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The New, New Thing in Film: Innovation


Above photo: (L-to-R) IVY Film Innovator Award finalist Sean Carey, IVY Film Innovator Award Winner Emily Best, IVY Film Innovator Award finalist Don Napoleon, Host Josh Radnor, IVY Film Innovator Award finalists Elizabeth Dell, Scott Glosserman, and Luke Kelly-Clyne attend the IVY Film Innovator Awards, presented by Cadillac on August 4, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Recently, I was honored as a finalist for the 2015 IVY Innovator Award for Film, presented by Cadillac.   There were six finalists, coming from all aspects of the content spectrum: distribution, financing, access, producing, writing, and more. It was an inspiring night and led directly to the question: Where are the innovations in film and content happening?  

The six finalists were chosen from hundreds of submissions, so one assumes that the IVY group got to see a cross-section of how individuals are innovating these days. So what do their selections tell us about what’s new in Film?

  • Film Innovation is about who and where

There were three finalists focused on the world of film content. Emily Best, founder of Seed&Spark, is a crowd-funding, audience-building, and distribution platform all in one, creating an eco-system for independent film where the audience and filmmaker are on a shared journey to make a film, not simply passing individuals in a one-time transaction [that’s both who and where]. Scott Glosserman, founder of Gathr, is focused on distribution to non-traditional audiences, targeting unique communities and having film supporters pull movies to theaters, rather than studios pushing films out [the where].

I produce commercial, genre narrative films starring women and in Asia (both in English and Mandarin). And as the Head of the China Task Force for the Producer’s Guild of America, the only China committee in any of the Hollywood guilds, I am building a content community across the two largest markets in the world. We make global action films with non-traditional stars for underserved audiences [basically all about the who].

  • A lot of the innovation is outside film

So if three finalists were in film, the other three – fifty percent – were NOT. These innovators were multiple places: creating access programs for underserved students to media professionals in TV, news, film, sports, digital, gaming, and more (Don Napoleon’s eXposure Project); creating and writing digital and television sketch comedy over myriad platforms (Luke Kelly-Clyne); and creating brand-driven original digital content for multiple startups (Sean Carey). While this award was focused on Film Innovation, half of the honorees were redefining the term “Film.” Leaning toward the small screen, they create for YouTube, new media, integrated content, transmedia, immersive worlds, gaming, and more.

  • Everyone works everywhere

At the event, talking to my fellow innovators however, it was instantly clear that whatever was called out in a bio, we are all fluid in our content mediums. I am a narrative feature producer, but also produce branded YouTube channels; Luke writes for Maker Studios and and “Saturday Night Live.”  This story was true for every other finalist. We move fluidly between film and television, digital and live, video games and transmedia, narrative and unscripted; back and forth as the opportunities arise and evolve. Some of us are moving ourselves between content mediums, and others, like Seed&Spark, are reaching out to all content forms, creating communities regardless of where the content eventually lives.  As innovators, each one of the finalists are entrepreneurs, finding new pathways and willing to pivot when the idea no longer works as a movie or a TV show or a webseries.

The old definitions of our industry have broken down, even the name on the Oscars theater has shifted away from “film,” now the Dolby theater instead of Kodak. But my fellow innovators and I sleep easy because the true universal, through every medium and shift, is the undying value of story. We innovators will continue to reinvent formats, technologies and delivery systems but the reason we strive to innovate is that the world loves content, loves great stories, and we love them too. The journey of the audience is always paramount – whether they laugh, cry, learn about their world, or about people worlds away. Imagining the stories we will tell and the ways we will access them in the future thrills me and my fellow innovators; We may not be precisely “film innovators” but we are all passionately “story innovators.”

Elizabeth Dell

About Elizabeth Dell

Elizabeth leads the China Task Force for the Producers Guild of America (PGA). She is half of the sister-team of Two Camels Films, with Writer/Director Emily Dell. She is currently producing several Mandarin-language and Chinese-based action films, including RULES OF BUSINESS with the China Film Corporation (中国电影集团公司), and TIGER MOTHER, selected for the PGA Diversity Workshop 2014. Elizabeth produced B-GIRL, a narrative hip-hop dance feature distributed worldwide which is featured on Showtime, Encore and Starz networks. She is also the CFO and co-founder of Array Entertainment, a slate fund focused on female-driven films. Finally, Elizabeth produces digital media, producing 100+ episodes of branded entertainment for YouTube and other platforms. Elizabeth sits on the PGA International Committee and is part of the PGA New Media Council. Elizabeth is a regular speaker on China, entertainment, digital media, and entrepreneurship. Elizabeth and her sister are featured in the National Women’s History Museum. Elizabeth has a Chemistry degree from Amherst College and Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley.