You'd be correct in assuming that just about every business and brand wants to dip their toes into the uncertain waters of virtual reality, but you may be surprised to hear the biggest challenge in toppling Hollywood. It ain't money - it's talent.
During the 'Hollywood's Next Step' keynote at Collision Conference in New Orleans, host Molly Wood interviewed Clint Kisker and Gigi Pritzker of Madison Wells Media. They operate a production studio/investment firm hybrid that helps content creators and companies at large engineer innovative material and then distribute it on the ideal platforms to the ideal audience set.
Not surprisingly, distribution through virtual reality was today's topic of conversation.
Both Kisker and Pritzker were adamant that the challenges facing Hollywood and VR weren't rooted in money. "The challenges are the opportunities, as we're all learning at the same time, said Pritzker. "It's all experimental. It's hard, and we don't understand it all; there's no pathway, and you figure stuff out as you go. That's fun and that's exciting."
The Valley and LA, collaborating at last
Despite the fact that there isn't yet "a clear P&L for VR," there's room of experimentation. The real issue there, however, is finding the artists, storytellers, and actors willing and capable to take their expertise to a new medium. "Humans will be the ones that create it," quipped Kisker, "...the ones that have had experience in other mediums. If we find and support extremely talented groups of humans, we can amplify what they're doing creatively. Everyone you talk to wants to get into VR in one form or another."
Perhaps the most interesting part of the conversation was this realization from Kisker: "You can feel that in LA, everyone is turning their head north to Silicon Valley for some kind of answer to growth. At the same time, Silicon Valley is turning its head south to LA to solve the talent and content generation problem. That mixture creates a path forward."
Indeed, much of the innovation on the VR side has stemmed from Silicon Valley, where technological prowess oftentimes overrides storytelling. The content, however, will be what makes or breaks VR. "Once VR gets its Halo [Xbox 360] moment," said Kisker, "there will be a land grab. Now, we have to establish [Madison Wells Media's] brand as one that is trusted."
A beautifully wild west
I get the impression that it's only a matter of when, not if, and Pritzker does as well: "People are really, really excited," she stated. "We haven't been at the advent of a new medium... ever, because none of us are that old. Right now, it really is the wild west. There's no established way of how this all works," which has thus far led to a lot of internal collaboration.
In terms of making actual money off of VR, Kisker pointed out that millions in China are already forking out to spend 10 minutes at a time in a VR pod as a means of entertainment. While that hasn't taken other nations by storm, the trend will surely spread in due time.
All in all, it's a lovely time to be interested in how entertainment will fit into the VR landscape. The industry is excited about a new revenue channel, artists are excited about a new medium to express themselves on, and folks like you and I are excited to be along for the ride.
Just don't forget to step outside and smell the actual roses from time to time, you hear?