Google’s Marvin Chow, WarnerMedia’s Tony Driscoll & More: Tech Heroes of the Pandemic

Variety artisans editor Jazz Tangcay moderated a panel of execs at leading companies in the tech space for the Variety Entertainment Summit, in partnership with CES 2021.

The panelists included Marvin Chow, VP of marketing at Google; Tony Driscoll, SVP of emerging/production technologies and data services at WarnerMedia; Connie Kennedy, head of LA Lab at Epic Games; Sang Kim, SVP and head of product management at Samsung; Andre Kudelski, chairman and CEO of The Kudelski Group; plus Janet Lewin, SVP and general manager of Industrial Light and Magic for Lucasfilm at Disney.

With COVID-19 lockdowns sending non-essential folks indoors, tech companies had a lot of work to do very quickly in order to keep up with an influx of bandwidth usage.

“No one was prepared,” said Chow. “We like to think that [Google has] great tools. We are a very remote operating company in a pretty big scale. And even for us, it was a lot to handle for everybody.”

“In the early days…we got up and running pretty quickly,” he continued. “But now entering on a month nine, there’s definitely a lot of fatigue and you’re relying on old connections versus new connections.”

As for content production, the inevitable reality of physical work still needing to occur was something that had to be addressed in sufficient fashion.

“Our animation business and our games businesses did quite well, we were already in a pretty virtualized environment there and they were up and running very quickly,” explained Driscoll.

“[But] with live action obviously, you’ve got challenges, just the physical ability to get on set,” he continued. “This is a two part model of one rapidly moving post-production workflows into our remote model, which was largely around connectivity and security and collaboration tools.”

“And then step two really was…working on safety protocols to get people back on set and finding technologies that can help us support social distancing and reducing travel,” he said. “We implemented a fairly wide range of technologies, things as simple as digitizing paper-based workflows or digital health screeners to get people back onto our lot.”