A creative process

Gothamites train eyes on brain drain

NEW YORK — New York may be losing an increasing amount of its creative industry to Los Angeles, and it’s going to be a tough battle to get it back.

So argued artists and execs as they confabbed Tuesday to hash out ways to stop a creative brain drain in Gotham.

Confab, co-sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Urban Culture at Gotham’s Museum of Modern Art, built off the group’s recent high-profile study showing that New York was bleeding creative capital. In the last few years, movie and recording jobs have fallen by more than one-third in the city, according to the researchers.

Meanwhile, many other cities around the world, especially L.A., are becoming more appealing to artists and creators.

Museum of Modern Art director Glenn Lowry said that while many in the room believe Gotham is the world’s cultural capital, cities like Los Angeles, Tokyo and Berlin “all think you’re nuts.”

IAC topper Barry Diller created a stir when he questioned if corporate money was the best way to revive New York.

When suggestion was made that congloms could form a venture-capital fund for creative enterprises, Diller wondered whether companies would see sufficient “return.”

Diller was in effect arguing for a more concrete measure of artistic achievement, but he came under fire from several panelists throughout the day. One noted that “a return to the community,” and not a return on investment, was the goal.

Dance-world vet Bill Jones said that execs like Diller were being blinded by technology at the expense of creativity. “You can’t push a button and get dance,” he said.

Both Diller and Focus topper James Schamus were bleak about Gotham’s artistic prospects and media relevance.

“The question in the future is whether we will remain the communication capital of the world,” Diller said, adding that because the city was not attracting workers with tech skills in the manner of, say, Northern California, he believed that “not far off in the distance, we won’t be (the communication capital).”

Schamus wondered generally about an increasing “collective global yawn at American culture.”

For all the pessimism, though, execs were long on ideas.

Gotham deputy mayor Daniel Doctoroff suggested recent “counterintuitive programming” like the CMA awards and the 2004 Republican National Convention, to which the city played host.

“We didn’t host (the convention) because we love Republicans,” he said, but rather to show off the city to out-of-town visitors, whose benefits would presumably trickle down to cultural institutions.

Time Inc. CEO Anne Moore called for a television campaign to breathe life in to struggling ad biz.

Schamus called for City Hall to “bring back the tax incentive for local filmmakers.”

But the ideas were often as much philosophical as financial. Fernando Espuelas, who runs Latino-oriented multimedia company Voy, said that he now spends half his time in L.A. because in Gotham he “got tired of saying I have an idea and getting blank faces.”

In L.A., he said — notably, after Schamus had left — “you show up and you say, ‘I have an idea about two gay cowboys,’ and people say they’re going to give you $50 million.”