Conversations about community dominated the sixth annual Reel Stories, Real Lives event at Milk Studios in Hollywood on Thursday night, benefiting the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
Hosted by Kumail Nanjiani, the evening was laced with a series of readings that told stories of industry members whose hardships were alleviated by MPTF’s services. Accounts were written by notable scribes, including Billy Ray, Monica Macer, Dorothy Blyskal, Will Fetters, and Seth Grahame-Smith, and were read by entertainment figures like Chrissy Metz, Matthew Broderick, Josh Hartnett, Jessica Rothe, and Fetters. Many of the people mentioned in the stories were present in the audience.
“I don’t know if I can swear,” Nanjiani joked while introducing the event. “Sure, why not? Tonight we will try to f—ing inspire you.”
During a moving night, Nanjiani kept the mood up with lighthearted humor. “Fun fact — MPTF is 26 years older than Pakistan, the country I’m from,” he shared. “That’s right, this charity has been helping people with grants and social services for an entire generation before my birthplace declared independence. That is a legacy to be a part of.”
Metz retold a story about Holly Spiegel, an MPTF volunteer who battled breast cancer. Metz called Spiegel a “kicka– woman” for being selfless while also taking care of herself.
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During her performance, Metz said Spiegel lovingly named her breasts as “bitch” and “Felicia,” so that on mastectomy day she could yell out, “Step off, bitch!” and “Bye, Felicia.”
“Who thinks of other people while going through something so difficult?” Metz said on the carpet. “I’m really honored to be sharing her story with everyone. Hopefully opening up people’s hearts and minds.”
Fetters wrote and presented a personal account detailing his and his wife’s infertility struggles. While his wife was pregnant with their second child, she found out she lost her health insurance during her third trimester with serious health complications.
“I thought [MPTF] was a safety net for people who really needed it. I didn’t see myself as someone who needed that kind of help,” he shared. “We want to believe we’ve earned our place in this world, that our work and individual exceptionalism alone is what got us here. But on some level, we know it’s not true. Working hard it part of it, a big part, but luck has a play. I think the MPTF is unique in this business because this business uniquely puts us in touch with luck.”
On the red carpet, Paramount Pictures CEO Jim Gianopulos emphasized the universal importance of the Fund for industry members.
“It’s a unique community in the sense that the people who work in it understand nothing lasts forever,” he told Variety. “Certainly not our youth, but also not our success in times. We owe it to each other to be supportive of the people who work here.”
At the end of the ceremony, Gianopulos introduced the launch of the Fund’s “We All Play Our Part” initiative. “This campaign is how we will connect with thousands of industry members to let them know MPTF is there for them, and for that, we continue to provide MPTF the support they need,” he said.