This morning at UTA headquarters, LinkedIn brought its ongoing “Discussion Series” of panel chats featuring high achievers in various industries to Hollywood for the first time. Moderated by LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth, the panel with UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer and Fox Co-chairman Stacey Snider was a lively talk about mentoring and the current way new talent is brought into the business side of the industry and nurtured. And for audience members — most of whom were either representation or studio professionals — it was a gold mine of advice for improving your game and keeping the pool of new Tinseltown talent steady.
But late in the panel during the audience Q&A portion, the conversation turned to the changing way, particularly with millenials, people are consuming film and television. With the popularity of Vine, YouTube and other services, concerns were raised about these trends and what they might mean for those driving them. Such discussions occasionally can provide opportunities to carp about younger generations, but Snider bucked the impulse, instead taking the opportunity to advance the case that change isn’t bad and that people, particularly in creative industries, can be better for embracing it.
First citing an article in The New Yorker by neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky about the moment people stop taking in new experiences and information, she argued that it’s important to force yourself to keep learning. “[Sapolsky] did this experiment and he discovered that, for example, if you haven’t pierced your eyebrow or your bellybutton by the time you’re 16, you’re probably not going to do it in your 30s. If you haven’t tried sushi by the time you’re in your 20s — and it’s hard to get my parents to try raw fish. [He found] that the music you grew up with is in your hard drive, but it’s hard to remember who’s new or to look for new,” Snider said. Continuing, she explained that the message was that you have to “force [our synapses] open, keep them open.”
“I would be in meetings sometimes, at various companies, and I would hear someone say, they would tsk tsk – and I always say, ‘Beware the tsk-tskers’ – guys that say ‘who’s gonna watch a movie on a screen like this?'” said Snider, miming a cell phone. “And maybe I felt the same way at that point. But I would make myself take a contrary point of view and say, ‘All right, maybe that’s the greatest thing in the world.’ So, you have to be active about your continuing education. Sometimes you have to force yourself.”
Later, when asked about whether longform storytelling is being threatened by the popularity of short online videos, she continued on that train of thought. “I’m one of them. Last night the laptop was in my lap, the tablet was on the bed, and the phone was in my hand,” Snider declared. “So I know that I get impatient. You just have to be honest that’s the world we live in. There’s different applications to that impulse. One is I think a lot of our movies are just too long. I don’t want to sit through a 2 1/2- hour movie. Of course there will be exceptions, but you just have to set a higher standard of compellingness to justify it.”
Addressing the fact of short video’s popularity directly, Snider suggested it’s an opportunity the film industry can benefit from. “In terms of shortform content, I would hope that part of the effort … would be to consider what is our real expertise is. Is [just] it making motion pictures, or is it telling stories in whatever form they’re appropriate?”