in high school. It will be interesting to see what happens when the music stops.”

Fjeldstad officiated at one high-tech Hollywood marriage, leading IBM into an innovative partnership with director James Cameron, visual effects wizard Scott Ross and Oscar-winning model maker Stan Winston. Together they created Digital Domain, which since its founding in 1993 has been one of Hollywood’s leading special effects and digital production companies.

But then the music did stop.

Beset by financial problems, IBM failed to go through with the Time Warner deal. And frustrated by IBM’s slow-moving bureaucracy, Fjeldstad took early retirement shortly after the Digital Domain deal was closed.

When she wasn’t consulting for start-up interactive companies, Fjeldstad was spending time at home with her husband in Connecticut.

And some of the time was spent in equestrian pursuits at her father’s horse ranch in Northern California. “I grew up on a horse,” she says.

But after a two-year rest stop far from the I-way, Fjeldstad was named last week as president of the multimedia unit of Tektronix, a hot high-tech company based in Oregon with $1.4 billion in sales.

She and her husband will be moving to the Northwest, and once again Fjeldstad will be around Hollywood “a lot more than in the past two years,” she predicts.

“I haven’t changed my mind,” says Fjeldstad, ready again to take up her mission to marry high tech with entertainment. “I still believe the creative minds in Hollywood are essential.”

Ironically, after some time in the woods, IBM also is making moves for a Hollywood comeback these days, and is said to have named former AT&T multimedia exec Rick Selvage to the job that Fjeldstad once had.

Looking back on the watershed years that have seen technology – from digital videodiscs to interactive TV to digital visual effects – fast overtaking the entertainment industry, Fjeldstad thinks things may be a bit easier now.

“We were really on the leading edge back then,” she recalls. “It was a tougher hill to climb.”

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