The Next L.A. / Reinventing Our Future : THE ECONOMY : IDEA FILE: High-Tech Incubators


How It Works: The entertainment industry, and local government- and university-directed economic initiatives, should focus on creating and retaining the entertainment jobs of the future, especially in the areas of multimedia, digitalization (CD/ROM) and “access lanes” to the information superhighway, such as on-line services. Local government should promote Los Angeles as the creative and technological heart of the information revolution, and emphasis on new-business development should target emerging technologies--not just faster permitting for film shoots.


The advent of spectacular new technology is changing the way movies and TV programs are made. One danger is that Silicon Valley, with its technological base, will siphon away Los Angeles’s power as the entertainment industry’s creative center, because so much more of the product will be created, or enhanced, with computers. Any erosion of the entertainment job base in L.A. would strike another blow to the local economy.

Short-Term or Long-Term Impact?

Can have both.


Many argue that by encouraging Los Angeles’ role as the center of the information revolution--not just traditional movie-making--local government would provide a beacon for the industry and a strong message to the rest of the country. A multimedia “zone,” say in Burbank, could encourage start-ups in emerging technologies and provide a testing platform and clearinghouse.


Also, expansion of university programs that emphasize new media technologies would provide the labor pool that studios and support businesses will need to create the product and control the flow of the information highway. USC Film School Dean Elizabeth Daley, for example, says USC is eager to train students--including technically oriented, non-traditional students--in new-media applications. “Where we need help is to know that there are jobs for them on the other end,” Daley says. That will require closer relations among the universities, the studios and the new technology providers.


Critics say emphasis on emerging information technologies by the studios could hasten the shrinkage of the traditional Hollywood labor base. A simple example: If a computer can create a “crowd” in a movie background, real extras may not be needed. But fighting technology has usually proved a losing battle.

The Costs

Potential new incubator complexes to encourage developing technologies (interactive software, for example) could be set up in existing vacant industrial space. Cost to government would vary depending on how ambitious the plan is. In San Jose, the city seeded a Center for Software Development in 1992 for $350,000. The center, which allows software developers to test their products, now operates on a not-for-profit basis. An intangible cost: New technologies could weaken the power of Hollywood trade unions by changing the nature of how movies are made.


Could go either way. Resistance on the part of some studios and other Hollywood elements to the technology revolution probably won’t die easy. Also, Silicon Valley has an edge in keeping and breeding technology-oriented jobs.