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Like Y Combinator, but for Hollywood Scripts

Apple, Disney, Amazon: The profusion of streaming platforms means an ever-increasing demand for content. How to find the great scripts that will be competitive in an increasingly fragmented market? Filmmakers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, cofounders of the production company Imagine Entertainment, offer a solution. The duo is borrowing Silicon Valley technology to diversify the…

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Like Y Combinator, but for Hollywood Scripts

Apple, Disney, Amazon: The profusion of streaming platforms means an ever-increasing demand for content. How to find the great scripts that will be competitive in an increasingly fragmented market? Filmmakers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, cofounders of the production company Imagine Entertainment, offer a solution. The duo is borrowing Silicon Valley technology to diversify the pool of creatives participating in their LA-based incubator, Imagine Impact. Impact is an 8-week bootcamp for fledgling screenwriters seeking to refine their scripts, develop show ideas, and eventually pitch and sell polished work. These newcomers get paired with established mentors (what Impact calls “shapers”)—including writer Vanessa Taylor (Shape of Water) and director Doug Ellin (Entourage)—for biweekly meetings. The writers present their final work at the end of the session, which is then uploaded onto an app for networks to peruse for potential production. Tyler Mitchell, head of Imagine Impact, described the app as “LinkedIn for the global entertainment industry” at the W25 festival on Saturday in a panel conversation with WIRED’s Jason Parham. “Because of the explosive demand [for streaming content],” Mitchell says, “it’s setting off an arms race for new writers.”

This year, the program received more than 11,000 submissions for just 17 spots in its third class. The Impact application consists of 70 questions, what Mitchell describes as a “thesis-like defense” of why the writer’s particular project deserves investment. To manage the overwhelming volume, Impact uses machine learning to sift through the giant pool of applications and identify new voices. The AI is part device, part catalyst: The technology searches for diverse applicants–Mitchell explains they look for people who have overcome challenges in their careers or lives–with the goal of shaking up the historically homogenous film industry.

Tyler Mitchell was joined in conversation by Kieran Mulroney (an actor and screenwriter and a mentor at Impact) and Impact alums Godwin Jabangwe, Laura Kittrell, and Emily Harper. Jabangwe’s animated musical Tunga was recently acquired by Netflix, and Kittrell and Harper’s project Drag Heist has received multiple offers. Jabangwe counts not only the program itself but the fellow talent at Impact to be a boon to his growth as a screenwriter. The Zimbabwean writer explains, “For the first time, I wasn’t the only person of color in a room. At Impact, I was surrounded by people who look like me. I was able to feel like I belong.”

To Mulroney, Impact offers entry into an industry that’s currently full of opportunity: “Streaming platforms have opened up the business in a lot of ways. There’s an explosion of need for writers. Industry right now is looking to open the doors to people. Impact is opening the doors and saying, ‘This is how it’s done.’”


Updated 11-13-19, 6pm EST: This story was updated to correct mentor names and number of applicants.


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17 Outdoors Gift Ideas for Camping, Hiking, and More

Winter chill can mean many things to many people. To a camper in Southern California, it can mean overnight lows in the 50s. To a climber in Maine, it can mean charging through snow drifts all day like a locomotive.Our gear gift guide accounts for all of the winter conditions the outdoors-loving person in your…

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17 Outdoors Gift Ideas for Camping, Hiking, and More

Winter chill can mean many things to many people. To a camper in Southern California, it can mean overnight lows in the 50s. To a climber in Maine, it can mean charging through snow drifts all day like a locomotive.

Our gear gift guide accounts for all of the winter conditions the outdoors-loving person in your life could encounter. With some of these cold-weather keepers, they can go out and enjoy the breathtaking snowy scenery and gobble up the uncrowded trails. Some of our picks can even be used year-round.

Check out more of our buying guides. We have a growing number of outdoor gear guides, including the best action adventure cameras, our favorite fitness trackers and watches, and our latest guide to electric bikes.

