U.S. Streaming and International Co-Productions
Come join us! Henry Jenkins and Denise Mann, co-directors of Transforming Hollywood, invite you to attend the 2021 TH9 conference on Friday, Dec. 3, 9:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m. PST. RSVP to indicate whether you plan to attend in-person (UCLA Bridges Theater) or via zoom:
CONFERENCE OVERVIEW: The ninth edition of the Transforming Hollywood conference examines the growing prominence of streaming services — a trend that has been accelerated by the Covid pandemic and is reshaping the world of production including international co-productions and the transnational circulation of content and talent. The popularity of streamers is blurring the distinction between cinema and television and impacting the future of the cinema theater-going experience. The changes are having global repercussions and are affecting international collaborations between creators and producers. This edition features media creators, producers, and executives in critical dialogue with top researchers who will examine the ideological challenges and financial opportunities facing local media industries from Central-Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and the Asian Pacific Rim as they forge creative partnerships with Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max, and other U.S. streaming services. The U.S. streamers are competing over high-profile, Game of Thrones-style media franchises that will engage transnational audiences, in many cases by invoking a return of the repressed using familiar Slavic mythologies inhabited by witches, Sylvan, Kikimora monsters, and Dopplers from the Grishaverse, and East Asian mythologies populated by ghosts, vampires, and other tortured souls returning from the afterlife. Local media companies are promoting themselves by providing access to high-tech studios, otherworldly locations, and skilled, inexpensive, labor. The latter includes virtual LED studios using game engine technologies to deliver digitally-generated landscapes and VFX workers with the proven ability to render a multitude of magical creatures to attract transnational audiences. Meanwhile, global fans from diverse territories celebrate their knowing recognition of these aesthetic traditions from the past, many of which invoke the reactionary policies of older, authoritarian regimes while invoking progressive critiques of contemporary post-colonial oppression, which they lovingly detail in their blogs, channels, and wikis. This year’s conference engages with these and other thorny issues that require local media industries to navigate a minefield of socio-economic, cultural-industrial, and ideological battle lines in order to take advantage of the infusions of capital associated with the current streaming wars.
CO-DIRECTORS’ INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: 9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
Denise Mann, Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television and Henry Jenkins, Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
9:30 a.m.-11:20 a.m. PST/6:30 p.m.-8:20 p.m. (France). “It’s (not) so French.” French productions in the age of global streaming
Violaine Roussel, Professor, Université Paris VIII and Affiliated Scholar, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
- Isabelle Degeorges, President, Gaumont Television France (zoom)
- Daniela Elstner, Executive Director, UniFrance Film International (in person)
- Christophe Riandée, Vice CEO, Gaumont (zoom)
- Ana Vinuela, Associate Professor, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (in person)
PANEL ONE OVERVIEW: France is known for its distinctive film tradition and festivals such as Cannes, but also for the protective regulations and the state subsidies to its cinema — this being part of a European strategy to preserve the diversity of content and local culture heritage within its borders. How is the rapid expansion of streaming services changing the situation? A show such as Lupin on Netflix illustrates the success of content that reaches beyond just local audiences, while being based on an iconic character of the French popular culture. The panelists will question what makes French content and talent travel internationally today. We will shed light on new forms of transnational collaborations in the production and dissemination of content, discussing the effects of local arrangements and regulations as well as the disruptive force that are the streaming giants.
