EXCLUSIVE: Chris Ortman is departing the Motion Picture Association as its chief spokesperson after almost five years.
In an email to staffers on Friday, Ortman wrote that in recent weeks he had been talking to Emily Lenzer, the MPA’s executive vice president of global communications, about a transition plan. His last day will be on Aug. 14.
Ortman wrote, “As I am sure has been the case with many if not all of you, the experience of the pandemic and other major national events that have so far defined ‘the 20s’ have caused me to reflect on how I spend my days. Things like: where I want to work, what issues I want to work on, and whether or not to mute the video on zoom calls. On the personal front, I am newlywed in a (temporarily) long distance marriage and supporting a loved one during a serious health issue, which means I need more flexibility to travel (safely and with a mask).”
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He added, “Going forward, I plan to pursue other opportunities for clients and causes I care about, including ‘the fundamental right of creators to determine how their works are distributed’ (always on message). In the near term, I’ll be pitching in where I can on behalf of candidates for elected office that I feel can best help our country live up to its ideals.”
Ortman was responsible for the press rollout of the MPA’s new CEO, Charles Rivkin, in 2017, and spearheaded the rebranding of the organization’s global report on theatrical revenue to add home entertainment and streaming data, among other projects. He was promoted to senior VP of communications in early 2019.
In a statement, Lenzer said that Ortman’s “talents for media relations, crisis communications, messaging, and strategic campaigns have been an invaluable asset to the Motion Picture Association. Moreover, his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit and instinct have raised the bar for the rest of the communications team. We wish him well in his next chapter.”
Ortman joined the MPA in 2015, succeeding Kate Bedingfield, who left to become communications director in the office of Vice President Joe Biden. She now serves as Biden’s deputy campaign manager and communications director.
Before the MPA, Ortman was vice president of communications and corporate affairs at CreativeFuture, the industry organization trying to bolster content protection.
He also has held posts as a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. He also held roles with the 2008 Democratic National Convention Committee and the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Ortman’s full email is below:
Dear cherished colleagues,
After nearly nine years of doing in-house corporate comms for this incredible, dynamic, creative industry (five years at the Motion Picture Association and four years at CreativeFuture), I have decided it’s time to make a change. I’ve been talking with Emily about my transition plan for the last couple of weeks, and already begun handing over certain components of my portfolio to her and others on the team. My last day with the MPA will be August 14.
As I am sure has been the case with many if not all of you, the experience of the pandemic and other major national events that have so far defined “the 20s” have caused me to reflect on how I spend my days. Things like: where I want to work, what issues I want to work on, and whether or not to mute the video on zoom calls. On the personal front, I am newlywed in a (temporarily) long distance marriage and supporting a loved one during a serious health issue, which means I need more flexibility to travel (safely and with a mask).
Going forward, I plan to pursue other opportunities for clients and causes I care about, including “the fundamental right of creators to determine how their works are distributed” (always on message). In the near term, I’ll be pitching in where I can on behalf of candidates for elected office that I feel can best help our country live up to its ideals.
I know that I am leaving the communications department in capable hands. By design, since hiring him some 15 months ago, I have been giving more and more of my responsibilities to Tom Zigo. His skill, professionalism, reliability, enthusiasm, good humor, and good manner is appreciated by all and makes stepping away from a job that I have loved doing so much easier. Under Emily’s leadership, the entire team has adapted to our new reality in ways that continue to impress me, such as telling our story on COVID-related advocacy work and the new Film School Fridays virtual event series. I thank Emily, Kristin, Tom, David, Rachel, Francesca, Bryan, Desson, Theodora, and our regional teams for being great colleagues. I will miss working with all of you.
I am so proud of the contributions our communications team – past and present – has made and continues to make to the success of the MPA and our member companies. I won’t enumerate them all, but indulge me in a few:
- Introducing our Chairman and CEO Charlie Rivkin, who came with a resume that made easy for work, to the entertainment and political press.
- Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the film rating system, introducing Kelly McMahon as the new Chair, and giving the one-and-only Joan Graves the sendoff she deserved.
- Helping our companies navigate media coverage of industry challenges, such as improving diverse representation in our industry, expanding access to foreign markets, and most recently, dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
- Launching our THEME report, which added home entertainment and streaming market data to our annual report to better reflect today’s evolving media landscape.
- And my personal favorite: working with our amazing studio archives teams to bring some Hollywood magic to our newly renovated office and event space at our Washington, D.C. headquarters.
I also want to thank Charlie, the entire senior team, and the PR representatives at our member companies for embracing and supporting these communications objectives.
In the coming weeks, I look forward to connecting with all of you on an individual basis for a proper farewell. I will always be just an email, text, phone call, or socially-distant-and-masked six feet away.
Thank you for a truly great work experience.
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