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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Startups Go to Summer Camp – at Warner Bros.

The principals of six start-up tech companies came to Burbank this summer to attend camp but it wasn’t filled with canoeing, crafts time or roasting hot dogs around a bonfire. Instead, Media Camp put them together with executives from Warner Bros. Entertainment, distributors, talent agents, other tech companies and private investors. It’s all part of a studio initiative to build relationship with early-stage companies that may have a product or service to enhance the studio’s production and distribution business – and are keyed into today’s younger generation, which shows a preference for mobile screens. In short, Warner Bros. is interested in getting in on the ground floor with innovative technology that may be the next big thing. “We want startups to know if they have an offering we want them to come to Warner Bros. first,” said Debra Baker, senior vice president, global business development at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Media Camp originated at Turner Broadcasting, another division of Warner Bros. parent Time Warner Inc., in San Francisco three years ago. Walt Disney Co. started a similar program this year. The managers of the startups spend their time in workshops, mentoring sessions and meetings with 50 executives from the various divisions of Warner Bros. and throughout the entertainment industry. Each company receives a $20,000 investment from the studio. Warner Bros., however, does not take stakes in any of the Media Camp participants. “Our goal is not to own the companies,” Baker said. “It is to facilitate their strengths and growth of what they are doing. If it works for us it will raise the tide in the whole industry.” The camp is in its second year at Warner Bros. in Burbank. The 11-week program wrapped up Aug. 4 with Demo Day allowing startups to show off their products. Coming as they did from around the world – France, England and Australia, as well as all over the country – this summer’s class had an international air. One participant was Incoming Media, with offices in both Sydney and the Silicon Valley. It creates software that uses data analytics to understand the video viewing habits of mobile device users. Another was Portal Entertainment, a London startup that creates special content for tablets and other mobile devices. Julian McCrea, Portal’s managing director, said the camp gave a look behind the walls of Hollywood, which for a startup entertainment tech company was invaluable. “You get a clear understanding of how the entertainment business works across a number of disciplines – movies, TV and video games,” he said. Portal Entertainment has come up with software that uses a mobile device’s camera to track a viewer’s expressions. At certain key points, a video’s story line can change depending on whether a viewer, say, frowns or smiles in response to a scene. Portal’s first offering, “The Craftsman,” a thriller, is available through iTunes. Twenty-seven startups have completed the program and many continue to receive support from Baker and the Media Camp team. A few have even gotten deals from having participated, including Chute, a digital marketing firm in San Francisco, and Cinemacraft, a developer of a media monetization platforms in Mountain View. Portal has signed development deals with Warner Bros. for two projects of short-form content exclusively for tablets. It has a unique product the studio desires. “It creates an engaged consumer around the content,” Baker said. Warner Bros. will begin accepting applications for the 2015 class of Media Camp in January. Lights, Camera, Northridge The Department of Cinema and Television Arts at California State University, Northridge was named to the top 25 film schools in the country by entertainment industry trade publication Hollywood Reporter. The San Fernando Valley school landed at the 22nd position on the list in which it was described as “Hollywood’s best-kept secret.” With an in-state tuition of less than $7,000 for undergraduates and less than $8,000 for graduate students, the CSUN program offers bachelor degrees in film, TV and multimedia production, screenwriting, media theory, criticism, and electronic media management, and a master’s in screenwriting. Department Chairman Jon Stahl said it was wonderful for the program to receive validation. “I am incredibly proud of the award-winning work that our production and writing students create, and I’m equally proud of our faculty — who write, produce and direct nationally and internationally honored projects,” Stahl said in a prepared statement. Alumni of the program include Keri Selig, founder and president of the feature film and television production company Intuition Productions; Glenn Gainor, president of production for Screen Gems, a feature division of Sony Pictures; and Donald Petrie, director of “Grumpy Old Men” and “Miss Congeniality.” Staff Reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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