BREAK: 11:20 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
11:30 a.m.-1:20 p.m.PST/8:30 p.m.-10:20 p.m. (Poland). Netflix’s The Witcher: Runaway Productions in Central-Eastern European Locales
Denise Mann, Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
- Anikó Imre, Professor, USC School of Cinematic Arts (in person)
- Sylwia Szostak, Assistant Professor, University of Silesia in Katowice (zoom, Warsaw)
- Mateusz Tokarz, Senior VFX supervisor, Platige Image (zoom, Warsaw)
- Karol Zbikowski, Chairman of the Management Board, Platige Image (zoom, Warsaw)
PANEL TWO OVERVIEW: This panel examines the latest wave of runaway production as U.S. streamers are drawn to Eastern European capitals, such as Budapest, Prague and Warsaw, which offer lucrative, tax rebates; skilled, inexpensive labor forces; and reduced workplace and environmental regulations. At the same time, these post-socialist vistas provide backdrops for ancient legends and mythical, VFX-generated creatures far removed from contemporary reality. Budapest has been used for several high-profile streaming originals, including Netflix’s The Witcher, which is based on Polish fantasy writer Andrew Sapkowski’s popular book series and the adapted popular video game, and was shot primarily in Hungary in and around Mafilm Studios near Budapest. Cultural-industrial, socio-economic, and ideological paradoxes abound given that so many of these state-influenced media outlets are controlled by far-right governments that are willing to court the neoliberal, global capitalism favored by their U.S. financial partners in order to access the economic windfall stemming from the U.S. streaming wars. Many of these “history-fantasy cocktails” deliver a postmodernist mélange of possible interpretations for distinct taste cultures that the U.S. streamers are uniquely qualified to bundle given their mastery of automated curation and data management technologies.
LUNCH BREAK: 1:20 p.m.-2:30 p.m. See UCLA map for dining options on campus.
2:30 p.m.-4:20 p.m. PST. Transcultural Fandom in the Age of Streaming Media
Henry Jenkins, Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism
- Abigail De Kosnik, Associate Professor and Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media, University of California, Berkeley (in person)
- Susan Kresnicka, Business anthropologist and Founder/President, KR&I (in person)
- Hye Jin Lee, Clinical Assistant Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism (in person)
- Aswin Punathambekar, Associate Professor, Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia. (zoom, Virginia)
PANEL THREE OVERVIEW: Streaming services have impacted the circulation and consumption of media content around the world. Did fan subbing and “piracy” pave the way for these new circuits? How has the mass availability of such content reshaped old fan and audience practices? What audiences are most ready to engage with transnational and transcultural content and why? How does consuming media content change the ways consumers think about the cultures from which it originated? Do these new audiences prefer “odorless” content or are they becoming “pop cosmopolitans”? Is this a new form of cultural imperialism producing a monoculture or does the system depend upon diverse styles and genres from the participating countries? Does this content still rely on well-trod trade routes and diasporic communities or are new contact zones between countries emerging?
BREAK: 4:20 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
4:30 p.m.-6:20 p.m. PST/7:30 p.m.-9:20 a.m. (Singapore). Logistical Underworlds of HBO Asia’s Streaming Originals
Jasmine Nadua Trice, Associate Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
- Garon De Silva, Vice President, Original Production, HBO Asia (zoom, Singapore)
- Ler Jiyuan, showrunner, writer-director, Invisible Stories, Grisse, (HBO Asia) zoom, Singapore)
- Olivia Khoo, Associate Professor, Film and Screen Studies, Monash University (zoom, Melbourne)
- Michael Wiluan, CEO Infinite Studios, executive producer, Grisse, Halfworlds) (zoom, Singapore)
PANEL FOUR OVERVIEW: This panel examines HBO Asia Originals by exploring the complex negotiation between the physical spaces of film production and the pro-filmic fantasy worlds they enable. For HBO Asia Originals, on-screen narratives present efforts at pan-Southeast-Asian place-making, with casts from across the region switching between English and Asian languages, within stories that negotiate regional mythologies and globalized genre conventions. But their geographic specificity emerges not through diegetic worldmaking, but in the extra-textual, material conditions of production — specifically, through the locations that their narratives seek to transform. The panel focuses on two shows, in particular, the anti-colonial “mee goreng western” Grisse, set in 19th-century Java and shot at Infinite Studios in the Free Trade Zone of Batam, Indonesia; and Halfworlds, an auteur-helmed supernatural action thriller shot at Infinite Studios, as well as Jakarta (Season 1) and Bangkok (Season 2). As HBO Asia’s Garon De Silva describes, “We discovered that despite different culture and languages in Asia, they shared common beliefs in supernatural creatures…we aim to bring Asian stories together for a global audience.” On the one hand, such programs are creative opportunities for media practitioners within the region, who may find pockets of creative agency within global media industries; on the other, such shows are tasked with the unwieldy goals of simultaneous cultural authenticity, universal appeal, and regional interchangeability.
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