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Bill Clinton Touts Potential of Crowdfunding at Creativity Conference

Harvey Weinstein takes potshot at Google

WASHINGTON — Speaking at an MPAA, Microsoft and Time event called the Creativity Conference Friday, former President Bill Clinton talked up crowdfunding as a potentially important avenue for filmmakers and others to “make more messages that we want to go viral.”

Clinton, delivering the keynote address, singled out the documentary “Bridegroom,” which he introduced at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this week. The project, directed by Clinton’s longtime friend Linda Bloodworth Thomason, tells the story of two gay men from conservative families and the hurdles they face. When one of the men dies in a tragic fall from the rooftop, his partner is denied access to the memorial, not having marital privileges. Money was raised online for a documentary after the man appeared in a YouTube video describing the pain of what had happened.

The project, Clinton told Variety afterward, represents “the best of filmmaking and home movies.”

Such a formula, he said, could extended to a host of nonprofits seeking to relay their messages to larger audience.

“I believe, at least for the movies that are made for a million bucks or what else, I think if they are powerful and effective and they represent both a depiction of a significant social problem at home and around the world, and offer people a response as to what can be done about it, yes I believe that there could be a lot of movies crowdfunded,” he said.

Clinton’s speech at the Corcoran Gallery lasted about 40 minutes, which covered everything from the weight of all the ants in the world, to the payoff from his administration’s support of human genome research, to his propensity to turn on the TV immediately upon entering any hotel room to see if there are any movies he had missed. The point of his remarks were to play up the importance of a creative culture. “The future will reward more richly those who are more creative and cooperative,” he said.

Clinton, an avid movie buff, had once been rumored to succeed Jack Valenti as MPAA chief, although the talk was perhaps more wishful speculation from those in the industry than anything else.

He spoke at the conference, the first, as part of the MPAA’s efforts to advance the idea that Silicon Valley and Hollywood have more to gain in cooperation than competition. The strategy is a shift from a previous drive to advance legislation, which stalled out when the Stop Online Piracy Act was sidelined early in 2012.

Clinton didn’t say much about the problems of online piracy. But he did say that the opportunities are greater for dialogue between the two industries now than during his term, when media congloms were less set on trying out next technologies and preserving their business models. “We’re going to be dealing with these issues for a long time,” Clinton said.

More strident in advancing an anti-piracy agenda was Harvey Weinstein, who took aim at Google. He didn’t refer to the company by name, but it was clear which Silicon Valley firm he was talking about when he called them “the octopus.”

“That’s a very good business plan: use someone else’s content and build a very big … Silicon Valley company and then say ‘we do good’,” Weinstein said in a conversation with Time’s Richard Stengel. Weinstein was referring to Google’s motto, Don’t Be Evil.

He said that the problem extended to many more tech firms in the Bay Area.

“They are all stealing (our content) under the guise of ‘We’re all hippies.’ Well, hippies don’t have $22 billion companies. Hippies don’t have G5s.”

Weinstein called for a royalty payment system for movies and other media, like news sites, in a similar structure as that for the music business. He said that tech companies can afford to pay. “It won’t affect their bottom line too much.”

Weinstein suggested that he would be more engaged in talking about piracy, and mentioned George Clooney as another, to give more visibility to the side of the content community. “That battle is coming.”

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