Power to the Pixel Keynote Speaker Says Movies Will Need to Expand on Audience Experience

BFI logo New - P 2012

Citing a desire to squeeze more from big budget investments, Fourth Wall Studios co-founder Sean Stewart says the creatives and the consumers are becoming more closely aligned.

LONDON -- U.S.-based Fourth Wall Studios co-founder and head writer Sean Stewart said Hollywood is becoming increasingly savvy in the use of cross-media.

Stewart, who delivered the keynote at the opening of Power to the Pixel’s (PttP) annual Cross-Media Forum which takes place during the BFI London Film Festival, told The Hollywood Reporter after his speech, it marked a sea change from when he first started pitching.

"Back in 2001 when I went to the studios to pitch, it was very different. But when you are spending $30 million, $50 million or $200 million on movie budgets, you have to be really concerned about how to make that money back," Stewart said.

He cited Guillermo del Toro's recent view that as a storyteller and filmmaker he no longer builds movies but aims to build worlds.

Stewart and his Fourth Wall Studios recently won a primetime Emmy in interactive media for Dirty Work, a first for a piece of entertainment created for the web rather than a traditional broadcaster.

And his resume also boasts creating story worlds around The Dark Knight movies, the Halo gaming franchise at Fourth Wall as well as being lead writer on The Beast for Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence: AI and rock band Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero.

Stewart said it made total sense for Hollywood and beyond to employ cross-media methods, "to enable people to live inside those worlds" beyond the 90 minutes they may immerse themselves while in movie theaters.

The best-selling fantasy sci-fi novelist turned transmedia hit maker delivered his keynote under the banner, "Storytelling V: The Audience Strikes Back" focusing on the changing relationship between author and audience and how it is transforming the art of storytelling.

He noted that, according to a recent piece of Google research, 77 percent of audiences watching television are using other connected devices -- be they laptops, smart phones or desktops.

He said with that in mind, storytellers will have to think about using all those devices as means to tell the stories.

Stewart noted in his keynote that the problem with such online devices was they had buttons on them which meant the hardware demands that the user participates.

This, Stewart says, leads to an uptick in the desire by users and consumers to want to get involved with the storytelling.

The message he delivered was that hardware will mean changes to the way stories are told, in the same way that the invention of the printing press and mass-produced books changed the market for the written word.

PttP CEOLiz Rosenthal introducedStewart to the stage to open this year's event at the BFI's National Film Theater after BFI head of exhibition and BFI LFF director Clare Stewart re-iterated how important new thinking and development in the industry was for her event and beyond.

Other speakers at year’s conference, taking place on Oct. 16, include Tribeca Film Institute director of digital initiatives Ingrid Kopp who suggested everyone should get out there and write programming to create the internet rather than just use it and Egmont Press’Cally Poplak andTim Jones, whose presentation was entitled "War Horse: From Page To Stage, Spielberg to Super-App," and detailed their soon-to-be released cross-media project.

Power to the Pixel’s (PttP) annual Cross-Media Forum runs Oct. 16-19.

The sixth annual Cross-Media Forum, held in association with the BFI London Film Festival takes place at the BFI’s National Film Theatre on London’s South Bank.

It is supported by the MEDIA Program of the European Union with additional support from the BFI, Arts Council England, Creative Skillset’s Film Skills Fund, Canada Media Fund, ARTE, Creative Industries KTN, Telefilm Canada, beActive, Tribeca Film Institute, Cinekid and Mozilla. 

The BFI LFF runs Oct. 10 through 21.