When you buy something using the links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Here’s how it works. You can also support our reporting and reviewing by purchasing a 1-year print + digital WIRED subscription for $5 (Discounted).

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Scott Adams Has Some Ideas for a Calmer Internet

Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. A new book from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert who came under fire for supporting Donald Trump in 2016, lays out some proposals for online civility. Photograph: Marcio Jose Sanchez/APAfter expressing support for Donald Trump in 2016, Dilbert creator Scott Adams estimates that he lost about 30…

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Scott Adams Has Some Ideas for a Calmer Internet

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Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert
A new book from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert who came under fire for supporting Donald Trump in 2016, lays out some proposals for online civility. Photograph: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

After expressing support for Donald Trump in 2016, Dilbert creator Scott Adams estimates that he lost about 30 percent of his income and 75 percent of his friends. He says that that level of political polarization has created a climate of genuine fear.

“People will come up, and they’ll usually whisper—or they’ll lower their voice, because they don’t want to be heard—and they’ll say, ‘I really like what you’re doing on your Periscope, and the stuff you’re saying about Trump,’” Adams says in Episode 389 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They’re actually afraid to say it out loud. They literally whisper it to me in public places.”

Adams blames the current climate on social media and a clickbait business model that rewards sensationalism over fact-based reporting. Since the technology is here to stay, he says we’re going to need new societal norms to help foster a calmer, more constructive political discourse.

“When society changes, every now and then you need a new rule of manners,” he says. “So for example, when cell phones were invented, you needed a new set of rules about where can you use them and can you do it in a restaurant, etc. And social media has gotten so hot, I thought maybe we need a few new rules.”

He lays out two such rules in his new book, Loserthink. His first proposal, which he calls the “48-hour rule,” states that everyone should be given a grace period of a couple of days to retract any controversial statement they’ve made, no questions asked. “We live in a better world if we accept people’s clarifications and we accept their apologies, no matter whether we think—internally—it’s insincere,” he says.

His other idea is the “20-year rule,” which states that everyone should be automatically forgiven for any mistakes they made more than two decades ago—with the exception of certain serious crimes. It used to be the case that people’s thoughtless remarks and embarrassing gaffes would naturally fade into obscurity, but social media has created a situation where it’s easy to endlessly dredge up a person’s worst moments.

“We’re not the same people that we were 20 years ago,” Adams says. “We’ve learned a bunch, our context has changed. If you’re doing all the right stuff, you’re getting smarter and kinder and wiser as you’re getting older. So being blamed for something you did 20 years ago is effectively being blamed for something a stranger did, because you’re just not that person anymore.”

Listen to the complete interview with Scott Adams in Episode 389 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Scott Adams on Babylon 5:

“It was my favorite show at the time, and I said something good about it for an article I wrote in TV Guide, and their publicist contacted me and said, ‘How would you like to play a bit part in the show?’ Just sort of a thank you, and to bring more publicity to it. And I said, ‘Sure, can I bring my girlfriend at the time? Can she be in it too?’ And they said, ‘Sure, we’ll make her a Minbari.’ So I played a human character who was looking for my lost dog, and maybe I’m crazy and maybe I’m not, and my girlfriend at the time played a Minbari alien who was my assistant. … I don’t have any acting skill. I think my entire range of emotions that I can produce on my face are maybe three things, that’s about it. No nuance at all.”

Scott Adams on his novel God’s Debris:

God’s Debris is essentially a conversation between a deliveryman and a character that I invented who is the smartest person in the world, and so the smartest person in the world is describing to the deliveryman all the secrets of the universe, if you will. I’m a trained hypnotist, and I was always curious about writing a book where I would use the hypnosis skills embedded with the writing to give the reader a better experience. … And for some readers, and of course with hypnosis people don’t have the same reaction, the same experience—but for a number of readers, maybe a quarter of them, which would be really good, they have an experience that’s unlike reading a book. It’s a physical, mind-blowing kind of experience.”

