Hollywood Visits the 2006 HBS Entertainment and Media Conference

The 2006 Academy Awards symbolized the thriving independent film sector over the past two decades of American cinema. Four of the five films nominated for Best Picture were made independently: “Crash,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.” They represented a body of work distinctive from the dominant, mainstream Hollywood film genre.

These films provided challenging perspectives on social issues with topics ranging from racism to homosexuality. The Academy Awards ought to be commended for honoring independent films that hold stronger relationships to our social, political, cultural or ideological landscape.

What does it mean to be an independent film in 2006? A particular degree of industrial distance must exist between the independent filmmaker and Hollywood’s major studio system. However, are films considered “independent” if they are produced by smaller, independent studios and given a distribution contract by one of the majors before production? Artistically, independent films tend to adopt an aesthetic form that is somewhat disruptive to the mainstream, glossy Hollywood Blockbuster-with styles ranging from edgy to artsy to quirky. The notion of the independent film as a politically and socially inflected cinema also exists. As one can see, the definition of “independence” is somewhat fluid, and will be one of the topics examined in the film panel at the 2006 HBS Entertainment and Media Conference.

Mark Gill, one of the conference keynote speakers, is president of Warner Independent Pictures, the first studio in history to have a film nominated in each “best picture” category-“Good Night, and Good Luck” for Best Picture, “March of the Penguins” for Best Documentary, and Paradise Now” for Best Foreign Picture.

Some of the most successful and highest-ranking executives from the industry’s creative and business sides have also been invited to the conference. Featured speakers include Andrew Lack, chairman of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, who will also be presenting a keynote speech; Peter Wolff, SVP of the Office of Global Public Policy at Time Warner; Larry Aidem, CEO of Sundance Channel; Ian Rowe, VP of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at MTV; Georgia Lee, director of “Red Doors”; Derek Sivers, president and founder of CD Baby; Jared Hoffman, president of Knitting Factory Entertainment; and Yael Taqqu, associate partner of Global Media & Entertainment Practice at McKinsey & Company.

Over 30 top executives have been invited, and the conference will represent every dimension of media and entertainment: film, television, music, new media, international entertainment, media distribution, creative management, and even social responsibility in entertainment. Key issues such as creative versus business tensions, digital distribution of content, social responsibility and the viability of various industry functions will be covered. The future of media and entertainment will be discussed in detail, as well as strategies of different players to position themselves for the future. These are a few of the many topics that will be addressed by the panelists at the 2006 HBS Entertainment & Media Conference.

The entertainment and media industry is one of the most exciting, challenging and dynamic industries, and it provides an opportunity for MBA graduates to pursue their business, creative and even social responsibility visions.

The HBS Entertainment & Media Conference will be a full-day event on Saturday, April 8. There will be a Kick-Off event Friday, April 7. For further information, please visit

Brenda Ann Wong is the VP of Marketing, HBS Entertainment and Media Conference

April 3, 2006
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