Showbiz troopers continue contributions

Individual efforts leading war campaign

WASHINGTON — The official committee hasn’t done that great. But working on an individual basis, showbiz has mobilized some significant efforts to help the war effort and support U.S. troops.

Together, these autonomous efforts have eclipsed the output of Hollywood 9/11, the industry-led committee formed last fall after a much-publicized meeting with White House aide Karl Rove.

Those working outside the bounds of Hollywood 9/11 have produced a long list of campaigns, ranging from putting on live concerts for troops to planning a new reality series giving servicemen a chance to tell their stories to sending Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant to Afghanistan with the five Oscar-nominated films.

In contrast, those heading up Hollywood 9/11 have bristled at the suggestion that the committee — with more than 40 members repping all sectors of the biz — has become bogged down. The crowded committee still holds conference calls every 10 or so days, but keeps mum about its discussions.

Coordinating the shipment of movies to U.S. forces overseas remains the backbone of Hollywood 9/11– it’s immediate, it’s tangible and it doesn’t raise the specter of propaganda.

At the behest of the Pentagon, for example, DreamWorks shipped copies of “Shrek” to all bases and ships, as well as to all family members of 9/11 victims.

It’s one thing to ship “Shrek” overseas; it’s entirely another to script a PSA promoting America’s message in Muslim countries.

For domestic auds, the committee has produced a handful of movie trailers and PSAs.

In February, FilmAid International also traveled to Afghanistan, where filmmaker Michael Mailer screened “The Wizard of Oz” for children at orphanages, schools and hospitals throughout Kabul. FilmAid secured a copy of the pic from Warner Bros.

And just Tuesday at the White House, with President Bush on hand, the National Broadcasting Assn. announced it will begin distributing PSAs for the USA Freedom Corps. The 30-second PSAs, paid for by Disney, one in English and one in Spanish, were produced by the Ad Council.

Warmer relations

“The White House is pleased that the entertainment industry, like so many other industries, has stepped up and helped tell the world about America, and about our ideals and about our character,” White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said.

There can be little doubt that the war effort warmed relations between the Bush administration and Hollywood, debunking the myth that the entertainment industry only sidles up to Democrats.

Washington’s appreciation is clearly evidenced in the letters thanking studios for getting new releases, as well as hundreds of other movie titles, to servicemen overseas.

“While we protect America’s freedom, it’s heart-warming to know that your industry seeks to lower the stress of being away from home by bringing a little bit of normalcy to our troops,” U.S. Air Force Col. Ronald Shultz wrote to 20th Century Fox domestic distribution prexy Bruce Snyder.

“Your contribution as a teammate in the fight against terrorism is well received by both American and coalition troops,” said Shultz, stationed at the time in Oman.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Gotham and Washington, the major studios turning out war pics since the 9/11 terrorist attacks have held premieres in Washington, sending invites to top Bush administration officials.

Anni activity

There’s bound to be a flurry of activity with the approach of the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Gotham and Washington. There are hints that Hollywood 9/11 proper is in talks with the White House.

Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy-CEO Jack Valenti, who chairs Hollywood 9/11, isn’t stingy about withholding praise for those working outside the committee. He says the entertainment biz in general has donated millions of dollars in time and effort.

“Keep in mind that we don’t have a budget for any of this. It’s all being done pro bono. All these people are taking time out of their regular activities,” Valenti said.

The committee continues to hold conference call meetings every two weeks, Valenti said.

When formed, Hollywood 9/11 committed to making sure there was there was a uniform effort in getting movies to troops overseas. Next on the agenda was producing movies and PSAs both for American auds. The committee also set about the task of creating PSAs for overseas auds, and particularly those in Muslim countries.

Last fall, exhibs across the country carried a trailer directed by Chuck Workman.

And between Memorial Day and July 4th, the major broadcast nets all carried three PSAs produced by Hollywood 9/11 plugging volunteerism. The 30-second spots also were carried by top cable nets and cable systems, while companion movie trailers appeared on screens across the country.

Also, the National Cable & Telecom Assn. was flooded with requests from cable operators seeking copies of the PSAs.

The spots carry no reference to Hollywood 9/11. In fact, Hollywood 9/11 hasn’t sought any publicity.

“We don’t think we should be gloating about it. This is a duty, for God’s sakes. We are not looking for public acclaim,” Valenti said.

It may strike some as unusual to think of military toppers penning love letters to studio heads, but thanks to Hollywood’s war effort, it’s become a common occurrence.

“The unselfish and patriotic efforts of Paramount Pictures have allowed for newly released movies in the states to be seen 6,000 miles away and has been well-received by our military personnel,” U.S. Air Force Capt. Joseph Barnes recently wrote to Paramount’s Sherry Lansing.

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