By Jordan Smith
In 1921, Hollywood stars Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith saw a need to bring their community of entertainers together to provide assistance to fellow entertainers in need. These Hollywood pioneers understood that the industry they were creating required the collaboration of many: from actors and directors to hundreds of workers—script writers, special effects experts, extras, cameramen, grips, editors, sound—all trying to make a living in an uncertain industry. Bringing the community together, the Motion Picture Relief Fund was established as a safety net to assist any member of the entertainment industry who might be down on their luck. The very first recorded support was for the rent of an ailing actor unable to work.
Over time, the organization’s name changed to the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) to reflect the addition of this new medium and its services expanded to include a broad range of social, community and health services. Offerings, both on their residential campus in Woodland Hills, California and in the greater community, truly span the lifecourse with everything from a child development center to a pioneering palliative care program. In 2014, MPTF reached a turning point, transitioning the operation of its outpatient primary care practice to UCLA Health. This bold step enables MPTF to focus on the non-clinical factors that profoundly influence the health and wellbeing of a population—physical environment, health behaviors. and social and economic factors. While the organization has seen many changes over the past 94 years, its mission remains the same: to provide a sense of community for entertainment industry workers and to support their needs.
A Community of Support
Scott Kaiser, M.D., MPTF Chief Innovation Officer, believes that part of MPTF’s success stems from serving an affinity group. Entertainment industry members have a real comradery based on shared experiences, triumphs and challenges. MPTF creates a platform for people to come together, better themselves and make a difference in their community.
MPTF President and CEO Bob Beitcher commented, “The mystique of entertainment is when hard work comes together to create something magical, and that’s also the essence of volunteering at MPTF.”
Members of the entertainment community have a variety of ways to give back. For example, volunteers can participate in many programs to enrich the lives of seniors including helping retirees with home safety, grocery shopping, computer tutoring, writing memoirs, social support, or even exercise by becoming a “Fitness Buddy.” In 2014, 1,000 volunteers contributed over 40,000 hours of their time. Two dozen of these volunteers earned a Lifetime Achievement Award in June for each volunteering more than 4,000 hours of time.
Dr. Kaiser draws upon his experience as a physician specializing in geriatric medicine and takes a community oriented approach to health and wellbeing, recognizing the profound impact proactive and preventive measures can have across one’s lifespan. In developing strategic direction and conceiving new programs for MPTF, Dr. Kaiser emphasizes a broad definition of wellness. “Living well, particularly when it comes to healthy aging, extends beyond nutrition and exercise. It involves fostering creativity, healthy relationships, civic engagement and a sense of community,” he explains.
In addition to offering innovative programs to address the social, behavioral, and environmental factors that impact wellbeing, MPTF is committed to expanding its thought leadership through a variety of research and educational opportunities. For example, MPTF has partnered with the UCLA Longevity Center to conduct a two-year study on cognitive wellness where participants combine memory training with physical exercise programs in an effort to reduce the risk or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia symptoms. MPTF also leads the conversation in the entertainment industry on challenging issues that confront us all by convening the community at its annual “Deal With It” women’s conference and “What Matters Most” summit.
MPTF is recognized as the entertainment industry’s resource in times of personal or family crisis. The organization is committed to expanding a proactive and comprehensive population health strategy to meet the needs of its community, prevent problems before they occur, and extend the reach of its services. To operationalize this approach, MPTF is interested in identifying best practices and key metrics so that it may deploy targeted measurement tools and maximize its social impact.
Dr. Kaiser underscores his “belief in a community oriented approach and the profound effect community agencies have on health and wellbeing.” MPTF is an amazing example of what just one community, built on a solid foundation of volunteer support, can do to make a difference for themselves and for each other.
The Motion Picture & Television Fund seeks to create a sense of community among entertainment industry workers and cultivate their philanthropic spirit in support of sustaining a safety net of programs and services for the benefit of fellow industry members in times of need. Jordan Smith is a recent graduate of NC State, holding her Master’s degree in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition.