Spielberg conducts cyber seminar first

June 2, 2000

Director Steven Spielberg took time off from filming his new feature, The Boys in the Band, to present the first in a series of virtual masterclasses for Liverpool media students via the internet last week.

The Hollywood film-maker was online from a secret Hertfordshire location to talk to students in the first cyber seminar presented by Liverpool John Moores University's International Centre for Digital Content. Mr Spielberg discussed current projects and the implications of new media in the session, organised with the assistance of LJMU chancellor Cherie Booth.

Mr Spielberg answered questions from a group of students from the university's media and professional studies course. The director, sitting with television producer Phil Redmond, who produces Brookside, one of the principal funders of the ICDC, gave more than an hour of his time.

He spoke about his career, his films, the state of the film industry and the expertise available to film-makers like him in the UK. He talked at some length about new media and the internet and said he would have relished using the new film tools when he was young.

"You can be scriptwriter, producer, director and even actor at the same time - and it's absolutely possible to make small short features that can be shown and, more importantly, seen by others," said Mr Spielberg.

Nevertheless, he stressed that films should always be seen in large theatres with large screens and by groups of people sharing the experience. He stressed the need for the story and the narrative to remain centre-stage in the production of films.

The director, well-versed in the use of animatronics and other digital age devices, emphasised that these should always be used to serve the story line. Content, he said, is still king.

The online exclusive used technical facilities provided by British Telecom. The masterclass series will provide a realistic and stimulating demonstration of the potential of cyber seminars that harness broadband internet access technologies such as Digital Subscriber Line.

The ICDC is a collaborative venture between the university and Mersey Television, whose chairman is Mr Redmond. He is also an honorary professor and trustee of LJMU.

The centre has received backing from the European Regional Development Fund while a donation from Mr Redmond has secured a new headquarters on the cathedral plaza. The ICDC aims to be the pre-eminent new media training, production and research centre, drawing on Merseyside's focus for new digital industries.

The centre has already produced a number of award-winning multimedia training packages and is now developing a range of postgraduate courses in digital media.

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