A cross-section of the tech community attends IDEAS Los Angeles in Santa Monica today

By Michael Aushenker

In Judaism, the number 18 (and multiples thereof) is considered lucky.

So perhaps it’s no accident that American Friends of Tel Aviv University is hosting its inaugural IDEAS Los Angeles conference today, June 18, at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, where attendees can catch 50 speakers and 15 moderators discuss Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach hot topics.

Movie producer Steve Tisch

Movie producer Steve Tisch

Headlining today’s day-long conference: “Forrest Gump” movie producer Steve Tisch — namesake of New York University’s and, as of recently, Tel Aviv University’s film schools — and Scott Ross, who back in its Santa Monica heyday on Olympic Boulevard ran the Digital Domain effects house with filmmaker James Cameron.

Emceed by John Bates, Espree Devora and Yohei Nakajima and followed by an after-party at the Cross Campus co-working space, the event is the brainchild of David Dorfman, director of Development & Strategic Planning at American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

“This was a crazy idea I had last summer,” said Dorfman, who added how Israel’s tech community represents “the second highest per capita of brain power. The cell phone was invented there [by Motorola]. A lot of tech [infrastructure] research and development was done there.”

That includes Waze and Checkpoint — and ICQ, which was invented inside the Israeli military.

“So many are trained in the Israel Defense Forces,” Dorfman explained. “It’s one of the only armies in the world where if you invent something in the army, you own the IT.”

Yet, many of these innovators leave their country for California.

“Unfortunately, because Israel is such a small market, they have to come out to California,” Dorfman said. “They come here and they’re thriving.”

Today’s conference offers a cross-section of Hollywood, California and Israeli innovation.

Israeli entertainment has also inspired hit American TV series such as “Homeland” and “In Treatment.”

“Silicon Beach, Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv represent the top three tech systems in the world,” Dorfman said.

From the Hollywood sector, Alon Aranya, who has created more than 25 network shows including “Hostages,” lectures at the opening plenary. Morris May, founder of Specular Theory — the virtual reality production studio and creative technology lab which won special effects Oscars for “Spider-Man 2” and “Happy Feet” — discusses “The Future of Reality: VFX and VR.” Currently working on “Kung Fu Panda 3,” Liron Topaz discusses “Performance in Computer Animation: A Medium Between Art & Science.”

Elsewhere, Context & Narrative and TechZulu founder and digital media strategist Amanda Coolong leads a workshop on branding, while goFlow weather-driven sports platform Sports CEO/founder Roni Eshel appears on the panel “Building Your Company in L.A.: Immigrant Entrepreneurs Share Their Experience” alongside Egg Baby app founder Lina Chen.

Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter and multimedia expert Howard Tullman also speak today.

For the event, organizers are not only utilizing The Broad Stage but have erected tents to create more stages for panels and lectures, lounges and environments.

“It’s a world-class performance center” and the perfect place to hold what Dorfman sees as a cross between TEDx and South by Southwest.

Digital Domain cofounder Scott Ross

Digital Domain cofounder Scott Ross

“I wanted to do it on the Westside because a lot of our constituents are here,” he said.

Billed as “the only person with both an Academy Award and a Super Bowl ring,” headliner Tisch, partner at Escape Artists Productions and co-owner of the New York Giants, won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Picture for “Forrest Gump” but has also produced “Risky Business,” “Snatch” and last year’s “The Equalizer.”

Two years ago, Tisch traveled to Israel as a guest of honor at Tel Aviv University’s student film festival.

“He fell in love with it and turned the department into a school,” Dorfman said of what is now TAU’s Steve Tisch School of Film and Television.

“The guy basically pioneered all the special effects of my childhood,” Dorfman continued of Ross, whose Digital Domain credits include “X-Men,” “Fight Club” and “Titanic.” Back when Ross was CEO of George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic, he led the visual effects charge on “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” sequels for “Ghostbusters” and “Back to the Future,” “Total Recall” and “The Rocketeer.”

“We were incredibly thrilled to get him. He’s starting a virtual reality company,” Dorfman said of Ross.

IDEAS’ price of admission also includes food trucks (including Amazebowls, The Deli Doctor and Dia de Los Puercos) plus food and libations during the Cross Campus after-party.

After all, there’s more to life than just networking.

“We’ve got some amazing people coming from the entertainment world, the tech world. It’s going to be a great business opportunity,” Dorfman said.

“But at the end of the day, I want people to have fun.”

IDEAS Los Angeles takes place from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today at the Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. Tickets are $325, including entrance to the after party at Cross Campus, 820 Broadway, Santa Monica. For more information, visit ideaslosangeles.com.

michael@argonautnews.com

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