Wednesday, October 04, 2000

The Cyber Scene in Los Angeles ~ by Kyrsten Johnson

* * VIC Web Fest - Fall 2000

I arrived an hour early at the annual VIC Web Fest in order to talk to the sponsors and interview a few key speakers because I'd heard this event was sure to be jam-packed and very busy. Unfortunately for me at first, I wasn't allowed inside by one of the "helpful" event planners because I think she was having a bad day. It didn't matter to her that I'd been personally invited by the Director of Operations of the organization, she told me I couldn't go in and I'd have to wait. So, undeterred, I hung around like a stray dog outside the entrance until I was lucky enough to catch the eye of Edward Perotti, the Vice President of Strategic Events for VIC. He graciously asked me if he could help, and after apologizing for the event planner, he sashayed me right in to the event entrance. He was an extremely congenial host, proceeding to walk me around the entire festival space and telling me all about the event, and even more about VIC itself.

Three times annually (Spring, Summer, Fall), VIC ( presents a celebration of the web, combining all of the formats of VIC. This includes broadcast and webcast Speaker Presentations, product launches, a job fest, musical entertainment in the form of a great jazz band, food, drinks, promotional booths and of course, executive networking. Ed informed me that his latest plans include taking the Fest on the road in 2001! He and his group envision taking the event to San Francisco, Chicago, and many other city centers starting in April. Although he told me he's anxious about the whole idea, I believe he'll be able to pull it off with the appropriate grandeur.

"Grandeur" is the precise word I thought of when I walked around the beautiful space that VIC occupied at the Skirball Cultural Center. The collateral on the center reads: "It has galleries, but it is more than a museum. It has a resource center but it is more than a library. It has a state-of-the-art auditorium but it is much much more than a performing arts center." The SCC is indeed an impressive structure; nestled in the mountain side, just north of the renowned Getty Museum, the Center has many levels and its architecture has an almost 'sculpted' feel. The courtyard area was the setting for tables full of edible delights, and the courtyard's lovely pond and waterwall was a nice backdrop for the jazz band's stage.

After getting a drink I headed inside towards the promo booths full of various companies. Many were recruiting and placement firms, and I enjoyed chatting with the reps from such offices as Creative Assets and Heather Peake from eTalent Agency. Almost all of the booths had candy of some sort, I guess due to October being the Halloween month, but the folks at Guidance went farther than most by giving away cute metal tins filled with killer mints! On my way to the Speaker Presentations, I stopped by the marchFIRST booth to converse with their people. I know many of them by now because I work on the AIP-LA Board and they are gracious enough to let us hold meetings there each month.
It was getting close to curtain time in the theater section where the speakers would do their thing. The place wasn't filling up as I had suspected, and although the presentations were brief and fairly informative the theater never got very full. First up was a representative from marchFirst who spoke about content and content creation. The proceeding speakers included a great speech from Michael Bonifer of iXL on company value (DISregarding the value of falling stock of the dot-coms), an amusing dissertation on building your brand by Noah Manduke of Siegelgale, and an informed commentary on user experiences by Jeff Bekes of RareMedium. (I particularly enjoyed his rant on that venerable uninformed usability "guru," Jakob Nielsen!)

After the presentations were over, I nibbled on some more dinner as I walked around yet more company booths just off the courtyard. Susan Callaghan of RareMedium was giving away goodies and candy and I spoke with her about our respective companies, then turned around towards the iXL booth when I heard someone clamoring about their T-shirt giveaways. To my great pleasure, I was handed a T-shirt from one of the booth attendants, and I could see right away it wasn't your average tee -- it was about three times smaller than average in fact, which meant for once I could wear the shirt myself instead of automatically turning it over to my husband! The attendee told me to visit the iXL pavilion outside for even more goodies, and I heeded her advice directly. The pounding techno music and wild screen projections out in the iXL space were fun and impressive. I could actually feel what the working at such a fast-paced, hip 'net company would be like, and found myself nostalgic for my old days at many beloved start-up companies.

