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SIGGRAPH Business Symposium to Focus on Key Issues Facing Film and Game Industries

The SIGGRAPH Business Symposium offers attendees an intense, productive day with this year’s focus on disruption and innovation in the content creation industries namely games and films. Unlike any other conference, SIGGRAPH provides a unique forum where leaders from film, games, and broadcast cross paths and share ideas with scientists, academics, and world-class researchers. It is geared towards higher level executives and studio heads.

"There has never been a more urgent time for industry leaders to unite in order to discuss solutions for the dire straits our industries and colleagues are facing," says Evan Hirsch, SIGGRAPH 2013 Business Symposium Chair and Executive Creative Director, Engine, Co. 4. "We must deliver productive change as the industries as we know them are in a precarious situation. I am thrilled that we continue to add speakers to the agenda that will inspire our attendees and stimulate conversation amongst them. For instance, the new addition of Academy Award winner Richard Chuang of Cloudpic along with Marc Bolas, a noted researcher and pioneer from the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, adds even more depth to what already is a can’t miss event for industry executives, leaders, and visionaries."

The Business Symposium is a day of dialogues, inspiration and networking for studio leaders and executives in the production and creative communities, investment bankers, lawyers, and various government representatives who want to move beyond the constant disruption happening throughout computer graphic industries.

The following are just some of the highlights of a very packed day of sessions, panels, and talks:


Panel: Innovating Business Models

Moderator: Don McGowan, General Counsel, The Pokémon Company International; Meredith Amdur, VP Digital Strategy, DirecTV; Phil Ashcroft, Independent Producer; Matthew Cohen, Director of Business Development, Machinima

Despite the major contractions in our traditional markets, competition from foreign markets, and the effects of tax credits that rarely directly benefit content creators, entertainment still lives by the mantra "Content is King." The studios may be releasing fewer tent poles and AAA games but there have never been more platforms, venues, and formats hungry for high-quality, compelling content. Three panelists offer their insights on how they will connect with audiences that are enthusiastic yet diverse in how they consume content, how they will monetize it, and where opportunities lie for linear and interactive content creators.

Panel: Creative Deal Structures for Growth And Survival

Moderator: Don McGowan, General Counsel, The Pokémon Company International; Steve Goldstein, Partner, Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP; Joleen Winther Hughes, Principal, Hughes Media Law Group; Justine Kasznica, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP
In an environment where creative work is more and more often produced outside the US and acquired for global distribution, business executives need to know the cultural expectations that IP creators bring to the table. How much can business realities enter into creative decision-making, what expectations will creators have for how they will be treated by foreign businesses, and other issues have usually been considered from the perspective of US content going overseas. This session provides valuable insight into the realities that US-based companies face in acquiring content and working with developers, and informs those creative developers by providing some perspectives that their US-based partners will likely hold.


Keynote: Disruption in the Battlefield

Speaker: Capt. Thomas Chaby, Executive Officer, Naval Special Warfare Center
Over the last 15 years, it is the rare SIGGRAPH attendee who has not been involved in creating content with military themes. Throughout production, the terminology of war and combat is used constantly, and as leaders we constantly talk about aligning objectives, situational awareness, dealing with ambiguity, and adapting to unpredictable conditions. In reality, when things go wrong, as significant as our losses may be, they are limited to shots, sales, and money.



Captain Thomas Chaby, an active-duty US Navy SEAL officer, talks about the reality of developing and training the very best of our military’s special operators to be successful in situations where the environments are all but guaranteed to be dynamic and disrupted, and the deadly serious implications of failure. While failures in our production environments may not result in the consequences faced by our military special operators, we can draw on lessons from them on how to lead successfully in fast-moving, hyper-dynamic conditions with limited predictability.


