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'House' director, Twitter investor Greg Yaitanes on 'Banshee,' technology

September 10, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • Greg Yaitanes talks about his new show "Banshee" and Silicon Valley.
Greg Yaitanes talks about his new show "Banshee" and Silicon…

SAN FRANCISCO -- Greg Yaitanes straddles two places that are hundreds of miles yet worlds apart. And he’s determined to bring them closer together.

Yaitanes is an Emmy Award-winning director of "House," "Lost" and other top television shows. He’s also an early investor in Silicon Valley hotshots Twitter, Square and Pinterest.

And he has used his experience in Hollywood and Silicon Valley to enhance TV production with technology. For instance, he showed off the sophistication of high-end digital cameras by shooting a season finale of "House" on the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR model. Now he says he has hired a Silicon Valley startup, not a Hollywood shop, to produce a title sequence for "Banshee."

Yaitanes is an executive producer of "True Blood" creator Alan Ball's prime-time series on Cinemax about an ex-convict and master thief who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, Pa. The 10-episode series is set to premiere in January.

"We're the first TV show to use a Silicon Valley start-up to design our title sequence so it will have a social media aspect built into it," Yaitanes said in an interview on Monday.

He would not reveal anymore about the title sequence than that, but says he is building all kinds of technology into “Banshee,” whether using Google Street View to scout locations or replacing DVDs with an iPad app, Pix.

"We are using technology to save dollars, and to put more of those dollars on the screen for the audience," he said.

"I want to put every dime on the screen for the audience," he added.

Yaitanes was in San Francisco on Monday for TechCrunch Disrupt, serving as a bridge that connects Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Here, he hangs with the likes of Ron Conway instead of Ron Howard.

Yaitanes is certainly an ambassador with a flair for the language of diplomacy, talking up similarities, not struggles, even in the aftermath of the Internet rallying to block the passage in January of an online antipiracy bill championed by Hollywood known as SOPA. He believes that plenty can be done to stop offshore websites from giving away U.S. movies, TV shows and music without crippling innovation and one of the few robust sectors of the American economy.

"As long as everyone keeps looking at us, Silicon Valley and Hollywood, as two separate identities, instead of two halves of the same whole, it's never going to work," Yaitanes said.

He thinks Hollywood and Silicon Valley have much in common. Each is a place where creative people put in long hours on pilots or start-ups, launch them into the universe and then put in more long hours making sure they stay relevant, he said.

And even with regular flare-ups of hostility (think William Morris Endeavor Entertainment co-chief executive Ari Emanuel at the All Things D conference), Yaitanes said he’s optimistic that the two industries, old media and new, will reach a detente.

"I am 100% hopeful," he said. "Maybe that’s because I’m an optimist. I just see it as inevitable."

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Follow me on Twitter @jguynn

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