Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ), who once had aspirations of an entertainment career, told a D.C. crowd, “I always dreamed, as I was considering acting … that maybe I’d get an Oscar, so this is as close as I am going to come.”
Murphy was one of the recipients this week of the inaugural MPA Awards, the studio trade and lobbying association’s contribution to award season. And since this is Washington, most of the honorees were, naturally, those lawmakers who have been particularly supportive of the industry and its policy agenda.
“I”m accepting, I guess, for best performance by a state in the motion picture industry,” Murphy said, noting the productions like West Side Story that have recently shot there and revealing that some are “kicking the tires” on building one or more sound stages there.
MPA chairman Charles Rivkin hosted the event at the headquarters just a couple blocks from the White House. He said he wants the honorees “to annually honor the work of individuals whose vital contributions enable our industry continue to flourish.”
The event also signaled a return to normal. Although the MPA had unveiled its newly designed theater and reception space in 2019, the pandemic sidelined most events there up until the latter half of last year, and even then it’s been a slow process toward full reopening. Attendees on Tuesday evening were maskless, but were required to show proof of vaccination.
Also recognized was Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) received a lifetime achievement honor. Murphy recently signed an expansion of the state’s film tax credit, and Tillis and Leahy led the Senate push to make illegal streaming a felony. Tillis also has proposed a reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, something that has long been on the wish list for many in the industry.
Writer-director Nikyatu Jusu, whose feature debut Nanny won the Grand Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, received the MPA Creator Award. “I think that cinema and motion pictures can be an empathy machine that guides and audience to center and hone in on a perspective that typically audiences wouldn’t fixate on,” she said.
Before Leahy spoke, the MPA played clips from the current Senate president pro tem’s five appearances in the Batman movies, including one in The Dark Knight where he tells The Joker (Heath Ledger), “We’re not intimidated by thugs!”
“You know, you remind me of my father,” The Joker then tells him, before grabbing Leahy and saying, “I hated my father.”
Leahy said he has not yet seen the latest in the franchise, The Batman, but used his past experiences to promote the biz as a source of high-skilled jobs. “Even in the tiny parts I got in the Dark Knight series, you see the hundreds and hundreds of people, every single one of them an expert in what they are doing,” he said. “You have the actors on the screen and then you have the hundreds and even thousands behind, and of course you have the local industry and what they do.”
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