As the Television Academy readies to do away with For Your Consideration screeners starting with next year’s Emmy season, a lot of ink has already been spilled hypothesizing on what will replace the mailers in order to ensure series get seen by the almost 25,000 voting members. But they are not the only ones who benefit from such DVDs: Non-profit organization Project: Hollywood Cares collects screeners and other physical media donations and sends them overseas to active duty troops.
“They don’t have the ability to go on the internet and download something or watch Netflix,” says Project: Hollywood Cares executive director Tom Fick of the troops who are deployed in Afghanistan or on ships in the middle of an ocean. “Our industry is great for online viewing, but a copy of something means everything to a soldier.”
Navy veteran Fick created the organization 13 years ago and notes that having a shared television show or movie to discuss when soldiers call home helps keep their connection to loved ones thousands of miles away.
“They either face a day of horror or a day of total boredom,” Fick says of life as a soldier, “and anything that takes your mind off of the fact that tomorrow you have to go out on the mission helps. You feel like it’s a piece of home.”
Fick admits he isn’t concerned that volume will decrease as For Your Consideration screeners stop, as that is only one source of content. He has a space on the CBS Radford lot in Studio City, consisting of more than 40 floor-to-ceiling shelves worth of movies, TV series and even CDs and books — enough product to keep him in business for another decade. But Fick is also cognizant of the fact that there are many troops “spending two and three years on shore duty here in Southern California” who may not know anyone in town. So his goal is to create connections for them, as well.
“I think we should be getting these folks out,” he says, noting the importance of both veterans and active duty service members meeting each other and bonding at movie screenings, the L.A. Rams Salute to Service Day and plays at the Geffen Playhouse, among other events.
In order to soldier on in its endeavors, Project: Hollywood Cares is now in the position of looking for partnerships and donations with corporations and individuals within the industry. The goal is to not only to continue to send full libraries of content to military bases and ships around the world, but also to host more events and eventually expand to hiring some help. Fick relies on volunteers and short-term interns. The organization may also soon be in need of a new space to house the office and inventory.
But despite these challenges, Fick remains passionate about, and steadfast in, his mission.
“These people have been deploying for 18 years, we need to support them however we can,” he says.