Variety held its Press Play Home Entertainment and Digital Hall of Fame dinner at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills, paying tribute to director-producer Brett Ratner; Thomas Gewecke, Warner Bros.’ chief digital officer and exec VP of strategy and business development; Alex Carloss, head of YouTube originals; and Amazon.com.
A clip introducing Ratner began with one of his colleagues saying, “Stay the f— away from Brett Ratner.” The video also included Ratner’s infamous cameo on “Entourage” and footage of him directing Playboy Bunnies in a risque commercial for Guitar Hero.
But when Ratner took the stage, he dispelled his bawdy reputation by telling the crowd that he brought his grandmother as his date. The “Hercules” director brought a prop to enrich his acceptance speech: a LaserDisc copy of “The Silence of the Lambs,” the first LaserDisc he ever purchased. Ratner cited Jonathan Demme’s director’s commentary on the disc, which he listened to “a hundred times,” as formative to his career.
“Because I learned so much from Jonathan Demme’s commentary, I was committed to homevideo, because I knew the influence it had over me, the effect on a kid who dreamed of being a filmmaker and couldn’t quite comprehend how it was done,” Ratner said. “To actually hear the filmmaker talk about the process and the experience he had making that movie was incredibly inspiring, and I couldn’t wait to do that to give back.”
Rob Thomas, writer of “Veronica Mars,” introduced Gewecke with a video tribute from the actors and crew who participated in the Kickstarter-funded “Veronica Mars” film. Actress Kristen Bell and Thomas both emphasized Gewecke’s enthusiastic support for the project when every other exec they approached about the Kickstarter plan thought it was preposterous. Gewecke himself gave a touchingly gracious speech about his supportive family and colleagues, reflecting on the nature of his career in digital entertainment.
“The one constant has been continuous change,” Gewecke said. “The thing that I always come back to is how that change represents an incredible opportunity. To me, it’s increasingly clear that for our industry, for our businesses, the digital transition has set the stage for a whole new era of growth. And that’s because we, together, have been fast to move, unafraid to change and tremendously innovative. Most importantly, I think we’ve done a fantastic job of listening closely to our consumers.”
Gewecke was only slightly upstaged by an Amazon Drone that flew in to accentuate Amazon.com’s distinction as the 2014 Innovation Award winner. Michael Paull, VP of digital video, accepted the award on behalf of the company, saying that he was proud that Amazon Prime’s streaming services are at the forefront of giving consumers easy access and extensive choice in what they watch and when they watch it. “Our best intentions come from our efforts to innovate on their behalf,” Paull said of Amazon’s customers.
YouTube’s Carloss also affectionately spoke of his company’s consumer base, accepting the inaugural Deloitte Innovation in Media and Entertainment Award. Showing a montage of YouTube videos including “Frozen” song covers, bad lip readings, the “Gangnam Style” musicvideo and one of Malala Yousafzai’s speeches, Carloss said that he was proud to facilitate people contributing to YouTube’s “crazy new world order of awesomeness.” He concluded his speech by spinning a Ferris Bueller quote to draw laughs from attendees: “Life in video moves pretty fast. If you don’t look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Tuesday night marked the 34th chapter in Variety’s annual event, which aims to honor those who have made significant contributions to the ever-expanding home entertainment business. The event, formerly known as the Variety Home Entertainment Hall of Fame, was renamed this year to express the growing vitality of digital content to the industry, with audiences hitting the “play” button across devices and platforms.
Proceeds from this year’s event benefited City Year, a nonprofit focused on pairing young leaders with public school students who are at risk of dropping out.