White House Correspondents' Dinner Party Fetes Washington Press Corps at MPAA

by Kate Spence 04/30/2011 10:44 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Last night we celebrated the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the Washington press corps by hosting a party here at the MPAA headquarters, two blocks from the White House.
 
Among the guests was SNL’s Seth Meyers, who’s speaking at tonight’s WHCD and brought the whole Meyers clan.  Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper of this year’s Best Picture, The King’s Speech, and comedian Chelsea Handler each made appearances; and Mike Isabella, star on Bravo’s Top Chef, entertained guests with a lively cooking demo (he made tartare, and it was delicious).  Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan was even there to give the fiesta mas sabor.

Guests from the media included NPR’s Nina Totenberg; CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Jessica Yellin, Ed Henry, and Gloria Borger; Fox’s Chris Wallace, Greta Van Susteren, and Jim Angle; ABC’s Jake Tapper; PBS’ Gwen Ifill; and a wide range of other broadcast and print media leaders.  All told, over 200 guests were in attendance and Senator Dodd says he plans to make it an annual tradition.

Reporters often have a thankless job; this is our opportunity to honor them for all the hard work they do year round.  We tip our hats to the Washington press corps, and hope to see you at next year’s event.

Gregory Peck Commemorative Stamp

by Senator Chris Dodd 04/28/2011 14:17 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

 

Today the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held a ceremony to celebrate the first-day-of-issue of the United States Postal Service’s Gregory Peck commemorative stamp. 

With his handsome chiseled features, worthy of Mount Rushmore, and a voice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Gregory Peck was more than a Hollywood movie star and more than one of America’s greatest actors; he was a national monument. Yet, for all his larger than life qualities, he was always extremely human, approachable, and authentic – a man devoted to his family and to humanitarian causes, to his craft and to the industry he spent his adult life working in, and most especially the hard working people who make up the film industry.

My parents met Gregory Peck many years ago in Ireland, and I’ll tell you, my parents were not easily impressed, but they were terribly impressed by him. You just knew by talking to him that he was a decent, kind, and honorable man with fierce conviction. I have known the Peck family for many years now, and I had the great pleasure on a number of occasions to spend some time with Gregory Peck, so I was of course honored when asked to participate at today’s ceremony.

For better or worse, in this case for the better, movies and actors influence perceptions of who we are not only as an industry, but as a nation. Through the characters he brought to life and the ideals he brought to the screen, Gregory Peck connected international audiences to an America whose core values are respected and emulated around the world.

He played the righteous American – never self-righteous –with all the qualities that we like to think are the best this country has to offer – strong but gentle, full of emotions, including vulnerability; passion and compassion; decency and a drive to fight for what is right – for fairness, justice, and equality. He fought racial injustice in To Kill a Mockingbird and he exposed anti-Semitism in Gentleman’s Agreement.  Although he was a physically powerful figure, it was always his “social conscience” that won the fights in his movies.

This social conscience, so skillfully embodied in his characters, extended well beyond the movie screen and he became as recognized for his deep commitment to the arts and public service as for his iconic film career, Inaugural member of the National Council of the Arts, National Chairman of the American Cancer Society, and a devoted advocate of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, just to name a few.

Throughout his life Gregory Peck raised the bar for the entertainment industry and for America. President Lyndon Johnson thought so too, and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom as “an artist who had brought new dignity to the actor’s profession.”

His on-screen heroes were not necessarily bigger than life characters; but his enormous presence endowed his characters – often ordinary men in extraordinary situations – with heroic greatness, and that is exactly how I, and I hope all of you, will remember Gregory Peck.

I remember a story from one of the town halls that Gregory used to do around the country.  Someone in the audience asked him what he most wanted to be remembered for.  Gregory answered that the thing he most wanted to be remembered for was his family, and a lot of the time when people give that same answer they don’t seem genuine.  But you could tell that Gregory’s answer was a truly genuine one. 

And then he said the other thing he wanted to be remembered for most was for being a story teller.  I’ve thought a lot lately about what he said and how storytelling can shape us as a nation.  Documentaries and textbooks are great tools for learning, but I’m certain that most of you here will agree when I say that it’s the stories we listen to and watch on movie screens and television growing up that really shape us.  You can learn all about World War II listening to teachers in the classroom and reading about it in a text book, but it takes a little girl named Anne Frank writing her story in a diary for us to truly understand the fear and persecution that people were forced to endure.  Everyone knows about the horrors of slavery, but it’s only after Alex Haley writes Roots that those horrors truly come home for us.  And it takes a character created by Harper Lee and later portrayed by the man we’re here to honor today to show us the righteousness and honor of standing up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves.

