Now and Gen
When members of MPTF’s NextGen Board work to spread the word and support this entertainment industry institution, they’re giving back to the industry that has given them so much.
Back in 1921, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and other Hollywood stars came together around an audacious idea that working industry members would contribute to a fund to support their less-fortunate colleagues.
Be it for a wig for an audition, a set of dentures, a new suit or rent, they would lend a hand. They called their effort the Motion Picture Relief Fund. Now known as the Motion Picture & Television Fund, or MPTF, the nearly 100-year old organization continues to enable entertainment industry members to support their peers in times of need.
MPTF's highest-profile endeavor is its retirement complex, which provides independent and assisted living accommodations. Commonly called "the Motion Picture Home," the Wasserman Campus has been flourishing in Woodland Hills, California, for almost 80 years.
MPTF is out in the community as well, with more than 20 social-service team members administering programs and services for working and retired industry members, including the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Children's Center, a nationally recognized palliative care program, a mobile home-safety program, case management and financial assistance.
Among the many volunteers who serve MPTF (logging more than 47,000 hours in 2018), the NextGen Board of Directors represents a newer group. These 23 industry members in their 20s through 40s advocate for MPTF, recruit volunteers and work at various events at the Woodland Hills campus and elsewhere. Here, nine of the board members discuss their heartfelt mission.
YVETTE NICOLE BROWN
PROFESSION: An actress, her credits include Community, a recurring role on Mom, Avengers: Endgame and the upcoming Disney+ live-action Lady and the Tramp.
HOW SHE GOT INVOLVED: "It's been eight years now. A publicist knew I was looking for a way to give back and said, 'Have you heard of MPTF? You have to go. You'll fall in love.' I see our elders as a gift, with their legacy of wisdom. When the NextGen Board was conceived about four years ago, I was the first one on it, along with the founders and co-chairs, Natalie Bruss and Brian Toombs."
HANDS-ON HELP: "I find the best thing is giving time. For example, an elderly actress needed disability accommodations at her home. I was part of the team that, through the Home Safe Home program, rearranged things for her and lowered shelves in her closet to make them easier to get to.
"We rearranged her kitchen and also dug a trench for a ramp at the entrance to her home. "Before the holidays, we got cushions as gifts for the MPTF residents, and I coordinated the gift wrapping with 80 collaborators. We gave out the presents on Christmas Day."
FUNDRAISING FUN: "I love doing game shows — that way, I can give MPTF $10,000 at a time. I also get the ball rolling at charity events. I walk up to the bar and give a call to action. It's my acting chutzpah."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "When you've been blessed, it's important to give back. And volunteering for MPTF has helped me make better decisions: save your money, but don't be afraid to take risks. You've got to live."
PROFESSION: As a transmedia producer at Marvel Television, he produces content on various platforms to build viewership for Marvel shows, working with showrunners, talent and the marketing, publicity and social media teams. He's a 2017 Emmy nominee as an executive producer of the short-form digital series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot.
HOW HE GOT INVOLVED: "I'd been searching for something for a while as a way to give back. Then [former Nashville colleague and NextGen Board member] Monica Macer brought me out to the campus, and it was an instant match."
BOARD DUTIES: "I'm a co-chair of the social media committee and I'm on the fundraising committee. And like a number of the NextGen Board members, I'm part of MPTFriends, donors who give $1,000 a year to help underwrite MPTF social services.
"One of our goals is to use social media to help educate the younger generation of industry members about how MPTF can help them — now and down the line — and get them involved. We're reinventing how to reach out to them, targeting different groups with different platforms."
HANDS-ON HELP: "At the Instant Film Festival in March, a bunch of us go to campus, where teams of residents are given a word or a phrase and have a brief amount of time to create and shoot a short on their phones. Residents act in the pieces and judge them and then watch them in the theater. It's so much fun."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "The board is so diverse — it's allowed me to see different perspectives than my own and to be more empathetic. It's definitely affected my outlook when I work with producers and writers. A lot of that comes from sitting with the residents and hearing about how they got started, and how things used to be in Hollywood. It's fascinating."
JEFFREY R. EPSTEIN
PROFESSION: Director of corporate communications, The Walt Disney Company.
HOW HE GOT INVOLVED: "Geoffrey Colo is one of my closest friends. He invited me to The Night Before — an MPTF fundraising event held the night before the Oscars — where I learned more about MPTF. A week later I got a tour of the campus."
