It just took one trip to the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s campus, and Monica Macer, an executive producer on OWN’s “Queen Sugar,” knew she’d found her mission.
Macer got involved with MPTF two and a half years ago, thanks to her friend Yvette Nicole Brown (who’s now starring in “The Mayor”), who invited her to take a tour of the Wasserman campus, a residential community for the elderly. But she would soon come to learn that MPTF was about so much more.
“I fell in love with the mission of what MPTF was doing,” says Macer. “I was so surprised having been in entertainment for so many years but I didn’t really know what MPTF did.”
Now she serves on the organization’s NextGen board, a group of 40 people in the industry who are all doing their part to raise awareness.
Their slogan, says Macer, is “we celebrate, educate and serve.”
“We celebrate the achievements of our peers and those who have come before us in the industry,” she says, pointing to a 25th anniversary screening of “Thelma & Louise” held on the campus, with a Q&A with screenwriter Callie Khouri.
“We educate the members of the entertainment industry about our mission and how to get involved,” says Macer, who has hosted several dinners with people throughout the industry, including an upcoming evening being organized with board member Jelani Johnson with executives, managers and agents. “I just want to let as many people know as possible, because you never know when someone you’re working with is going to fall into a time of need.”
“And we serve,” she says. “We’re an organization that believes in taking care of our own.” Macer took part in MPTF’s “Home Safe Home” program, which provides at-home safety evaluations, and free and low-cost modifications. Along with a group of volunteers, she spent a day at the Valley home of an actress in her 70s, repainting it, lowering the racks of her closets so she didn’t have to strain, fixing her walkway so she wouldn’t trip. “Little things like that make a big difference in everyday life, things we take for granted when we’re young and nimble,” she says.
Another program she’s been active with is the veterans’ assistance program, where social workers help vets navigate the red-tape of the government to help them get their benefits.
Macer recounts the story of a Vietnam vet who had been exposed to Agent Orange, and had been fighting with the VA for decades: from years of working on aircraft carriers, his hearing was impaired and he needed hearing aids. “A simple cal to MPTF helped him get those benefits,” she says. “[The benefits] doubled his monthly income. For someone who’s retired, that’s a huge difference.”
Through talking with him, Macer learned that he helped pioneer the system of turning empty warehouses into soundstages, as well as the relay system of red lights and bells to signal when filming is going on onset. She’ll be telling his story at MPTF’s upcoming “Reel Stories, Real Lives” event on November 2nd.
Macer even tapped into the social worker system to get help for her own father back Illinois, who’s struggling with some health issues. The social worker helped her find healthcare options for him. “It was such a huge blessing, in the midst of everything that we’re all trying to accomplish on a day-to-day basis,” says Macer. “It was such a gift.”
Now she’s planning a benefit concert with performers from “Nashville,” a show she worked on as a co-executive producer. “That show still has a very special place in my heart,” she says. “The people working on the show, who they are as people lines up with what MPTF does naturally.”
She recalls the writers’ strike a crucial time for the organization. “When people were losing their homes and couldn’t pay the mortgage,” she says, “MPTF was writing checks to help people stay in their homes. It’s pouring into a rainy day find. You never know: One day you yourself might need it.”
Every dollar can make a difference, she says: “The organization started with Mary Pickford on the lot collecting spare change to help people out.”
Another added benefit, she says, is spending time with like-minded people. “In Hollywood, as you go along your journey and in your career, you have these pockets of friends that you collect along the way,” she says. “Even though I’m not working on a show with Yvette or Jeffrey [Katzenberg], I get to see them once a month planning fun things for us to do with MPTF. It’s a way to keep your tribe together.”