MPA Senior Leaders on Evolving With the Industry and Audiences: ‘We Can Never Get Stuck in the Past’

MPA Senior Leaders
Lenzner, Gordon: Courtesy MPA (2); Temple, MacKinnon, Venugopalan: Gary Landsman (3)

According to Motion Picture Assn. CEO Charles Rivkin, one of the most vital aspects of building a senior leadership team is finding people who have diverse approaches to problem-solving and who think outside the box.

“Having multiple viewpoints and perspectives at the MPA assures there’s no groupthink,” Rivkin tells Variety.

Described as the place where Washington meets Hollywood, the MPA is celebrating its 100th anniversary of protecting and advocating for the film industry.

“The MPA has a very storied, iconic image and [Rivkin] is not afraid to challenge that,” says Emily Lenzner, executive VP for global communications and public affairs. “He recognizes that as our industry and audiences evolve, we need to evolve.”

As new distribution models arise, the MPA’s senior leadership team has worked hand-in-hand with the Alliance for Creativity & Entertainment to protect studios’ copyrighted material from digital piracy.

“The type of piracy has changed, which requires us to change how we approach that,” says Karyn Temple, senior exec VP and global general counsel. “It’s important to ensure that creators have a way to effectively monetize and distribute their works.”

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Kelly McMahon, senior VP and chairperson of the MPA’s Classification & Rating Administration. Courtesy Image

Rivkin’s diversity/inclusion aspirations are reflected in the makeup of his senior leadership team.

“He wants everyone, especially his senior executive team, to provide candid and honest advice, even if they don’t agree with him,” says Gail MacKinnon, senior exec VP of global policy and government affairs. “That’s an important part of any creative collaboration — getting smart and candid advice from your team of experts.”

The current senior management team is about 70% women, many of whom are of color.

“It’s more than just looking at it through the prism of a statistic or a demographic,” says Urmila Venugopalan, executive VP of strategy and global operations. “Each of us brings a unique perspective and opinion, and has a distinct approach to decision-making that’s based on our life and professional experiences.”

Marilyn Gordon, senior VP, chairman of advertising and vice chairman of the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), says she appreciates how Rivkin listens to everyone’s perspective. “He’s not the kind of boss who wants a bunch of yes men,” Gordon says. “We can come to him and have open conversations, which I’m very appreciative of because it makes a difference in the way we run as a business.”

Rivkin is “huge on collaboration,” adds Kelly McMahon, senior VP and chairperson of the Classification & Rating Administration. “Among the senior team, we help each other, give input when you wouldn’t even think it’d be relevant, but we are all interconnected.”

The entertainment industry is changing every day, according to Rivkin, and that is why he believes his team always has to think about how to do better.

“The phrase I hate hearing the most is ‘we’ve always done it this way.’ That has never worked for me,” Rivkin says. “We can never get stuck in the past and approach an issue by what we’ve always done.”

Rivkin adds, “I hired the best executive team and they happened to be diverse. We are stronger as a result. This industry was created out of whole cloth and it’s changed the world. The Motion Picture Assn. has steadfastly represented the creators who define this industry and the talent that makes this industry so strong.”