Live Long and, Hopefully, Prosper…

September 20, 2011
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As long ago as 1939, the Board of the Motion Picture Relief Fund (as MPTF was called then, before the days of television and our expanded mission) recognized the need for pension support for members of the motion picture industry.  The Board saw MPRF applicants who were requesting “not only financial aid, but that which extended over a period of time.” The Board further identified that in the future, if this need continued, it would become “difficult for the Fund to meet its obligations.”  From this impulse as well as others, over time, the pension plans belonging to unions and guilds were born.

Roll the clock forward to 2011, and have those very legitimate concerns of the MPRF Board really gone away?  Not entirely. Some members of the industry are covered by pension plans and, of course, there’s also Social Security (for now!), but the recent economic downswing has left many in the industry in very precarious conditions. We see and hear about this every day at the Fund:  industry members who are long-term unemployed, working much more infrequently than in the past, losing health care eligibility, upside down on their homes (which they assumed would be their retirement nest egg), supporting children and grand-children, and so on.

What made me think about all of this was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Live Very Long and Prosper.” The article’s author, Suzanne Barlyn, talks about “longevity planning” and “longevity risk” —  the need to recognize that many of us will live longer than we think, maybe even into our 100s, and therefore we need to develop financial plans for a very long life.  She offers some very good advice with regard to health care, longevity insurance, (also known as deferred fixed income annuities), investment strategy (funding retirement for those who may live into their 90s may mean a portfolio more weighted toward equities), and target-date funds.  Live long and prosper.  Wouldn’t we all love to do that and some fortunate few of us have built and retained some financial reserves and may satisfy the WSJ edict. But what of those amongst us – our fellow industry workers – who haven’t caught the right break, who have stumbled somewhere along the way, who are the victims of bad timing, bad decisions, or just plain bad luck?  Who’s going to look after them?  How do we ensure that they will have the health care and financial resources to enjoy long and fulfilling lives?  And finally, how does MPTF lift the quality of life of our entertainment industry members, engage them in social activities and lifelong learning classes, provide senior transportation and home safety assessments, and extend creative outlets like our Media Center to a population that has given so much to build and sustain our entertainment community?

These are the things that keep us up at night at MPTF.  Like the population as a whole, our industry will have a lot of baby boomers retiring in the next 20 years or so. What will their needs be?  How will we meet them most effectively?  Who will be there to support the Fund and ensure that MPTF fulfills its mission?

For 90 years, MPTF has been that safety net that Mary Pickford described as “we see a need and we fill it.”  And so we continue to search for the right ways to deliver services to current workers and to our industry retirees – on our campus in Woodland Hills, in other community-based facilities, in our health centers, and in their homes.  New models are being explored and we are trying to learn from what others around the United States and the world are doing to manage similar challenges.  There won’t be any single solution but rather a bundle of overlapping and coordinated approaches to dealing with the double-edged sword of a rotten economy and incredible life-sustaining medical technology.  MPTF will be there for you and we hope you will be there for us 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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6 Responses to Live Long and, Hopefully, Prosper…

  1. Sid Page on September 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Well fine, Bob. I appreciate that you too can repeat the questions and pose the  issues that everyone else has articulated for so long… What would be of interest to us, though, would be taking us out of the ‘trying to learn’ and ‘continuing to search’ phase and on to some serious rubber meets the road.

    • Bob Beitcher on September 27, 2011 at 9:49 am

      Sid,

      Thanks for reading the blog and taking an interest.  Stay tuned for future blogs to see what MPTF has developed already and what may be in the works for the future.  Keep the faith!

      Regards,

      Bob

  2. Antonyemail on September 20, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I really like the fact that you mention the word “luck”. I do feel lucky (very) but I do not feel rich. Most of my friends + I dropped a bundle in 2008, but it genuinely brought a smile to my face when I encountered the individual who could look me in the eye and say he had doubled his money in 2007-2009. As a group I hope it is realized that we wish the best for others and may I take this opportunity to say that I believe the MPTF has done a great job.

    • Bob Beitcher on September 27, 2011 at 9:57 am

      Dear Antonyemail,

      Thanks for your note.  Luck certainly plays a role in all of our lives though I continue to believe that we make our good luck sometimes.  I cherish your last sentence:  we do all need to wish the best for each other in this crazy entertainment community with its totally unpredictable ups and downs.

      Best,

      Bob

  3. Depressed in Paridise on September 20, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I’m one of the industry workers who has not prospered, made mistakes both financially and in life and had other responsibilities that took me away from the industry. Now with the precarious state of the industry in California I am back and have been desperately looking for work as a Set Dec for many, many months. I hope I live a long time because I’m gonna be flippin burgers at this rate well into my 100’s since I have nothing to retire on anymore and my local does nothing for us other than accept our dues. Please understand why I must sign this as depressed in Paradise!

  4. Richard Stellar on September 22, 2011 at 9:54 am

    What keeps the MPTF up at night is way different than what keeps the residents up at night.  I’m concerned that there are still issues regarding care, transportation, and ‘how does MPTF lift the quality of life of our entertainment industry members…”  Your questions have already been answered, this time by the student and not the teacher.  The Jewish Homes for the Aging, who looked at the Motion Picture Home as a model for their own continuum of care has, ironically, a lot to teach the MPTF.  It is now the largest single-source provider of senior care in Los Angeles with 950 beds.  What is so disconcerting is that the renewed ‘commitment’ of the MPTF for Long Term Care only involves presently less than 40 beds, and still many beds are vacant, just waiting to care for motion picture elderly.  The Jewish Homes challenges at survival must dwarf those challenges facing the MPTF, yet their commitment has been and continues to be steadfast and unwavering.

    I’d go on but it’s just too depressing.  Suffice to say, the management at the MPTF has gone way past their ‘sell by’ date.  Beitcher’s refreshing approach is being diluted by the business as usual mentality that is still creating havoc in the lives of the residents.  The guilds and unions that feed into the MPTF need to take a reality check on how the dust has settled, and under what rugs its been swept.  The victory for Long Term Care seems to continually progress without reaching any goal of any value.  

    I don’t expect this comment to be printed.  If it is, good on ya MPTF.  “Live long and prosper?”  I prefer this quote by our favorite Vulcan: “it is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.”

    Let’s keep those in management whose vision matches yours Bob, and route out those who are the authors and exploiters of this travesty.

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