With the Motion Picture Home under quarantine, along with the rest of the state, and grim news almost daily about the spread of coronavirus and deaths, the MPTF’s in-house network, Channel 22, has added daily live programming to its schedule of entertainment.
Jennifer Clymer, media director at the MPTF, says: “We’re doing our best to keep the 250 or so people who live at the MPTF retirement campus positive and engaged and understanding that it’s not only their safety that matters, it’s also their mental and emotional well-being.”
The live program is part of Channel 22, the closed-circuit television station that has been operating at the Woodland Hills retirement home for nearly 15 years. The residents are in charge and it’s their creative vision.
“You’re more likely to be approached by somebody who lives in a different area of campus if they saw your interview on closed-circuit television and realized, ‘oh not only did you work in the same studio but you were there at the same time, under the same boss,’ ” Clymer says.
Since the residents are missing such things as communal dining and recreational activities, the live broadcasts are a palliative.
“I hate calling it social distancing, because that’s not what it is. It is physical distancing. If we socially distance from each other, we’re done. As humans we thrive on that interaction.”
While she and other staff members and volunteers work remotely, Clymer says the residents have learned how to use Zoom, WhatsApp and other technology to call into the station for games, a virtual “happy hour,” workouts and meditation to provide relief. There is also an update from Bob Beitcher, president and CEO of the foundation.
Bob Mirisch was an entertainment lawyer before he retired, but as a resident of the Motion Picture and Television Fund home he runs its newsletter. Mirisch, who has been at MPTF for five years, took over a few years ago and then added a television component.
Mirisch describes Clymer as “our Johnny Carson, but she’s better looking than Johnny Carson.”
He writes segments and games and teaches residents to use Zoom and WhatsApp so they can call in to the live shows.
Mirisch says this is not the first time that the campus has been under quarantine, but it is the longest and the most serious.
Some staff members and crew are coming in to work at the station, using safe practices. Production manager Paige Thompson is one of them. She helps Mirisch produce his one-hour “Gazette Live.”
“This project has been evolving since all of this started,” Thompson says. “I thought we would do it in the theater and have people call in. Incorporating Zoom … we are able to connect and see each other. It’s so exciting to see the technology sort of rise to the occasion.
“It’s amazing because a lot of the people I work with were born in the 1920s and 1930s and it’s really challenging for them to video chat. Now that we’re all doing it together as a community, I think it’s less challenging.”
Besides the “Gazette Live,” Thompson is working on a show called “Tech Talk” in which they tackle new applications. Since MPTF residents also run podcasts, one of the topics covers how to record podcasts on a phone and share them.
“I feel lucky to be able to do this during this period because it keeps my mind busy,” Mirisch says. “I’m not the kind of person who likes to sit around and just chill.”