Gregory Peck knew the power of a story to mold a national consciousness and create models of national characters such as Atticus Finch.  A man named Bill Finch, who used to work for me, is the mayor of a city in my home state of Connecticut called Bridgeport.  He and his wife recently had a son, and this may not surprise most of you in this room, but they named their son Atticus.

I think one of the reasons Gregory wanted so much to be remembered as a storyteller was that he cared so deeply about his Irish heritage. This heritage told him how W.B. Yeats and the other leaders of the Irish cultural revival had invented an Ireland of the mind that preceded, and facilitated, the country born in 1916.  Yeats summed up this idea when he wrote of his predecessors in the Young Ireland movement of the mid-nineteenth century who used the power of story-telling to create the idea of an inclusive non-sectarian Ireland: “They were not separated individual men; they spoke or tried to speak out of a people to a people; behind them stretched the generations.”

Gregory Peck knew – and showed how – America’s greatest form of storytelling, the movie, could speak out of a people to a people. My only regret is that he isn’t alive to tutor me as I begin on my new path as a storyteller.

Categories: MPAA Salutes

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Celebrating Creativity on World IP Day and a Nod of Thanks to ICE and DOJ

by Senator Chris Dodd 04/27/2011 13:35 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

I was pleased to join with the creative community all across the globe on Tuesday (4/26/11) commemorating World Intellectual Property Day.  This is a day to recognize the importance of the workers and businesses involved in the creation and distribution of creative works.  It is a day to celebrate the most valuable asset of any society – the product of intellectual creativity which drives innovation, spurs economic development and defines the culture of every community.
 
In my mind, respect for intellectual property is essential to the success of nations that aspire to greater development as well as key to maintaining the economies of developed nations.  And World Intellectual Property Day is a time to reflect on the economic, as well as cultural contributions intellectual creativity has produced and renew our commitment to value intellectual creation as we do physical creation.
 
But even as we celebrate the creative endeavors of so many people and businesses throughout the world, we must recognize the threats to their livelihoods from those who would steal their products and distribute them for their own profit on the Internet and in markets all around the globe.
 
Fortunately, law enforcement agencies are recognizing this threat.   
 
To mark the occasion and raise awareness about the harm caused by the theft of movies and TV shows, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), released a new public service announcement video – Piracy Doesn’t Work.  ICE, which is a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, has been actively cracking down on rogue websites that sell stolen content and counterfeit goods on the Internet since last June, seizing at least 120 domain names.  Now, when people go to many of these seized websites, instead of stolen material, they’ll find the PSA.
 
Meanwhile, James Cole, deputy attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) wrote a compelling article in The National Law Journal on the dangers of intellectual property crimes – to our economy, our health, and the future of the U.S. as an innovation powerhouse.
 
So today, I’d like to give a special note of thanks to ICE and DOJ for their strong commitment to those who seek to earn a living through their own creative efforts.
 
Piracy Doesn’t Work: 

Riding the Sea Change -- An Exciting Future for the Movie Industry

by Senator Chris Dodd 04/26/2011 11:39 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

 

As the new CEO of the MPAA for all of six weeks now, I’d like to welcome you to our new blog.  There is a great sea change going on in our industry and I hope that the commentary on this blog will reflect the excitement we share at being on the cutting edge between the creation of new artistic and commercial content and the delivery of this material to consumers.

This blog is a new way for us to share our thoughts about some of the issues and innovations that are creating the most interest here in Washington, DC, in Hollywood, and all across the globe.

In recent weeks, I’ve visited sets, studios, and production facilities all around the country, and have met with some of the most innovative and creative people in our business.  I’ve also been doing a lot of reading about the industry, including a marvelous biography of Samuel Goldwyn written by A. Scott Berg.

One of the stories that really struck me was about the 1914 premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s first full-length feature, The Squaw Man.  He made it for $15,000, (you get what you pay for) with second-hand British equipment with ill-fitting sprockets, and so the first showing was marred by the fact that the audience could see the character’s hats and boots—and not much else.

As I read about this, I found myself wondering what DeMille, Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Jesse Lasky and Adolph Zukor would have said if they could have seen Avatar—in a theater, in 3D.  What an incredible journey: We’ve come all the way from The Squaw Man to the blue N’avi in less than a hundred years.  That century has been marked—and, in many ways, defined—by the giants of our industry, their incredible creative visions, and their mind-boggling technological innovations.  Movies have come to shape the American psyche—and dominate the attention of consumers—like nothing else.

Last year the number of digital and 3D screens more than doubled—and our audience couldn’t get enough of it. One in five dollars spent at the box office now comes from 3D.  And like moviegoers here at home and all over the world, I can’t wait, nor can you, I expect, to see what we come up with next.


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