Responding to the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s’ urgent call for help to stay in business, several industry leaders and organizations have stepped up — but not nearly as many as are needed to keep Hollywood’s 101-year-old charity afloat. MPTF hopes to raise at least $300,000 in its star-studded first telethon, which will air December 10 on KTLA in Los Angeles.
Hit by a “perfect storm” of rising expenses and declining revenue during the Covid pandemic, the MPTF said in October that it was facing its “imminent demise” and the very real prospect of closing its doors and going out of business by the end of 2022 unless it received $10 million-$12 million in cash donations by the end of the year to meet its bank line compliance and continue ongoing operations.
In an update on the progress, or the lack thereof, in raising those funds, MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher tells Deadline that only a handful of top donors – Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, Rian Johnson and the Semel Charitable Foundation – have answered the alarm with $1 million gifts.
“Fundraising is going OK,” he said. “For the most part, people who have given in the past have stepped up to give more, and we have been really happy with the lower-level gifts of under $1,000 or so, but the midrange of giving has been relatively disappointing and frustrating. I sent 600 emails out to industry members who we thought had the capacity to give $20,000 over a five-year period, or $20,000 year for five years, and I think I got two or three responses. Everyone recognizes that these are tough times in the industry, but we thought we would have gotten more response than that. We’re doing a second round of phone calls and emails, but we’re really not getting much further with that.
“On the top side,” he added, “there’s been amazing giving from Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, who are always there for us – just incredibly generous and committed people to MPTF. Rian Johnson has stepped up with a very, very generous gift. And the Semel Charitable Foundation – Terry and Jane Semel – made a super generous gift.”
Among the many others who have stepped up with generous donations, he said, are Sherry Lansing, Bob Daly, Ron Dahlquist, Kevin Feige, Marion Rothman, Peter Rice and Megan Haller, Toni Howard and David Yarnell, Karen Rosenfelt, Susan and Gary Martin, Warren Lieberfarb, Kevin McCormick and A. Scott Berg, Molly and Hawk Koch, Billy Ray, Ed Romano, Robert Shaye, Aaron Kaplan, and Jake Kasdan, to name but a few.
Organizations that have answered the bell include IATSE, IATSE Prop Local 44, the DGA Foundation and Rise Management, as well as UCLA Health and City National Bank, which are co-sponsoring the KTLA telethon.
“There are others,” Beitcher said, “but there’s a drop-off. And it’s those kinds of midsized gifts that match what I’m giving that just aren’t coming in at the volume we hoped they would.”
Asked where the MPTF stands with respect to its goal of raising $10 million-$12 million by year’s end, Beitcher said: “We are at about 50% of that goal. We have a bunch of stuff that’s still in the works that we hope to close out by the end of the year, so we’re hoping that that number will go up considerably, but we also know that we’ve only got two or three weeks of people’s attention before they’re off to holiday vacations. So, we’re pushing every one of them.”
Asked if the MPTF on life support, he said: “No. I wouldn’t say that. In the worst case, we have an extremely generous buyer of our 18 acres that we have sold, and they’re willing to accelerate some of their payments, which isn’t due until 2023, into 2022. So, they will be our safety net if we need them.”
MPTF bought 40 acres in Woodland Hills back in 1941 but has developed only 22 of those acres, where the campus and retirement home is located. The other 18 acres to the south of the campus remained undeveloped for 81 years and were sold several years ago to a company called CCI, which is moving forward in developing a luxury senior community there. Beitcher called it an “extraordinary” company.
Asked whether the MPTF will survive, Beitcher answered with more questions: “Will it survive? Are we talking about three months? Three years? 30 years? With the acceleration of the sale of the 18-acre parcel, we will avoid troubles with our bank through extraordinary generosity of those buyers. But I’m going to be honest, because I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture, because I’m still out there fundraising.”
What the MPTF really needs, he said, is for big donors who have left the MPTF in their wills to convert those estate gifts into cash donations immediately.
“In recent years,” he said in a recent appeal, “we have received a number of exceedingly generous pledges to be paid out in the future, upon the death of the donors; but frankly, in this moment, it’s pointless to finance our future if we can’t survive the present.”
Beitcher told Deadline: “We will survive into 2023, and if we can convert some of these estate gifts, we’ll survive beyond that. But we’ve got to raise $12 million a year to stay in business, so to speak, and clearly this year, when we set off the alarm, we’re struggling to get to that number. So how we do in 2023 and beyond is up to the industry. Do they want us around, or don’t they want us around? Do they see value in what we’re doing or not?”
