TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Hollywood enters a new era as Sony taps hi-tech pro for film

Hollywood likes to go with what it knows. When looking for a new publicist, companies usually interview a familiar set of names, and rarely consider outsiders.

Hollywood likes to go with what it knows. When looking for a new publicist, companies usually interview a familiar set of names, and rarely consider outsiders.

Hollywood likes to go with what it knows. When looking for a new

publicist, companies usually interview a familiar set of names, and

rarely consider outsiders.



Like many other bastions of tradition that cushion the film business

from the outside world, this one is crumbling. Naturally, most companies

have motored on without noticing, but a few have spotted the winds of

change.



Earlier this year, Sony Pictures appointed Jerry Giaquinta to head its

corporate communications department. For Sony, Giaquinta’s background at

Silicon Graphics and Tandem Computers was the enticement. Filmed

entertainment accounts for a tiny portion of Sony’s total revenues;

substantially more important to the bottom line is the convergence of

technology in the home, requiring company spokespeople to be as

knowledgeable about electronics products as they are about Adam

Sandler.



Although the concept of ’synergy’ as championed by Sony has become a bit

of a joke in Hollywood, nobody doubts that the dollars 60 billion

conglomerate, whose interests span everything from VCRs to Seinfeld, is

well-positioned to take advantage of the entertainment revolution.



Sony executive VP Yuki Nozoe spelled out the Japanese company’s

thinking: ’Jerry’s background in technology will be especially helpful

as technology and content creation become more integrated and will have

to work closely with other parts of the Sony group to communicate

coherent messages.’



So far, Sony is the only studio to openly require its PR pros to be

well-versed in hardware. But similar developments are occurring at other

agencies.



Last year, former Variety reporter Rex Weiner formed DDA Mediatek, an

offshoot of Dennis Davidson Associates specializing in technology and

digital media.



The benefit of moving into this area for an agency is not only the lack

of competition, but also the ability to cut innovative financial

deals.



DDA Mediatek says that it will net a percentage of the sales revenues of

certain software products made by companies that it represents.



The consensus in Hollywood is that hi-tech companies will be the next

big investors in film. In five years, according to some, the likes of

Yahoo! and Microsoft will be calling the shots, rather than Viacom and

Time Warner.



If this sounds unlikely, remember that News Corp. has already declared

that it will turn itself into an Internet company. And Artisan

Entertainment has turned the microbudget horror film The Blair Witch

Project into a box office success with an Internet-based PR campaign -

34 million hits on its web site and counting.



As this sort of activity grows, the knowledge of the Giaquintas and

Weiners will become indispensable. Any remaining PR Luddites should

enroll in night school now.



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