XML Speaker Profile #2: Jeff Gomez – President & CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment (New York) specialising in creation of highly successful fictional worlds including Tron, Halo, Prince of Persia, Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean.
This XML Speaker Profile is part of a series that we are doing in the weeks running up to XML Bath (taking place 16-18th March as part of the Bath Digital Festival). Remember, XML is split into a conference (on the 16th – get your tickets here) where you can listen to experts in digital media from all around the world, and a 2-day Lab at Real World Studio for startups (apply to be included here).
1. Where do you find your inspiration for ideas?
I’ve had the great fortune of working with many extraordinarily talented people, in Hollywood, the gaming industry, in education, and especially with my own team at Starlight Runner, hugely inspiring. But my greatest inspiration comes from my interaction with children. Often it seems I have enormously complicated thoughts and emotions, concepts fly through my head that feel impossible to communicate. But then I watch and listen to kids who have not yet developed filters or emotional dampeners. They see and express life simply and directly, and there’s so much truth in this communication. Truly striking when you think about it. That’s how I finally learned to convey the complexities of transmedia narrative. More importantly, it’s what inspires me to persist and think my way out of problems in the face of what sometimes has been enormous adversity.
2. What’s the best bit of advice anyone gave you? And what’s the best bit of advice you would give to anyone else?
The best advice I ever got and can ever give is this: It doesn’t have to be that way. As human beings we have the power to alter any circumstance, and if something happens that is beyond all human control, we have the power to shift the way we think about the circumstance in ways that can benefit ourselves and others. We’ve proven that we have the capacity to transcend terrible events and move on to give something wonderful to the world. Why surrender when there is even an iota of a chance to do something like that?
3. Who do you most admire in the digital/creative space?
I admire the amateurs the most. Look at these millions of people around the world who are taking advantage of these tools to express themselves! It’s as if the sun has risen, causing all the birds in the world to sing. And when something dark or unacceptable happens, look at how powerfully they’re responding. They use humor, they tell their stories, they mix and mash up existing content in powerful ways, and we are collectively moved. Even faceless corporations and cynical politicians have no choice but to respond. Amazing!
4. What is most exciting you about digital technologies right now?
What’s most exciting about digital technologies is that when they are well designed they make it easier for us to express ourselves clearly and poignantly. We are getting closer to a time where any person with access to the Internet will be able to produce compelling, heartfelt content. We’re quickly leaving the “pictures of my vacation” phase of social networking behind. New technologies and new interfaces will finally allow us to sing songs to others the way we hear them in our own heads.
5. What was your favourite creative work in 2011 – film, TV, ad, application, viral vid etc?
The creative work I’ve admired the most by far in 2011 was the product of amateurs. Look at the sharp, witty and furiously imaginitive response of so many to the 99% pepper spraying incident. Look at the spontaneous, self-organized multi-platform backlash against SOPA and PIPA. These works enlightened even as they ridiculed. They expressed outrage without spreading hate. Beautiful!
On the big entertainment side, again my favorite creative work is by fans. The entire entertainment industry can take a cue from how Lucasfilm promotes interactivity and play with the assets, characters and iconography of Star Wars. A day doesn’t go by without our seeing some allusion to this fictional world. Not all of it is flattering to the franchise or uses it in a positive way, but there’s really no need to care about that. Millions of people – not just uber-fans – are expressing themselves by integrating bits and pieces of Star Wars into their conversation. This is happening because Lucasfilm is giving them those pieces and fearlessly telling them to have fun. That’s an act worth emulating.
You can follow Jeff Gomez on Twitter