For Tony Goldwyn, working with the Motion Picture and Television Fund is the family business.
“It was just one of his passions, so I inherited it a bit from him,” he says, “But in recent years I have come to realize how extraordinary the organization really is and how much breadth there is to what they actually do.” Last year, Jeffrey Katzenberg asked him to join the board of the MPTF, and that’s when “his eyes really flew open,” he says. “I didn’t understand what an incredible resource the fund is for every single person who works in the entertainment industry. And I came to realize that most people don’t know.”
That’s why he — and other high-profile members of the industry — have embarked on the “We All Play Our Part” campaign to educate people who work in show business about what resources the fund offers, and the importance of making contributions.
Among the campaign’s other advocates is showrunner John Wells (“Shameless,” “Animal Kingdom”), who got involved two years ago after a phone call from Katzenberg as well. He’s now a member of the board of governors, and serves on the committee behind the “WAPOP” campaign.
“The first task we had was just to have a conversation about why is it that so few people are aware of the many services that the organization provides, and also why doesn’t the community as a whole feel as responsible for supporting it,” says Wells.
Goldwyn and Wells see it as a two-step mission: Step one is education — spreading the word about the MPTF’s resources. To that end, they’re organizing visits to film and TV sets across town to help spread the message (they stopped by “Scandal” earlier this week, and the rest of the Shondaland shows are on deck). They want to make sure everyone knows the fund is not just for actors and producers, but also for anyone, at any level, associated with entertainment. “I think a lot of people aren’t really aware that it’s not just for unionized members but it’s for everybody in any area in the industry,” says Wells.
Step two is fundraising. The MPTF used to be supported through the payroll pledge campaign, where donations would automatically be deducted from employees’ paychecks. But with so many cast and crew now freelance, that system no longer works. “We’re not just talking about those legacy contributions, which are always wonderful, but the kind of small contributions we can all afford to do,” says Wells. “We really do have to take care of our own, and everybody needs to chip in to make sure that these services are available.”
Goldwyn has seen the benefits of the MPTF first-hand. A crew member on “Scandal” is facing a difficult health care situation in his family, and on Goldwyn’s advice, he reached out to a social worker at the MPTF, and is now getting the support he needs. Another crew member credits the MPTF for saving his life ten years ago, when he was in dire financial straits, and the fund stepped into help cover his bills for six months.
And then there was his own health scare: Goldwyn had an infection in his foot that he’d been ignoring. But then the weekend rolled around, and it needed attention — and his own doctor was unavailable. He went to the MPTF clinic, and praises the care he received. “It’s just a dumb example,” says Goldwyn, who was ultimately diagnosed with a staph infection, “but I would have just kept hobbling through work, and I could have been in real trouble. But the service was unbelievable.”
Those stories will be front-and-center at the fund’s next event, “Reel Stories, Real Lives,” which will be held on November 2. “It’s not about celebrities; it’s not about the most famous people,” says Goldwyn. “It’s about people who have dedicated their lives to their craft. It humanizes the folks in this industry and again reminds people, whether they are a valet parking attendant on a studio lot or a stand in or a cinematographer, we’re there for them. I have to say one of the most gratifying things about being in this industry for a long time is you do develop a genuine sense of community with the people you know and collaborate with.”