Studio chiefs and Los Angeles officials were gathered Tuesday morning at DreamWorks Animation for President Obama’s speech to employees, as well as a meeting with film and TV executives.
Based on seating arrangements, those expected at the event include NBC Universal’s Jeff Shell and Ron Meyer, NBC’s Robert Greenblatt and Paramount’s Rob Moore, who were assigned seats in the second row off to the left of a stage arranged under oak trees on the campus. Behind them in the third row were spots for Sony’s Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, Jeffrey Katzenberg, political adviser Andy Spahn, Mellody Hobson, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd, CBS’s Leslie Moonves, Warner Bros.’ Kevin Tsujihara, Lionsgate’s Jon Feltheimer and Fox’s Peter Rice and Jim Gianopulos. Also in a special VIP area were Los Angeles film czar Tom Sherak as well as such elected officials as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.). Also assigned a seat: Frank Quintero of Yucaipa Cos.
Employees started gathering in an area in front of the stage, with several hundred crowding around by 10:30 a.m.
Dodd, who arrived several hours early for the speech, outlined a series of issues that may come up during a closed-door roundtable with Obama, which is expected to last about 45 minutes and include about a dozen studio and network executives. Among them are pending trade agreements as well as the role that the White House can play in bringing Internet firms, studios, record labels and other parties together to come up with a plan to fight piracy. The MPAA has shifted its focus to pursuing voluntary agreements with such industries as payment processors and Internet providers, but so far little progress has been made in coming up with any kind of pact with search engines.
Obama’s speech will focus on the economy and is expected to make mention of the role that the industry has played in economic growth.
In the morning, Obama trekked from his hotel in Beverly Hills to Hancock Park, where he attended a $32,500-per-person fundraiser with about 30 donors at the home of producer Marta Kauffman and her husband, composer Michael Skloff. Also co-hosting the event was actress Melanie Griffith.
At DreamWorks, Sherak said that he hoped that Obama would talk about “how do we create jobs.” He said that Mayor Eric Garcetti would be at the event.
“The idea of people working is the foundation of health and growth in our city and our state and this country,” he said.
He also said that he supported visual effects artists who planned to protest outside of DreamWorks Animation to call attention to the loss of jobs to other countries that offer generous subsidies to lure special effects production to their borders.
“It is not just special effects,” he said. “It is not just other post things that have been leaving this country. …It is not something that is going to be figured out overnight, I can tell you, but we have to figure it out eventually.”
“I think it is a good thing, not a bad thing, that people are saying, ‘Do something,’” Sherak said of the effects artists. “I think that you have to speak up. They are getting killed, as are other groups and guilds. I think that is the way we work, that is how this country is supposed to work.” He added that a protest “had to be organized enough to make an impact. I actually believe in that. I have watched it work before, in many different ways.”
Obama’s event at the home of Kauffman was “terrific and personal,” said one participant who was there. He said that the president was extremely “positive,” as they talked about issues ranging from healthcare to the crisis in Syria.
Among those also at the Hancock Park event were Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon, who cochairs Obama’s Southern California finance team; Warner Bros.’ Barry Meyer, producer-writer Phil Rosenthal, Paul Reiser, Sony’s Fritz Friedman and financiers Peter Sussman and Brad Sherman.
Obama toured the DreamWorks’ animation facility, at one point stopping as Steve Martin and Jim Parsons did voiceover work for an upcoming project.