Expecting experts

This year’s ShowBiz Expo Conference will be enhanced by more targeted conference sessions, more experts and more special events than ever before. The conference program, which will run Friday and Saturday upstairs, above the showroom floor at the Los Angeles Convention Center, will address key issues facing the industry through six specialized conference tracks tailored to the entertainment industry professional.

These tracks are: ShowBiz University, film, broadcasting, new media and, new this year, digital production and advertising/marketing. Each track will feature eight to 12 course offerings, lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.

According to Beth-Ellen Keyes, conference manager, “The sessions this year are designed to help you learn exactly what you need to enhance your business, project or career. In addition to providing valuable educational information, we hope that these sessions will provide a platform for the exchange of ideas.”

The film track, which has the most sessions scheduled, will be moderated by executives from Variety’s On Production, the American Society of Cinematographers, Paramount Pictures, CFI, the Entertainment Coalition and THX’s theater alignment division. The three seminars that Keyes expects will generate the largest crowds for this track are “Real to Reel,” “Independent’s Day” and “Filmmaking: The Collaborative Art.”

“Real to Reel’s” topic will be the trend toward making the camera into a character, while the “Independent’s Day” session will be a Q&A with Independent Feature Project/West executive director Dawn Hudson, Next Wave Films president Peter Broderick, “Swingers” producer Nicole Shay LaLoggia, Oscar-winning live-action short producer-director Peggy Rajski, and Sanford-Pillsbury Prods.’ Midge Sanford.

A clip will be shown from New Line’s upcoming feature “The Kiss” (tentative title), produced by Danny DeVito’s Jersey Films, and the collaborative effort that went into making the pic will be discussed at the session on collaboration. Scheduled to sit on this panel are cinematographer John Bailey, writer-director Richard LaGravenese, editor Jon Gregory and production designer Nelson Coates.

On the digital production track, the seminar entitled “Optical Disillusion: The Role of the Visual Effects Supervisor” will open with a screening of this year’s Oscar trailer. Colin Ritchie, director of business development for Quantel, has gathered a panel of visual effects supervisors who will show two-to three-minute videos on their individual projects and discuss their role in the making of seamless effects. Scheduled to join the panel are Available Light’s John Van Vliet, VCE’s Peter Kuran, “Volcano” effects maker Mat Beck, POP’s Stuart Robertson, “Independence Day” freelancer Trisha Ashford and Bill Scanlan from Film Factory/VTR, London.

On the broadcasting track, the “Sense & Sensibility” Q&A on the making of a situation comedy should prove to be a lively discussion, and on the ad/marketing track, “Infomercials in Action” is expected to be a hot ticket. Hosted by Guthy-Renker Distribution, one of the best-known producers of high-quality infomercials, the topic will be how infomercials can be used to promote a movie and sell a product. Clips from MGM’s infomercial for the “James Bond” videotape will be shown and longform, spot business and product finder experts will be on hand to discuss what characteristics they look for in a product.

The highlight of the Showbiz University track, which samples UCLA Extension’s best attended courses, should prove to be “Using the Internet and Digital Communications.” It will present an overview of cutting-edge technologies, address the challenges of implementing systems that work and cover topics such as using the Internet to transmit location and casting stills; video-conferencing; posting production booklets on the Internet; and using FTP sites and proprietary network systems to collaborate with editors and visual effects artists across long distances. Panel members will include representatives from leading production houses and hardware manufacturers as well as independent entrepreneurs. Scheduled to attend are Wendy Ayslworth, VP, technologies & facilities, Warner Bros. Feature Animation; Chuck Garsha, Paramount Studios’ director of multimedia engineering; Howard Woffinden, executive producer, Milk & Honey Films; Wendy Meisel, owner of re: Sources; and Kathy Cooper, Pacific Bell’s strategic territory development director.

The biggest crowds are expected at the new media courses. Steve Berman, lawyer and founder/director of the New Media Content, Technology & Production Council, NMCC, has recruited the industry’s top professionals to speak on the financial, creative and legal issues.

“Finding the Money’s” scheduled panelists include Liquid Audio president Gerry Kearby; Matthew Cowan, manager, corporate business development, Intel; and Tribune Ventures president Donn Davis.

Panelists for the Writers Guild of America-sponsored “The Creator’s World” are Disney Interactive Entertainment creative director Roger Holzberg; Greenhouse Networks president of programming Scott Zakarin; Realtime Associates children’s software director Mary Schaffer; and “Toy Story” CD-ROM scripter Carolyn Miller.

“Windows of Opportunity” panelists scheduled to speak include Greenhouse Networks president Danny Krifcher; MGM Interactive executive producer Kenneth Locker and Microsoft’s Jamie Fragen.

“Media Darwinism” will be moderated by new media attorney Steve Berman, and scheduled panelists include Silicon Graphics’ entertainment marketing director Blake White; NBC Interactive VP Shawn Hardin; and Hall Davidson, director of educational TV services at local PBS station KOCE-TV.

“New Media Rights” features Netscape Communications’ Peter Harter, a founder of the Internet Law & Policy Forum, Mattel senior counsel Nicole van Dam; and author Michael Scott.

Because of the size and scope of the conference this year, the ShowBiz Summit originally scheduled for June 11 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel has been folded into the conference program, and its topic “What Makes a Blockbuster: Creativity or Technology?” will be the conference’s keynote seminar, to be held today at 11 AM till 12:30 PM. Scheduled to participate are Scott Ross of Digital Domain, Bob Scarabellis of Rainmaker Digital, executive producer “Titanic’s” line producer John Landau, Tim Sarnoff of Sony Pictures Imageworks, Bob Scanlan of Film Factory (U.K.), Blake White of SGI, and Jerry Brandt, executive publisher of Variety’s On Production.

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