New technology not only reshapes entertainment content and distribution, but the role of performers as well, and sometimes in ways as distressing as they are promising, said actress Kate Hudson and others at today’s AT&T Shape conference.
“There’s a lot of talent out there,” said Hudson, part of a panel titled “How Direct-to-Consumer Technology Is Transforming Celebrity” at the conference on the Warner Bros. lot, “but it’s more about what is the next big thing instead of making the best version of that content.”
She said the studios focus on big branded franchises while the tech companies create platforms that make actors a commodity.
The actress-entrepreneur added that major studios have stopped making the mid-range $20 million to $60 million movies she is known for, like How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days and Bride Wars, in favor of hugely expensive franchise movies which are the star.
“I don’t work that much anymore,” admits Hudson, “because the movies I want to be doing are much harder for me to get. The movies I could be in, I don’t want to be doing. I might do a big comedy but artistically I want to be doing different things.”
Hudson’s panel was moderated by John Stankey, CEO of the AT&T Entertainment Group, who is rumored to be in line to run a new division that would include Warner Bros., Turner, HBO and other content platforms.
Not discussed today was AT&T’s effort to acquire Warner Bros. for $85.4 billion.
Instead, today’s event was an effort to encourage web designers to make content for AT&T platforms.
Sharing the panel with Hudson were her CAA agent Michael Kives and Van Toffler, CEO of the startup Gunpowder & Sky and formerly of MTV.
“A big shift has taken place,” says Kives. “Traditionally, in the past, it was the studios and networks bearing the risk of a project and guaranteeing the money. It’s really shifted to where media companies are asking talent to share the risk with them. That can be very lucrative to talent and it can be bad if it fails.”
Toffler said at first, Silicon Valley tech companies came to big media looking for content and “our media company told them to go away. And then they amassed huge audiences and we begged them to put it on.”
Today multiple content platforms and social media deliver the content and drive the narrative about what, and who, is hot.
Hudson does social media as a way to relate to her audience, promote her movies, TV appearances, books, clothing line and more.
“I never wanted anyone in charge of what goes out for me on my social media channels,” says Hudson. “I wanted to be in control of that. To me, as my brand grows, it’s really important to be authentic, even if it’s a lot more work for me.”
The danger of social media, says Kives, is that one joke on Twitter or Instagram can be taken wrong and “suddenly you’re dealing with a crisis where ten years ago you might have been able to get away with it.”
“Technology makes it so hard to catch up,” adds Hudson. “The movie industry still lives in an antiquated system and I still struggle, as an artist, to catch up to technology.”