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MPAA Highlights Unity With Tech, Not Divisions, at Creativity Conference

WASHINGTON — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was a featured speaker at the MPAA’s Creativity Conference on Friday, and very diplomatically spoke about issues important to Hollywood (anti-piracy) and Silicon Valley (net neutrality).

But given the political environment, the event delved into the way that Hollywood is increasingly portraying women in positions of power, even as president, making it less of a novelty and more as a matter of fact.

“Women are great collaborators,” she declared, citing examples in which “it’s not [about] ego for women, it’s just how they get the job done….Let someone else take the lead. It’s easier for women to do.”

Pelosi suggested that the image of a woman as president should highlight that role as “a collaborator [who] is respectful of many other opinions, and has many other women in a collaboration. That doesn’t mean women’s thinking is any better than men. It just means the diversity of opinion at the table makes it stronger and more sustainable.”

A central theme of Creativity Conference was that Hollywood has a symbiotic relationship with technology and tech companies — and that showbiz is even on the cutting edge when it comes to the filmmaking process. “Not only can technology and content coexist, but we rely on one another,” said MPAA chairman Chris Dodd.

Left unmentioned was the continued friction between the industry and Google, particularly on issues like piracy. Instead, this event was co-sponsored by Microsoft, as it has for the past two years, along with ABC News.

The event gathered policymakers, lobbyists and Hollywood content creators. Some of the chatter was about Comcast’s announcement that it was abandoning its merger with Time Warner Cable, stalled before federal regulators. Some lobbyists said that Comcast may have overreached by pulling out all the stops in it D.C. campaign to win approval, hiring about three dozen firms to try to secure approval.

Showcased at the conference were such things as augmented reality, holograms and drones. AerialMOB, one of the companies that won an exemption from FAA last year to use drones on film sets, flew one on the stage — albeit safely keeping it from flying over the audience.

Screened was a clip from “Back to the Future II,” released in 1989 but set in 2015, as a way of showing how filmmakers are able to forecast technology. Some, like the skateboard-like hoverboards, are still a reach, while others, like video conferencing and 300 channel TV lineups, are now ho-hum.

Among the demonstrations was a virtual reality headset that took viewers into the world of Fox Searchlight’s “Wild.”

Yet as much as studios are experimenting with such immersive experiences, yet to be figured out is how that is applied to a feature-length movie. “As a director that is a scary thought — the director is no longer in control,” said independent filmmaker Howard Lukk.

Much of the morning was meant to shed light on the creative process; those offering input included Pixar production designer Harley Jessup and Microsoft researcher Sidhant Gupta.

One panel was called “A Tale of Two Cities: Life at the Intersection of Hollywood and Washington,” with Rep. Rose DeLauro (D-Conn.), “Madam Secretary” executive producers Barbara Hall and Lori McCreary, and Evan Ryan, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

“There is just no overestimating what impact our films and TV are having globally,” Ryan said. She cited the diplomatic challenges over Sony’s release of “The Interview,” the unhappiness among some Pakistanis over their portrayal on “Homeland,” and even concerns over the popularity of Netflix’s “House of Cards” in China — and the idea that viewers there think it is too real.

“I would really encourage Hollywood to take a nuanced approach when they are developing film and TV,” she said.

Of course, there was talk of the array of shows like “Madam Secretary” featuring women in positions of power and the impact it may have on the 2016 presidential race. Not too surprisingly, a poll of the audience showed that 69% thought that there would be an influence.

In the mix of D.C. and L.A., there was naturally discussion of the perceptions that showbiz and policymaking camps have of each other.

Of the stereotype of the typical studio chief, Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley said, “I think there’s a general misconception about Hollywood that we are all a bunch of jerks, just a shark tank that doesn’t care about anything.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) weighed in on the proliferation of TV dramas with a dark view of Washington politicians. “That concerns me to a certain degree because I have seen a different side,” she said.

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