Two Models For A Movie Hackathon

The month of October will feature two movie hackathons, one in New York, the other in Los Angeles.

Bond Strategy and Influence is hosting The Film Experience Hackathon which takes place this coming weekend, October 13-14 in New York.  They are calling for coders, designers and visual artists to participate.  As they describe it on their website:

The Film Experience Hackathon is a weekend-long event whereby hackers, filmmakers and visual artists will join forces to create new and innovative ideas in how technology can enhance the world of film.

The goal of this hackathon is to build hacks that bring together technology, multimedia, and data to enrich the end-to-end movie experience. Hacks must improve the overall experience of seeking out, watching, and engaging with movies.

Film Independent is partnering with ZEFR and Indiewire to create a Movie Hackathon which will culminate on October 21st in Los Angeles.  They describe the hackathon as an event:

which will be devoted to creating new tools designed specifically for indie filmmakers, and Indiewire has partnered to collect the raw material for the interactive experience from its vast readership.

Here’s how it works: We invite the Indiewire community to brainstorm ideas for new digital tools that you would want for helping your movies find audiences and audiences find your movies. Meanwhile, FIND has recruited a group of high-end tech developers who are ready to take a crack at creating these tools and applications over a high-intensity 40-hour period.

What is a hackathon?  Wikipedia defines it this way:

A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others in the field of software development, like graphic designers, interface designers, project managers and computational philologists[1], collaborate intensively on software projects.

Hackathons have been popular in the tech world for the past several years within large companies and within groups of independent developers who are trying to come up with a new solution to certain problems.

What both of these events do is add two things to the hackathon concept:

1. They focus the event on film related issues and,

2. They add filmmakers into the participant mix.  (Though one hopes that this still leaves room for the “computational philologist”.)

The New York event creates teams of filmmakers, visual artists and developers who work together over a weekend to create new software products–whether applications, tools or platforms.

The Los Angeles approach is slightly different.  They solicit ideas from filmmakers through Indiewire, these ideas get voted on and then the winning ideas are turned over to developers for execution and presentation.

I believe that the New York model will bear more fruit then the Los Angeles model. Here is why.

As Steve Johnson so eloquently points out in his book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, the best environments for innovation are ones where people of diverse backgrounds create new ideas through constant discussion in a common setting.  As he states, “An idea is a network”.  The more diverse the network, the better the idea.

In the New York hackathon, each team will be diverse, with filmmakers working in concert with designers and coders throughout the weekend. An intimate network of diversity is built into the model.

On the other hand, in Los Angeles, the filmmakers separately come up with the ideas and then these ideas are handed over to the coders who do all the work.  That separation cuts off the network, creates silos and weakens any potential idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud both of these efforts.  These experiments are sorely needed to bring the technology and film worlds together in a fruitful way. But they have to be brought together in ways that create real collaboration and innovation.

Developers have as much to learn from filmmakers as filmmakers have to learn from developers.

But they have to speak to each other in order to learn each others language.

And being in the same room helps them do so.

About Chris Dorr

I consult with companies on digital media strategy and business development. Clients include Samsung, MTV Networks, Tribeca Film Festival, Shaw Media and Canadian Film Center. I created the Future of Film blog for Tribeca. I have worked in the movie business for Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Scott Free and in the digital media business for Intertainer, Sony and Nokia. Contact me at chris@digitaldorr.com or follow me at @chrisdorr
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  • Arrose

    or at least the same virtual room.  not necessarily the same physical place.  lots of great collaborative software as you know.

  • chrisdorr

    Hi Arrose, Thanks for the comment. Yes that is correct. The key is collaboration.