The headline, he said, is: “MPTF struggling to meet 2022 goals, but will survive.”
“We’re in the spotlight right now,” he said, “but most not-for-profits will tell you that it’s a tough market out there. Converting these estate gifts is transformative. It’s the on-off switch to MPTF surviving long-term or not. We’ll continue to need annual support from the industry, but those gifts in some form would be magical and heroic. Those discussions are underway. We’re focused on it and always remain hopeful.”
Noting that it’s a time of year-end giving and that people are choosing which charities to support, he said that though many in the industry gave recently to support various political campaigns, their help is needed now to help out closer to home.
“I appreciate that there were mayors to be elected, and senators and Congress people and school board members, but I’d love for industry members to remember where and how and who they’re wealth comes from and support those people as well,” Beitcher told Deadline. “This is the safety net, and as we look into 2023, with everything going on in it, the demands on MPTF are only going to be higher, and we need to be able to meet those demands. We can’t manufacture the money. It’s got to come from industry members who have been fortunate enough to do well and should think about giving back to those who need their help. That’s been the basic calculus for MPTF for 101 years, and it’s still the same. We are in need of money and in need of support, and in need of recognizing that it’s a tough business. People have their ups and downs, and we need to be there to catch them.”
The MPTF’s emergency fundraising efforts, however, so far have resulted in only a “mixed bag,” he said. “It’s great to have loyal donors and that they’re willing to step up even more in a dire time, but we need to multiply those numbers by three or four times.”
With regards to the telethon, which is called “Lights, Camera, Take Action,” Courteney Bailey, the MPTF’s chief development officer, said: “We are setting a goal for this telethon of $300,000. We’ve had other fundraising goals that are much larger for MPTF, so we’re just excited to have this telethon raise additional funding and sponsorships. This is our first time doing this kind of effort, which is lovely.”
KTLA, she said, “has been a fantastic partner and they are donating everything that they possibly can. The only thing that we’re paying for is the people who are working. They have been incredibly kind to our organization. I met with the GM of KTLA last night, Janene Drafs, who brought this to our attention, and we’re so grateful. Being the first female GM of KTLA is amazing, and we’re really happy that she brought this to us. What was beautiful is that the dinner I was at last night was hosted by our dear friends at City National Bank, which is a presenting sponsor of this telethon. We do have another presenting sponsor who has been very dear to us, UCLA Health. It really is KTLA and Janene bringing this to us because they love our mission.”
Bailey added: “We’re very grateful to the way this community has stepped up to support MPTF with efforts like the telethon and our call to action going out. It’s a hard thing to put out in your most vulnerable moment. We’re typically on the reverse – we help people in their vulnerable moments. But we had to tell them about one of ours. And the way our community has stepped up is beautiful. Our MPTF board of governors and board of directors have really come through. There’s much work to do and a lot of support is still needed. My biggest concern is how to long-term sustain the mission and services of MPTF. This is our 101st year, and it’s time to reevaluate and make MPTF as strong as possible. In this seemingly challenging time it’s a beautiful opportunity to grow and to sustain another 100 years of service.”
The telethon, which will air 7-9 p.m. on December 10, will be hosted by Yvette Nicole Brown ad Tom Bergeron, with special performances by Jeff Bridges, Julia Butters, Kevin Feige, Jodie Foster and Harry Northup, Tony Goldwyn and Anna Musky-Goldwyn, Clark Gregg, Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Hugh Jackman, Rian Johnson, Elle and Keegan-Michael Key, Tony Ludwig, Monica Macer, Ben Mankiewicz, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Billy Porter, Parker Posey, Billy Ray, Phil Rosenthal and Richard Roundtree.
Special performances will be offered by David Foster and Katherine McPhee, Johnny Mathis, Jonas Myrin,
Annette O’Toole and Michael McKean, and Brad Paisley.
The telethon, Bailey said, “Gives us a chance to tell the history of MPTF and where we want to go, and also make it entertaining. Because the audience is not all in the industry, we at MPTF have the challenge of people thinking, ‘Why would I support if I’m not in the industry?’ But the beauty is that if you find any joy from film and television, you’ll get to see that thousands of people behind-the-scenes are bringing you that joy and content and love and creativity, and that’s what we’re hoping to share with the telethon and make it really fun.”
For those living outside of Los Angeles, the telethon can be streamed on KTLA’s website and on MPTF.com.
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