There are times when I question whether the entertainment industry is or can be a community; whether our members are too focused on their own sometimes precarious professional lives and their personal lives to really care about the well-being of their co-workers. And who could blame them? We all recognize that things are only getting tougher out there – less production in general, more production moving out of California and out of the country, tighter budgets and tougher negotiations, necessary but painful rollbacks on benefits – so to find industry members more focused than ever on self-survival wouldn’t be a big surprise.
And then came Saturday morning. It was overcast and misty when I arrived at George Herthel’s house at 7:45 am for an 8 am call to find 30 industry members already present, drinking coffee, getting acquainted (or in many cases re-acquainted: “we worked together 4 years ago, not sure whether you remember me…”), swapping stories about how they came to be at this house in Van Nuys that morning (“I worked with George 10 years ago on Traffic,” or “I worked with George on Ghost Whisperer until earlier this year” or “George Palazzo [business agent at IATSE Local 729] reached out to me and asked if I could join up,”) and all agreeing on one thing: “I heard about how I might be able to help these people and immediately volunteered.” Everyone there had responded to the call to assist one of their own in need.
For me, it was a reflection of everything that is good about our industry and a lesson on how MPTF can serve as the catalyst and organizing force behind community projects with a real and immediate impact. George Herthel’s wife Pam told the story about the promise to paint the house to our Palliative Care team – MPTF is helping George and Pam manage the new medical and social complexities of their lives – and the MPTF team sprang into action. Holly Spiegel, our home safety coordinator, took on this very substantial project with incredible enthusiasm and dedication. She has spent countless hours with Pam and then with George Palazzo planning the “paint-athon,” Through various social media outreaches, coordinated by Derek Krull, our constituent development manager, we found the volunteers to support the project. Ed Duffy, business agent of Local 399 (George’s local), reached out to his force. George Palazzo brought in the experts from Local 729. Ed Brown, business agent at Local 44, put out the word. SAG members showed up, IATSE leadership was there, representatives of the Location Managers guild were there, and so on.
At the very center, though, was the MPTF, doing what we do best, which is mobilizing the entertainment community to get behind worthy causes. And our industry members were doing what we have learned over the years they are great at doing: rallying behind someone in need with heart and muscle, knowing that if they ever needed the support, we would all be there for them as well.
The one common message I heard from everyone I worked with there on Saturday morning: “I’m going to get a lot more out of this than I could ever put in.” That’s the greatest thing about volunteering. You can see for yourself in this video shot that day.
55 volunteers in all. Job completed by 3:30pm. Breakfast by Pit Stop Coffee, drinks from Hansen’s Tea, lunch from Famous Dave’s.
Come join us on Saturday, December 3rd as we join arms again to paint the exterior of George’s and Pam’s house, and experience the very meaning of belonging to the entertainment community.
If your’re interested in helping out, please contact Derek Krull at Derek.Krull@mptvfund.org.