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New school Silicon Beach meets old school Hollywood

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The storied studio lots of Hollywood — Warner Brothers, Paramount and Sony, to name a few — are major landmarks around Los Angeles. But the creative landscape of this city is changing fast — big tech has arrived. With Netflix flying high on Q1 revenue of over $1 billion, others are seeing profit in original storytelling. Major tech companies are inking deals for production studios all over L.A., with implications for old school Hollywood — and new school Silicon Beach.

The interior of YouTube’s new 41,000 square foot production space buzzes with writers and producers at work on countless projects. Liam Collins, head of the complex, gave me a tour. He showed me to a 6,000 square stage, the biggest stage on the property  “We’ve done everything from build a boarding school on this stag, to a comedy club,” he says. 

The facility is one of many changing this town. The new Amazon studios are going up in a tony office complex in Santa Monica. Microsoft also has production studios there. And dozens of other players are setting up shop to produce original content in the world’s entertainment capital. “The reason our flagship is here is because L.A. is a center of gravity for creators all over the world,” Collins says. “There’s no place more important when it comes to tapping creative resources.”

Big tech companies coming to L.A. would seem to be great news for tech boosters here. But the companies’ engineering teams are not here. L.A. just isn’t the center of gravity for tech the way Silicon Valley is.

“In the same way that Washington D.C. is a political town, L.A. is a Hollywood town,” says Sam Teller,  Managing Director and co-founder of Launchpad L.A., which supports local start-ups. Teller is in the business of turning L.A. into a tech hub. He says historically the thing L.A. does best — original entertainment — just hasn’t been that appealing to venture capital. But, all in all, he sees Hollywood as a net positive.

“The thing that really excites me about YouTube, Google, Amazon, Microsoft coming here, is that means their executives are going to spend more time in L.A. and in general, anything we can do to increase the connections between Silicon Valley and L.A. is a net positive for our community,” Teller explains.

Another group benefitting from the presence of tech companies are up and coming creators.  In a brainstorming session in a house in Echo Park, writing partners  Ryan Harrison and Dylan Ris are discussing the finer points of character development in a comedic cop show that they’ve created. They’ll be pitching this to one of the new content producers in L.A., though they prefer not to say which.

“The field of people buying content, to me as a writer, now looks very accessible,” says Harrison. “It’s less limited than if my only outlets for trying to sell a show were cable or networks.” 

Still, Harrison says, the very best way to get noticed is to work with someone who’s already successful, which is a pretty old school Hollywood method. The landscape here is changing, but for now, L.A. continues to be a company town.

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