The media landscape is shifting rapidly, which is ultimately a good thing for artists of every sort. On Saturday, June 1, 2013, at the Great American PitchFest & Screenwriting Conference in Burbank, Producer and Transmedia Expert Luke Ryan will investigate the future of distribution in film, television and publishing and the place of content creators in that future. Luke will also explore purposing characters and the world they live in across as many platforms as possible. He took a few moments to answer some questions for Transmedia Coalition about the new roles content creators will take.
Your session at the PitchFest focuses on the disruption in the entertainment industry and the new challenges writers face. Can you name a few of them?
Almost every corner of media is contracting — financiers and distributors have had to become very conservative for a number of reasons. That's led to less money being spent, which ultimately means fewer opportunities inside the traditional systems and, often, less pay for what is available. The most successful writers have always known how to make their own luck, and we're in an era where you not only have to be on an elite level in terms of talent and craftsmanship, but you also really have to have an in-depth understanding of the business you're in to make a living over the long run.
Why is the landscape becoming more complex for writers? How does this change what they do?
For screenwriters, you have to find a way to be competitive in a market where the number of established professionals seeking work far outweighs the number of opportunities that are out there. The spec market isn't what it used to be, there are fewer guaranteed steps inside of deals, and studios are more discerning in terms of what existing assignments they're willing to keep putting money into. And it's not fair to lay the blame on the studios, by the way — it's just a time where the system is really challenged and is in the process of correcting itself. It ultimately means writers have to be more strategic in terms of how they manage their careers, especially in terms of creating opportunities for work and maintaining momentum once they are working.
What key things will attendees learn from your session?
The session breaks down into three parts. We start with understanding the current state of the business and what it means for both working and aspiring writers, both financially and creatively. Then we get into understanding the move to multi-platform story design from creative and business perspectives. After that we get into specific worldbuilding techniques from a creative standpoint. I want everyone who attends to understand what's going on with the business right now and how to use that information to enhance their creative possibilities rather than feeling discouraged by it. Things are changing — and even though there are challenges for writers, I actually believe there's never been a better time to be one. Constraint can breed great creativity, and once you understand what makes the business tick, you start seeing creative opportunities that are really exciting and empowering.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the projects you've been involved with that apply this new creation model?
I have a number of them, but most are in a developmental place where it's not fair to the people involved to share details in an interview. What I can say is every one is different in a way that's exciting where we're devising plans to allow our writers to really create a world and attack different media platforms in different ways that will hopefully be as lucrative as they are creatively satisfying. Each project has a different playbook that's specific to what we're building, and I find that enormously exciting.
Luke Ryan is Executive Vice President of Disruption Entertainment, which has a first-look deal at Paramount Pictures. Disruption’s upcoming films include Guillermo del Toro’s PACIFIC RIM (2013) and Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH (2014). Luke has worked as a studio executive at New Line, Paramount/MTV Films, and MGM. His body of work includes prestigious multiple-Stoney Award winners such as the HAROLD & KUMAR franchise and HOT TUB TIME MACHINE. Luke has also worked as a screenwriter, selling material in film and television, and as a film/screenwriting instructor at UCLA Extension.
The Great American PitchFest & Screenwriting Conference is being held May 31 through June 2 at the Marriott Burbank Hotel & Convention Center.