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  April 17, 2000

Digital Revolution Transforming
Entertainment Industry, Says Filmmaker

aThe rapid advance of digital technology is transforming the communications and entertainment industries, according to filmmaker Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

"We're in a new age, and it's a very exciting one," Goldwyn said during a speech at the Thomas J. Dodd Center on April 6. "We're living in an age where all media, of any kind, will be packaged and produced digitally."

The filmmaker cited examples of recent developments that portend the extent to which the digital revolution is changing the media. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has shown interest in purchasing General Motors, said Goldwyn, because the 8 million cars the company produces annually are potential platforms for communications technology that would connect the driver to satellites or the Internet.

Digitalization, Goldwyn said, is "nothing more" than a way to amass content, be it words, pictures, or sound, placing it on a computer chip and distributing it to consumers.

He predicted that digital movie theaters will be open to the public within two years. George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars films, is filming the next movie in the series using digital, high-definition camcorders instead of film cameras, Goldwyn said. Lucas is considering releasing the film to digital theaters six weeks ahead of conventional theaters, creating a financial incentive to convert to a digital format.

Distributing movies on computer discs instead of in metal film canisters will also cut shipping costs in the film industry by as much as $1 billion per year, said Goldwyn. The quality of digital film stock will also be an improvement over conventional stock because digital films won't wear out, he said.

Digital technology will also open doors to budding filmmakers, Goldwyn said, who will be able to make movies without going to Hollywood. He cited the example of George Lucas in Love, a short-form parody of the Star Wars films and Shakespeare in Love that was filmed digitally by film students at the University of Southern California.

"Someone once said to me 'Filmmaking will be an art form when its tools are as inexpensive as pen and paper,'" Goldwyn said. "Well, we're there now. Film and the visual motion medium is the language of this century. For $25 worth of tape and a camera you can borrow, you can make a movie."

Goldwyn sounded a cautionary note on the content of films, however. "Writing is the single biggest problem we have," he said. "We know how to make films. What to make is a different story."

Goldwyn said he was impressed by the film work of UConn students he viewed earlier that day. "The power of expression in them was very impressive to me," he said.

The filmmaker urged students to embrace the opportunities presented by the new technology. "It's a great ... time to do what you want to do," he said. "Follow your dreams, because you've never had a better chance than you have today."

Goldwyn founded the Samuel Goldwyn Co. in 1979. He used more than 50 classic American films owned by the original Goldwyn company, including Wuthering Heights, The Little Foxes and The Best Years of Our Lives, as building blocks for the organization that exists today. The Goldwyn Co. encompasses feature film development, production, distribution and exhibition.

Goldwyn, who received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University in 1997, made his remarks as part of the first Robert Gray Lecture, sponsored by a fund established after the death in 1999 of the former dean of fine arts.

Goldwyn said he was touched to be at UConn because Gray was a valued friend: "He was a man of great vision but he was also a man who believed anything was possible."

Gary Frank