Panel: The Role of R&D In Production (and Profit)

Moderator: Carl Rosendahl, Carnegie Mellon University; Lincoln Wallen, CTO, DreamWorks Animation SKG; Scott Cronce, VP Technology, Electronic Arts; Joe Alter, Principal, Joe Alter Inc; Farchad Bidgolirad, R&D Supervisor, Ubisoft Motion Pictures 
Complex CG behaviors and effects such as crowds, water, fire, and cloth have found their way into most software packages, leading companies of all sizes to the belief that CG research is the domain of universities. This panel explores the notion that if you outsource innovation and rely on the same software as your competition, you are guaranteeing that you will compete on little more than price and date. Four panelists discuss how companies large and very small use research and innovation as a key part of their strategy for success and, ultimately, longevity.

Talk: Pre-Visualizing a Road for Financing and Expansion

Speaker: Chris Edwards, CEO & Creative Director, The Third Floor, Inc.
For most leaders in our community, offshore competition and tax credits have already affected their traditional business models. Meanwhile, for those who want to pivot or grow their businesses, the scarcity of financing has presented an additional set of ever-growing challenges. The Third Floor’s Chris Edwards describes his decision to expand the pre-viz company into the Chinese market along with his expectations for that venture and the lessons learned so far. He also explains how his team has turned rapid prototyping into a tool for his clients to raise capital and pre-sell films (and other entertainment projects).

Talk: Reactive Content Creation

Speaker: Richard Chuang, CEO and Founder, Cloudpic
As a co-founder of Pacific Digital Image and a recipient of a Scientific and Technical Academy Award, Richard Chuang was at the forefront of creating the graphics technology and systems that were used to create the Shrek series of animated films as well as landmark VFX films such as "Batman Forever." After leaving DreamWorks, he had the insight that content creators would need to service individuals instead of an audience, and a world of connected mobile users would demand content that is reflective of the speed and convenience of the consumer. Instead of creating compelling content in years and months, the timeframe for production is now hours and minutes. Richard will discuss how he and his team at Cloudpic are building the tools and advising clients to entertain this new audience by pushing the limits of the creative process.

Partnering With Academia

Speaker: Mark Bolas, Associate Director, USC Institute for Creative Technologies
While R&D departments have been substantially reduced or eliminated at most VFX facilities and game developers, research in academia continues to thrive. More importantly, many researchers are hungry to partner with industry to drive their work beyond the lab to ensure it has impact long after publication. Mark Bolas of the USC’s Institute for Creative Technology will provide a crash course as to how researchers approach industry partners, what our attendees need to know to successfully collaborate, and how companies small and large can leverage and integrate R&D into their businesses to help differentiate themselves.

Crash Course: Building the Symposium Community with Intro Networks

Speaker: Mark Sylvester, CEO, IntroNetworks
As we look to build a community that benefits Business Symposium attendees well after the conference, we have partnered with IntroNetworks to bring our attendees the same software that NASA, TED, and the Clinton Global Initiative use to help their attendees develop meaningful business connections with other attendees throughout the year. Mark Sylvester (a co-founder of Wavefront Technologies) will give a crash course on how symposium attendees can use their smartphones to get the most out of IntroNetwork’s unique technology before, during, and until the next Symposium. (We encourage all attendees to complete a profile at IntroNetworks.com as soon as they register for the symposium.)

Optional Workshop: Executive Mentoring

Speaker: Robert C. Berger, Principal, Robert C. Berger Consulting
In listening to our attendee feedback last year, we learned that while there are many events for executive networking, the opportunities to develop leadership skills are few. With this in mind, this year the symposium is pleased to introduce an opt-in opportunity to participate in a mentoring program as a mentor, a mentee, or both. Bob Berger, ACM SIGGRAPH’s Organization Development and Leadership Consultant, along with our partner IntroNetworks, will provide a framework for establishing and supporting mentoring relationships among our attendees.

At registration, attendees will be able to sign up to attend the Mentoring Information and Mentoring Networking sessions. The information session will provide a brief summary of best practices for mentors and mentees, and an overview of the support provided by the SIGGRAPH Business Symposium mentoring program after the conference. The Mentoring Networking session will provide an opportunity to meet with others interested in the program to find potential matches based on common interests and objectives. If you are interested in participating in the program, please be sure to complete your IntroNetworks profile prior to the symposium or bring 10 copies of a short (one-page) bio describing your professional career, interests, and goals to share during the Mentoring Network session.

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