David Gallagher, CEO of Ketchum Europe, interviews Elizabeth Daley, Dean of the School of Cinematic Arts at USC and a fellow member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Media.

David Gallagher: So tell us, what’s the next big thing in media arts?

Elizabeth Daley: Media experiences that link the virtual and physical worlds: virtual production (think Avatar and Gravity); immersive media (3D, IMAX and head-mounted displays); and transmedia (i.e. distribution on multiple platforms and multiple products created from the same assets for different platforms) are all dramatically impacting the way we make and distribute media.

David Gallagher: In your experience, how can we best foster creativity?

Elizabeth Daley: We need to create an environment that encourages collaboration, risk taking and play. All children are creative until it is conditioned out of them. So we try to provide a world where students can learn from the most creative people in our field and from each other. I once got a fortune cookie that said, “Dreams without skills are like wings with no feet.”  We want to encourage students to take flight and also be prepared to land. Media lives in both the world of art and commerce and we always needs to remember that fact.

David Gallagher: Let’s talk a little about the business of media…

Elizabeth Daley: When I came into this industry in the US, there were six motion picture studios and three networks. If you didn’t work for or supply them then you didn’t work. Today the industry is so much larger and much more global. Our students go to work for companies ranging from Warner Bros. to Microsoft, Electronic Arts to Marvel. They make films, television programmes, games and immersive experiences. They develop companies and write software to enable media; they work in medicine and education. The language of media has become the global vernacular. If you cannot read and express yourself in the world of sound, image and interactivity then you are functionally illiterate today. Of course, some parts of the industry are shrinking, but other parts are growing. It is in my opinion a very healthy future and a very exciting one.

David Gallagher: You’re known for finding a balance between the academic and creative elements of the media arts and forging strong ties with industry.  How would you define the best relationship between academia and business?

Elizabeth Daley: USC School of Cinematic Arts was founded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1929, one year after the first Oscars were handed out. So we have always been very closely tied to our industry. I count on our industry partners not only for financial support but for guidance on the direction of the curriculum. They want a next generation ready to participate and lead the industry, and we want to always be sure that we are looking forward with our industry as we prepare curriculum.

Our industry partners know as we do that what is needed is professional education, not simply trade school skills, if students are to be successful and contribute. So like a medical school, we prepare practitioners, but also like a research university we prepare scholars who can articulate and elucidate the impact of media as well as the theory and history. We have long said that the strength of our programme is the tight integration of theory and practice. So what is the optimal relationship? I would say it is one where goals are fully shared and both sides take responsibility to achieve them.

David Gallagher: The World Economic Forum’s mission is to improve the state of the world.  How can the power of media best be applied?

Elizabeth Daley: Media is so very powerful and yet often dismissed as trivial, especially entertainment media, by corporate and political leaders. I would love to see the power of media as a force for social change and education brought more front and centre at the Annual Meeting.

The World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda is taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 18 – 20 November.

Image: A woman is seen using her smart phone in Spain REUTERS/Susana Vera