By 10pm It was time to go, but my first visit to VIC's Web Fest was quite a treat, and I'll look forward to next summer's event!
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* * Twentieth Century Fox and Women In Technology International (WITI) present "Trends In Entertainment Technology" - 10/04/00

Note: No, I wasn't in two places at once that night! The following article was written by one of my company partners who graciously offered her literary services for TheCyberScene! Thanks, Kathy!  - KJ

The festivity of fall and film was in the air the evening of October 4th on the studio lot of 20th Century Foxwhere WITI hosted their third major event this year. In a brief discussion before the event, Diane Gubin, Regional Director of WITI's LA chapter, characterized this an "inaugural" event that incorporated some combined feedback from previous events-more networking and icebreakers along with technical topics. The three and a half hour evening began for some 200 members and guests with networking, visiting tables from sponsor FOX and other hosts, Women In Film, and Software Management Consultants, Inc. This was accompanied of course by those yummy platters of hors d'oeuvres that roam around and find their way onto your napkin. Those included, hummus on flatbread with grilled red and yellow peppers, cheese tortellini and tomate skewers, olives and feta cheese, miniature potato and cheese pizzas, and apple and cheese pastries. You wish you'd been there, right?
Before I go too far, let me talk about WITI. Women In Technology International, founded in 1989, is a premiere association dedicated to the advancement and empowerment of women in technology at all levels. With 33 chapters across the country and around the world, WITI's strategy consists of providing access to people and content which are relevant to the issues faced by women who are highly reliant on technology for their professions, businesses and careers. WITI offers a vertical portal site at . This is vertically oriented, valuable market segment features information pertaining to WITI mentoring, innovative online career center, and other useful information such as free email, news and stock quotes, calendar of events, latest market developments, and education on the latest technology.

Now, back to the show...
Time to move on to the Big Tent. On the studio lot was a large white tent that allowed plenty of seating even if it was in those uncomfortable plastic folding chairs. Quite loud with the movie trailers that blarred on the screen, but that passed quickly after the audience was assembled. After short introductions of the current board members and thank-you's to hosts and sponsors, two guest speakers each spoke briefly.

Christine MacKinnon, VP Corporate Systems at 20th Century spoke about what distinguishes a good Information Technology Department and how IT directors in the entertainment sector must become more aware of how technology is changing the industry and how this must be coupled with leadership initiatives, relationships with users, and business and technical knowledge.

Susan Grode, Esq from Katten Muchin Zavis spoke to the group about entertainment and law. She expressed her personal passion on the topic of trends in entertainment technology as she was one of the original founders of the Women In Film organization. She directed her comments to Entertainment and the Internet and the uncharted territory around this related to traditional copyrights, trademarks and IP law with the Internet. She referred to entertainment as needing to be a "new media industry" focusing on emerging content, awareness of children online protection and privacy, movie business and dot com business, e-commerce and entertainment, the gaming industry and the internet, and using the internet as a convergent area for tryouts for entertainment outlets. Ms. Grode plugged her other passion of "getting women out there" and sited some shocking statistics about the actual number of women owned technology business and emerging business along with the low percentage (12%) of VC money that goes to women. She shared ideas about starting groups to become part of an "angel fund" and provided information about current "angel funds" that exist for women.

The general session ended with door prizes including a 1 year membership to WITI, dinner at Spago's, Movie Magic software, stuffed animals, and goodies from FOX with movie themes.

In the spotlight of trying to act on feedback from earlier events as I mentioned above, the group was then invited to participate in roundtable discussions. Interactive roundtables featured at least twenty moderators ranging from independent content producers and film distributors, to CTOs, entertainment attorneys, and executives. An enclosed list of table moderators, titles, company affiliations and topics were listed ahead of time in the program received at registration so that a selection could be made. You could grab a cup of coffee or tea and a desert sweet and make your way inside to the round tables decorated with Hollywood glitz and glitter atop a centerpiece of film and star cut-outs. This gave the women and opportunity to pick a topic of interest that still was linked to the theme of the evening, technology, and be in a small group to do some networking.

Moderators were well prepared with questions on the various topics to get the discussion moving. The panel moderators were a combination of volunteers as well as selections made by the WITI board members. One can have mixed reviews at this approach at an event, but since WITI looked to respond to members they did accomplish that.

The evening culminated with a few more door prizes and an announcement of the next WITI event -- a holiday affair -- scheduled for December 6, at the Friar's Club in Los Angeles.