The Future of TV with Kevin Smith, Lisa Kudrow, Burnie Burns & Jay Mewes

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  • Kevin Smith (SmodCo, “Red State”), Jason Mewes (“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”), Lisa Kudrow (“Web Therapy“), Burnie Burns (Rooster Teeth, “Red vs. Blue”) and What’s Trending host Shira Lazar sit down for a discussion about the future of web television and how technology is changing the entertainment and media industries.

    This discussion was shot live on February 15th, 2013, as part of the “Future of TV” Panel, sponsored by What’s Trending, SModCo Internet Television and NewTek.

    Presenting a prime example of traditional media trying to latch onto new media formats, Smith reveals that he recently worked with FOX on a pilot project set up as a variety show. “They had four or five of us do these one-act plays essentially, like a six or seven minute sitcom. They called it a short-com.”

    FOX’s reasoning was, “It’s tough to take a 22-minute sitcom and make it viral, but you can take a six-minute sitcom and make that viral and at the same time show people how to build show.” It also provided a testing ground for certain stories to really take off and others to be allowed to fizzle away.

    Major networks are even trying to get Smith to recruit YouTube stars, but he has to admit that they don’t need the exposure. He points out that Epic Meal Time‘s Harley Morenstein would joke, “I want that fat YouTube money,” but Smith says, “That exists now! That’s real, man. YouTube money is real.”

    The biggest piece of information that Smith drops is how he plans to release “Clerks III.” He considered doing online episodes or even a limited Broadway run, but he finally decided: “I want to do ‘Clerks III’ as a book first. I want to do it in episodic chapters. So that as I release it, people can read the whole thing, see what it would look like. I get to go inside the characters’ heads […] all the stuff I can’t do in a movie.”

    He offers advice for aspiring content creators in the new media space: “Build what you love. Dream, do it, then figure out how to monetize.” He later adds, “If you’re asking somebody for a solution, then you’re way behind the curve.”

    Lisa Kudrow has made her mark all across the map, having played Phoebe on “Friends” and started up her own online series, “Web Therapy,” which recently transitioned to Showtime. But Kevin Smith most enjoys her work on HBO’s “The Comeback,” which ran for a single season back in 2005.

    “‘Web Therapy’ is not pitchable,” Kudrow says of her hit series. “You used to be able to get away with really different [ideas] on HBO or Showtime. But this is really different. And I think the only place we can potentially get away with it is on the Internet.”

    Once Showtime did pick up the series, the format changed a bit in order to use the two-person, improvised segments to fill a full broadcast time slot. Kudrow expresses that this was the end goal, in terms of building a successful business model – to move from web to television. She then adds, “I don’t know how much longer that’s going to last.”

    With Rooster Teeth, Burnie Burns built up his own media empire online from scratch. And that was back in 2003. “We had to teach people how to watch video online,” he says.

    “We always had this idea of – we’re not going to tell the audience how they have to support us. We’re just going to give them every possible option,” citing PayPal donate buttons, premium services, and, of course T-shirts and merchandise.

    Next up for his ten-season-strong series, “Red vs. Blue,” Burns says that he’s going to move back to their roots for Season 11, bringing back the classic characters from “The Blood Gulch Chronicles.”

    With that information, Smith tells Burnie, “You’re my hero, man,” praising his ability to successfully produce completely independent content. “That’s what I dreamed about doing.”

    In terms of traditional media learning from new media, Smith says, “I think they’re just trying to figure out how to co-exist. They’re trying to figure out how to steal from it.”

    Kudrow points out Netflix’s “House of Cards” as a major turning point for viewers seeing high quality, serial content being offered exclusively online.

    Shira closes out the discussion by chatting with NewTek founder and futurist Tim Jenison about his role in the desktop video revolution and the entertainment/technology trends he sees coming over the next 25 years.

    “Storytelling will probably be just about the same in 20 years, but it may look more like a holodeck,” bringing the technology of light field imagery into play.

    “Right now, we can have video game quality on our screen, but in the near future we’ll start to have real studio quality – things that they take hours and hours and days to render – that will all happen in real time,” he says. “It will fool your eye. You will believe you’re seeing reality.”

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