BOARD DUTIES: "I serve as a co-chair of the NextGen events committee, where we focus on raising the awareness of our board and MPTF as a whole. It's something I'm passionate about. We also coordinate campus tours for people who come to our events; they meet the residents and hear their stories.
"One of the things that got me so interested in MPTF was they told me Ruthie Tompson was there. She worked as an animator on Snow White. She's still a spitfire at 108!
"In my mind, this is not a daily commitment, but a many-times-a-day commitment. There are board meetings, offline meetings and smaller group discussions about what we can do. Obviously, we are stronger when we pool our resources."
FAMILY TIES: "It's not just people in the industry that MPTF helps, but their family members in need. At the Summer Party last year, [actor] Clark Gregg talked about the challenges his mother-in-law was facing regarding her independence. MPTF gave her the resources to get her settled."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "Being in corporate communications, I get to see the wonderful things the Walt Disney Company does for nonprofits. The company is a major donor to MPTF. Because of what I do, it gives me a greater appreciation of the company's generosity."
PROFESSION: A writer-producer, she's currently showrunner of the Netflix dramedy Gentefied; other credits include Queen Sugar and Nashville.
HOW SHE GOT INVOLVED: "My friend Yvette Nicole Brown recruited me. And I was also at a place in my life where I wanted to give back. I'm half-Korean; we speak in a different way to our elders. This is where I belong, honoring those who came before us in the industry."
BOARD DUTIES: "I'm on the events and membership committees. I organized a 25th-anniversary screening of Thelma & Louise on campus, with a Q&A afterward with Callie Khouri [who wrote the film and in 2012 created Nashville].
"I've worked the photo booth at The Night Before, and worked at The Evening Before [a fundraiser held the night before the Emmys]. For our summer event last year, I said to Geoffrey, "We need to get some of the Nashville talent to perform." He got Clare Bowen and her husband [Brandon Robert Young, another musician]."
HANDS-ON HELP: "Recently, I've been planning and shepherding 'Reel Stories, Real Lives' [a program held each November in which celebrities tell stories of how industry members have benefited from MPTF].
"A goal of MPTF is for the NextGen Board to have more of a planning role. In 2017, I wrote the story of Jim Etters, a veteran who had been trying to get his benefits. An MPTF social worker helped him get 100 percent of what he was due. It nearly doubled his monthly income."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "My show Gentefied is multigenerational. It's very important to me that the characters be multigenerational, because of the people on campus — they are active and vibrant. It's important that my characters be fully realized in that way."
PROFESSION: She's a publicity executive who has worked throughout the industry, most recently at Valhalla Entertainment for Gale Anne Hurd, whose credits include The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, The Terminator and Aliens.
HOW SHE GOT INVOLVED: "I have a friend who works on philanthropic campaigns for well-known organizations. I was talking to her about a good way to give back, because we are so lucky to be working in this industry. She suggested MPTF. I had known about MPTF from the Night Before party, but when I started looking into the organization, I couldn't believe I hadn't heard more about it.
"I signed up for a campus tour and I was hooked after that. I've personally known so many people who could have used MPTF's services, but didn't know they were available."
BOARD DUTIES: "I oversee the publicity efforts for the board and co-chair the events committee. The NextGen Board members plan quarterly networking events to educate and engage with our peers. We're tasked with raising awareness, as well as much-needed funding for MPTF's many services and programs."
HANDS-ON HELP: "I've done lunches with residents and participated in both the planting day on campus and the Instant Film Festival. Anytime I can be there, I'm there.
"What I like most about MPTF is the community aspect. For example, Jen Clymer, who is MPTF's director of media, did a fundraiser for Ruthie Tompson, who wanted to go to a Dodgers World Series game. A GoFundMe campaign was launched, and the money was raised in less than a few hours. Everyone came together as a group and helped when they were asked, just like a family."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "As a publicist, I understand how important it is for great stories to be told and shared. I want to let our peers know that MPTF isn't just a plan for the future, but something you can participate in now — whether you're in the position to lend support or are in need of support."
PROFESSION: A writer, her credits include Supergirl. Her father is Tony Goldwyn, and her great-grandfather's foundation helped establish and still supports MPTF's Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Children's Center, a west Los Angeles daycare center for industry members' children aged eight weeks to six years.
HOW SHE GOT INVOLVED: "My family had always been involved in MPTF, but I didn't really know what it was. A few years ago, I met Bob Beitcher, the head of MPTF, and other people at a party. They wanted to get me involved, but I was a selfish 23-year-old in grad school then.
"A couple of years ago, I went to the NextGen Summer Party. Hearing people talk about MPTF really moved me. I got on the phone with Brian Toombs of the NextGen Board and said, 'I want to be involved.'"
