Screenwriters find answers for Google

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How the Internet has changed the creative process, the life of a film and its distribution pattern were the topics discussed by a panel of notable Hollywood screenwriters at the first in a new speakers series hosted by Google on Monday night.

Craig Brewer ("Hustle & Flow"), Lauren Greenfield ("Thin"), Ted Griffin ("Ocean's Eleven"), and Jim Uhls ("Fight Club") spoke specifically to how they each use the Web's resources for development, how blogging communities now serve to promote films online and the impact of digital technology not only on a film's aesthetics but the industry at large to a mostly packed theater inside the Mann Criterion and close to Google's Santa Monica location.

"It used to be that reviews came out on Friday, then they were lining everybody's birdcage but now they're there forever," quipped Griffin about the power behind the interactive nature of blogging on the Net.

Brewer, whose 2005's "Hustle & Flow" garnered Terrence Howard an Academy Award nomination for best actor credited the social community aspect created through blogging as responsible for creating greater momentum for the film.

"I really believe a lot of the interest to get Terrence that nomination was generated online," said Brewer, whose latest project "Black Snake Moan" stars Samuel Jackson and Cristina Ricci. "It kept the movie alive."

Greenfield, who is also an acclaimed photographer, said that the Internet has allowed her a channel of direct dialogue with her audience and a platform that she can control while Uhls, who with the other panelists examined the impact of an ever presence of information, acknowledged the growing trend for filmmakers to use the Internet as its own plot device.

In terms of distribution, all four recognized the fear felt by studio executives from changing business models.

"The town is a little paralyzed right now," said Griffin, likening this period to the 1960s when the studio system was "in tatters" as he described it while Brewer pointed to what he referred to as the "Renaissance" period that came after that and the opportunities that lie ahead from the digital revolution.

"There's something oddly intimate about being on a plane and switching the way you're positioned to be able to watch a movie," said Brewer, about the different ways and places to access entertainment content these days. "We're in an evolutionary period now. There's going to be something so painfully fun but it's not going to be 'in a theater near you.'"

Greenfield, whose first full-length documentary "Thin" examined the lives of four women suffering from anorexia and bulimia, said that in the case of smaller documentary films like hers, it's about using the technology to get your work out to the broadest audience.

"The other side of the fence is that it's also a time of great experimentation," said Greenfield, citing the purchase of her film by Virgin Airlines as an example of today's different modes of distribution. "When the airline bought my film, my mother was convinced they were trying to save money on food -- so there's a lot of different things being done out there."
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