The Motion Picture & Television Fund’s annual Night Before fund-raiser will proceed as usual Feb. 23 — but with even more urgency this year, as requests for financial assistance have grown an astonishing 700% over last year.
Motion Picture & Television Fund organizers said they decided to proceed with the fund-raiser, which reaped nearly $8 million last year, to raise even more coin for the people affected by the writers strike, which began Nov. 5.
“I don’t think there’s been a time when the needs of the community have been greater than they are now,” said founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, who noted that calls for assistance are growing with each day. “There are a lot of people in need, and we’ve got to help them.”
Many people think the fund is solely devoted to raising coin for the Motion Picture & TV Home in Woodland Hills, but that’s not the case. While that site is a priority, the fund is designed to help those in the industry who require financial aid.
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Katzenberg said the volume of callers seeking assistance has escalated to seven times normal levels, with no sign of letting up. “Eighty percent of calls we are getting qualify for assistance,” he said. “It’s just staggering. The thing about this is, I don’t want to have to say no.”
According to MPTV Fund Foundation chief exec Ken Scherer, the average grant is for $1,400 and intended to cover food, utilities and rent or mortgages. “We are increasing our staff temporarily to deal with the case load,” Scherer said.
“We are helping people who are literally losing their houses,” Katzenberg said. “They’re losing their cars.”
He stressed that the fund is helping whoever needs it, regardless of which part of the business they work in.
The sixth annual fete will be held at the Beverly Hills Hotel on the evening before the scheduled Academy Awards ceremony.
The Night Before event will follow past models, which have raised close to $25 million, much of it from corporate sponsors. As usual, the hotel will cover over its pool, and Oscar nominees, studio and network execs and other industry pros will mingle in an event that’s closed to the press.
Katzenberg said it shouldn’t be construed as just another awards season soiree. “Last year we raised almost $8 million. If we can exceed that, we should do whatever it takes,” he said.
“This enterprise is blind to who it’s helping — it’s helping everybody equally,” he added. “In any shape or form to look at this as anything other than an opportunity to take care of our own would be mistaken.”
Variety is one of the sponsors of the annual event.