BOARD DUTIES: "I work with Cate Adams, vice-president of production at Warner Bros. We are the chairs of the membership committee. We've tried to specifically outline what it is to be a member of the NextGen community, what this community is, as a way to make people aware.
"We've restructured the way the board works, so that when people come to a party, there's a system in place to talk to them. People are easily distracted — young people are hustling for work. We want to get them involved, get them into the fold."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "As a writer on a show, you work with the same people, and your network can be limited. Working with NextGen has made me hyper-aware that it's so important to be part of a community."
PROFESSION: Vice-president, talent and development, Comedy Central.
HOW SHE GOT INVOLVED: "One of my best friends was a former board member — she moved away — and told me about MPTF. I'd never heard of it before."
BOARD DUTIES: "Part of my mission is to make sure other people don't lack the information I did. I'm always dragging my assistants here to see what's happening on campus. I took my entire team there. My time is best spent getting the word out, getting the stories out to the entertainment community as to how we've helped."
HANDS-ON HELP: "I've gone to replant the garden. I think it's important for the residents to live in dignity. I'm not a gardener, but it sounded like fun. And I helped spearhead last year's 'Reel Stories, Real Lives.' The stories are so compelling. I go to a lot of the bingo games. The residents are serious about their bingo."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "The board is a really diverse group of people I never would have met otherwise. I work exclusively in television. It's a great place to learn how people approach problems. That's been really rewarding.
"Being involved with NextGen has made me a kinder person, a more empathetic and compassionate person. It's built my character. I'm really privileged to have the job I have now, but it could all be taken away. In entertainment, you think you're important. You're not. You can get really lost in the gloss."
PROFESSION: A host-producer and correspondent, her credits include Entertainment Tonight and The Insider.
HOW SHE GOT INVOLVED: "My interest started with Allison Gorsuch, whose mom, Wendy Stark, is involved with [her late parents'] Fran and Ray Stark Villa [a residence] on campus. Then I attended The Night Before and covered MPTF's 95th anniversary celebration. The testimonials they played from people they had helped were captivating.
"When I took the campus tour, Mikko Sperber [MPTF director, resource development and major gifts] told me about a publicist who had cancer. The organization supported her and worked with her insurance to try to get her the surgery she needed, which was not covered."
BOARD DUTIES: "I work in media and publicity with Lyndsey Miller. We had the best turnout ever for last year's Summer Party and the most press — Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Us Weekly. I helped with talent and brought Drew Scott [of The Property Brothers] to support."
"The point of NextGen is to be the next generation. I bring in people I know, and make connections with people I've worked with and interviewed and am friends with. You have your sector where you can help."
HANDS-ON HELP: "I hosted a beauty panel with makeup artists at Bloomingdale's. Ten percent of shoppers' proceeds went to MPTF. I also hosted the backstage and red carpet interviews at 'Reel Stories, Real Lives.' We got good
content that we can use both internally and externally. The board has meet-and-greets and lunches with the residents as well."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "My job is very talent-focused. Getting to know people on the board has given me a broader understanding of how the entertainment industry works."
PROFESSION: He's vice-president of digital at Funny or Die, a comedy studio whose credits include American Vandal, Brockmire and Between Two Ferns. Toombs is cofounder, with Natalie Bruss, of the NextGen Board.
HOW HE GOT INVOLVED: "Natalie Bruss [now a partner in a venture-capital firm] is a really good friend of mine. She used to work in public relations. Her boss was involved with MPTF, and she went out on a campus tour. MPTF asked her, 'How do we engage the next generation of Hollywood people?' There had never been an organization for them.
"Natalie said to me, 'You like this stuff.' I then took a campus tour and fell in love. That was four years ago. Natalie is really good at connecting people. We set out with Yvette Nicole Brown and said, 'What do we do here?' We decided to start a board; it took about a year. When MPTF Foundation chair Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke at our first Summer Party, it gave us legitimacy."
BOARD DUTIES: "I spend a lot of time on administrative matters. We have a lot of exciting things coming up for NextGen, which the co-chairs will oversee."
PERSONAL IMPACT: "Funny or Die has been supportive of MPTF financially. Being on this board has helped me take a longer view — of my life, my job, my family. On tough days, it makes you feel good about the industry you're in.
"NextGen is more about looking ahead, rather than looking back. We're excited about looking ahead, and about how our group can contribute."
For more information about the NextGen Board or its events, contact Jen Clymer at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2019
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