We've Got Hollywood Covered

Silicon Valley and Hollywood: Strange Bedfellows

A successful “Silliwood” partnership is indeed possible and even probable. Why isn’t there more?


For years Silicon Valley and Hollywood have attempted to unite and partner. Why hasn’t it worked so well to date? How can we create a better outcome?

Partnerships are created when two forces that share a similar goal and vision come together.  A great, successful partnership comes when these forces each bring their unique talents and capacities together to move an entire industry forward.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a successful “Silliwood” partnership is indeed possible and even probable.  In fact, Cinequest is one of the few companies that truly embody both the maverick mindset of the technology entrepreneur with the deep understanding of the business of making movies.  Through both a film festival and studio, designed to celebrate technological breakthroughs on the big screen, we at Cinequest are able to bring together the best and the brightest from each world to celebrate possibilities of technological innovation and partnership.

But in 2010, why isn’t there more collaboration between Silicon Valley and Hollywood?  Why don’t most “Silliwood” marriages fail before the honeymoon stage, despite so having so much in common?  It’s a massive culture clash.

On one hand, you have the maverick spirit of the Silicon Valley entrepreneur.  The culture’s signature includes garage offices, a start-up mindset, jeans and sneakers a smaller is better mantra and marked by the lone wolf on the computer, pushed and driven by conservative economics, outsourcing, melting pot communities, slow-talk analytics, and pioneering-based decisions.

On the other hand, you have the glitz and glamour of Hollywood – from high rise offices, conglomerates, a mandate that bigger is always better, an intense marketing focus, executives who spend more to make more, teams of decision makers who rely on in-sourcing, what’s worked before will work now based decisions, relationship driven business practices.

Over and over again, I have seen these cultures clash, and clash hard, when Silicon Valley innovators and entrepreneurs find themselves in the studio world, brought in to consider ‘partnerships’ that turn quickly into invitations to invest in order to rub shoulders and enjoy the more seductive world of entertainment. And vice-versa, the Silicon Valley’s tight VC approach to funding…. looking to give a little for a lot does not align with the more open and aggressive, risky funding strategies that have made the great Hollywood moguls from the Golden Era to the present.

Of course, these allegiances invariably dissolve because neither party understands the culture in which the other one thrives.  Both parties want and need each other for mutual long term success – Hollywood needs technological innovations to continue growth and to continue to produce groundbreaking work, and Silicon Valley needs the creative input and outlet Hollywood studios provide.   But both are stuck with traditional cultures that, on the surface, conflict.

So how can a truly beneficial merger between the Silicon Valley and Hollywood happen?  Both parties need to realize that this is a long-term process.  Hollywood needs to believe that partnerships with technology studios are a long-term process, not just a one-night stand.  Silicon Valley needs to understand that Hollywood operates on a different, per-project, financial model.  This is a mixed marriage.  It can work, and work big if it leverages the differences and strengths each culture and world delivers without one trying to overwhelm, use or abuse the other. It will take a new world approach, an evolved approach to make “Silliwood” something that’s not silly, but a new, stronger industry forged from the creative spirit of both parties.  


Halfdan Hussey, named one of the 25 people who dramatically changed the Silicon Valley over the past 25 years by Metro Newspapers 2010, is the co-founder of the Cinequest Film Institute in Silicon Valley. The industry's bible, “The Ultimate Guide to Film Festivals,” named Cinequest in the Top 10 among the world's 2,000 festivals. He also has co-written a two-part crime saga for the screen entitled “To the Dogs,” based on his recently completed novel. The movie goes into production with him directing in the fall of 2010.