A Sore Back, But a Full Heart

February 7, 2013

No one said it would be easy. And no one told me really hard work could feel so good.

This past Saturday, 60 volunteers from all walks of the industry responded to a call for action from Derek Krull, MPTF Constituent Development manager, to join in a home safety and renovation project in Burbank for Jose and Nury Perez. Jose is a long-time member of Local 729 and his story – immigration from Cuba in 1971, joining Local 729 in 1985, 15 years at Disney – is a beautiful one. He was a talented artist but was forced to cut his teeth creating revolutionary propaganda while in a labor camp in Cuba. When he finally arrived in LA after spending some time in Florida and Illinois, he camped on the doorsteps of Local 729 to go to work in the entertainment industry. If you’ve been in the Universal parking lot and seen the characters painted there, that’s Jose’s work. If you’ve been to the cantina on the Universal Studios tour and seen the mural paintings there, that’s Jose’s work. And the film and TV credits go on: Home Improvement, The Ellen Show, Beaches, Pretty Woman, Ed Wood, Back to the Future 1 and 2, Dick Tracy, Sister Act. This guy did it all in the industry.

And then he retired in 2004, and not long after had a series of health setbacks that knocked him down but not out. Today, he’s still strong enough to maintain a little paint shop in his garage and to bang around the house a bit, but not to do the kind of work that the crew of 60 took care of on Saturday. We re-did the brick walkway in the front of the house, painted the fascia around the house and some interior walls, built storage shelves and helped Nury organize a great deal of clutter, we cleaned up the back garden, and the front lawn… Holy cow! Jose and Nury planted agapanthus there 26 years ago and I’m sure it looked great. Until Saturday, though, it was growing wild. If you’ve never dealt with clusters of deeply rooted agapanthus, well you haven’t really lived. A lot of hard work there. Just ask me. A few rounds of Aleve and I’m almost back to new.

But the point is less what we did than that we did it at all. Time and again, I’m amazed at how responsive our industry can be to these calls to action for these projects. Besides some trained 729 painters, we were a bunch of relative amateurs simply committed to making sure that we could help out someone in our community who needed our support. I had several male industry members say to me, “I’m not telling my wife what kind of work I did here because I wouldn’t do it for her at home.” And a similar number of female industry members say, “I bet these guys don’t work so hard at home.” What’s that say to you? No, not that we like strangers more than our wives, but rather that we’re all prepared to go more than the extra mile to recognize and show our gratitude for other industry members who deserve for us to give back.

At the end of the day, my legs ached, my back ached, my shoulders screamed, and I felt really, really great! Thanks to everyone who participated, thanks to Holly Spiegel our Home Safety Coordinator who pulled this off, to George Palazzo and the crew from 729 who organized paint brushes on the ground (or on scaffolding), to Sherwin Williams for their generosity in donating the paint, to Famous Dave’s for feeding the troops, and to Derek Krull for putting out the call and lining up the volunteer team. And a very special shout out to Hawk Koch and Ric Robertson, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Motion Picture Academy respectively. The Academy has been our partner in the Home Safety program since inception and it’s thanks to their generous 10-year grant that we have been able to fund so many of these critical projects. Join us at our next Home Safety event. You’ll feel good about yourself as well.

About Bob Beitcher

Bob Beitcher is the President and CEO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund. He has been a senior executive in the entertainment industry for 30 years, having held leadership roles at Jim Henson Productions, Paramount Pictures, Panavision and MacAndrews & Forbes Media Group. Bob has been an MPTF board member since 2007. He became interim CEO in 2010 and was named permanent CEO in 2011.

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