HITS Spring: Entertainment Partners Makes Data Central to Tools

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — In April, “Game of Thrones” actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) was on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” discussing the final season of the HBO hit, when he gave the team at Burbank, Calif.-based Entertainment Partners (EP) a lot of reasons to smile.

“… First we had to download an app, because of course now you can’t get paper anymore, and then the scripts came, and when you finished them, they would magically disappear,” he said, naming the EP-owned product: Scenechronize.

The production management app is why no scripts leaked from “Game of Thrones,” and it’s just one of several innovations EP has in its arsenal to help modern productions do things they previously couldn’t, according to Darren Ehlers, SVP of product management for EP, speaking May 23 at the annual HITS Spring event.

Scenechronize was developed by Ehlers’ company of the same name, which was acquired by EP in 2012, and it was one of first companies to automate the production office, building a scheduling application that was “ahead of its time … there was no market,” he said. But the process resulted in more than just a learning experience.

“What we learned through that whole process … was TV was transitioning from typical network affair to high-production, so they were spending a lot more money on scripts, a lot more money on production quality, and information security became more and more important,” he said, during his breakout presentation “From Files to Data: Digitization of the Production Office.” “We just happened to be perfectly positioned for that.

“What we discovered is that there’s a big data problem within the production office. It wasn’t so much that scheduling didn’t work, it was that people couldn’t get the information they needed out of the schedule to the people that needed to have that information on a daily basis.”

That’s resulted in the creation of a production office set of tools that are widely used today, helping studios and production companies embrace paperless, digital solutions that increase productivity and efficiency, and enhance compliance and security surrounding every production.

“Security became paramount, automation, compliance, distributed teams, all kind of came into play,” Ehlers said. “Productions needed tools to manage all that information much better.”

Underlining what EP is working on next is the notion of that the more data you have, the more informed you are, and the more insights you can garner. With budgeting and scheduling linked more closely with scripts than ever before, EP is making data the centerpiece of how its new version of Movie Magic budgeting and scheduling tools operate. If digitization of the production office was phase one, eliminating “save as” is the next phase, Ehlers said, an issue the next version of Movie Magic (due out in beta in July) aims to address. The new version will look to gather as much data as possible — the budget, the schedule, the script, the crew, accounting, vendors — into one place.

“You can start to imagine now what you can do at the production level,” “If you’re a budget for a shoot in Georgia, and you know there are a dozen other productions shooting in Georgia in your time frame … you can adjust your budget, or go somewhere else.

“Doing that in a way that doesn’t disrupt how you work … how [to] add more value to the production office through the collection of data. There’s a huge amount of untapped value.”

HITS Spring was presented by Entertainment Partners, with sponsorship by LiveTiles, 5th Kind, Amazon Web Services, Birlasoft, Exactuals, Expert System, MarkLogic, Microsoft Azure, Richey May Technology Solutions, SoftServe, Spark Digital, Avanade, CDSA, Cinelytic, EIDR, MicroStrategy, Signiant, the Trusted Partner Network, human-I-T, and Zaszou IT Consulting.

The event was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), in association with Women in Technology: Hollywood (WiTH); the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA); and the Smart Content Council.

To download audio of the Entertainment Partners presentation, click here.