Scott Adams on creating Dilbert:

“When they offered me a contract, I was talking to the editor, and I said, ‘You know, I’d be happy to get an actual artist to partner with me to do the drawing,’ and she said, ‘No, there’s no reason to do that, your drawing is fine.’ And I said, ‘Really? It’s fine?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, just the way it is. It’s fine.’ And that simple statement that I could do it made the quality of my art improve about 500 percent in two weeks, after being pretty much the way it was my whole life up to that point. But the simple fact that somebody who was credible—and exactly the right person in the world—would tell me that I was good enough, that actually made me good enough. It was a ridiculously quick transformation.”

Scott Adams on the media:

“When [media outlets] do these big feature pieces, and they send somebody to your house and they say, ‘Can you allocate the whole day? Can we hang around with you all day to get interesting context for the story?’ my experience has been—and this is just pattern recognition—that those are always hit pieces. … They’re not trying to find out what my opinion is, they’re gathering ammo, and that’s what all the ‘context’ stuff is. Because you could take anybody’s normal life, and by the way you word it it would make them sound like a freak. I mean, almost anything I do can be worded in a way that makes it sound like I’m the oddest person in the world, but if you heard me describe it, you’d say, ‘Oh OK. That’s nonstandard, but it makes perfect sense.’”


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Sleepwalkers Podcast: Rethinking Our Relationship With AI

Artificial intelligence now shapes our lives in profound ways, curating social media posts that drive us apart, determining who gets a loan or probation, and even helping choose our romantic partners.This week, WIRED is launching Sleepwalkers, based on a series of podcasts that examine the AI revolution.The first episode, available here, examines how AI manipulates…

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Sleepwalkers Podcast: Rethinking Our Relationship With AI

Artificial intelligence now shapes our lives in profound ways, curating social media posts that drive us apart, determining who gets a loan or probation, and even helping choose our romantic partners.

This week, WIRED is launching Sleepwalkers, based on a series of podcasts that examine the AI revolution.

The first episode, available here, examines how AI manipulates and exploits us. It asks what kind of a future are we letting the technology build and offers some ideas for what to do about it. Host Oz Woloshyn discusses the sway that AI has over us with several experts trying to understand technology’s influence and to unravel where we may be headed.

Tristan Harris, who once worked on technological persuasion at Google, now runs a think tank called the Center for Humane Technology, where he worries about AI’s power to seduce and manipulate us.

“We’ve basically got 2 billion humans completely jacked into an environment where every single thing on your phone wants your attention,” Harris says. “Their incentive is to calculate ‘what is the perfect, most seductive thing can I show you next?’”

Modern advertising also shows the reach that AI now has. Gillian Brockell, a writer at The Washington Post, discovered in tragic circumstance how advertising algorithms now track our personal lives. Her Facebook ads quickly seemed to understand that she was pregnant, and they served as a cruel and relentless reminder when she lost her child. She learned that resisting this AI-powered tracking and production promotion is much easier said than done.

Are we doomed, though? Perhaps not. Woloshyn also considers ways we might wrestle back some control from the machines.

At Jigsaw, for instance, an Alphabet subsidiary, Yasmin Green is trying to understand how search algorithms contribute to extremist recruitment and how they might be hijacked to steer people in a more peaceful direction.

And at Match.com, not everyone believes you should put your faith in Cupid’s algorithmic arrow. The anthropologist Helen Fisher, who serves as chief scientific adviser, considers both the positive and negative effect AI has on modern love, and she suggests that we spend more time getting to know people than swiping right or left.

Ultimately, AI’s capacity to control and influence us raises some deep questions. How do we agree which values AI should reflect? How do we resist products so finely tuned to our strongest desires? And how do we ensure that profit isn’t the only motive served?

One thing seems clear. As the ex-Googler Harris says, it may be time to rethink our relationship with such powerful technology. “We have to recognize that this is having real-world consequences,” he says.


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