An 85 Year Age Difference

May 10, 2012

It gives me a lot of pride and some goose bumps to tell you this story.

So, we have an intern in our Media Room, Sarah Crosthwate, a junior at Agoura High School, who commits part of her Sundays to working on Channel 22 projects.  (Channel 22 is MPTF’s in-house television channel, creating and distributing content for and by our residents and volunteers to everyone on our campus).  Sarah’s mother, Carole Kirshner, is an industry member and Sarah first got involved with us when she worked as a Production Assistant on a short film, HI, LILLIAN, directed by Doug Wood and featuring some MPTF residents and staff.  Since then, she has been interning on other projects.

A few Sundays ago, Sarah worked with Ruthie Tompson, a resident on the MPTF Wasserman Campus.  I need to set the stage for this a bit.  Ruthie is 101 years young.  She is a Disney Legend, having worked there (hired by Walt himself) for more than 37 years and remains a vibrant, active, and creative person – and a real treasure to all of us at MPTF in many, many ways.  So here we have Sarah, the high school junior, working for a day with an industry member who herself worked directly with Walt Disney!

Sarah wrote an exceptional essay about her experience and below I’ve excerpted parts of it and have taken the liberty of adding a few comments of my own.

 “Working with Ruthie was a unique experience that I was lucky to have.  The MPTV Fund is filled with so much knowledge that most people my age just do not have access to.  Everywhere I go, there are people who have worked on historical projects with legends that I have only dreamed of meeting…Most residents are also role models because they are still doing what they love …As junior volunteers we get to thank them for talking to us by teaching them how to use new technologies that will enable them to do what they love more efficiently.”

During the day, Ruthie showed Sarah the first movie she ever worked on – The Lonesome Ghosts, a 7-minute animated short.

“She colored individual cels for it.  Individual cels is a term I honestly can’t wrap my mind around.  I had to ask three times if the whole seven minute movie was really made up of individual cels.  Ruthie got to paint those cels because she was hired by Walt Disney.”

Ruthie also shared filmmaking techniques with Sarah.

“We talked about how to compose a shot … I learned to make the image clear enough so that the audience can focus on the story.  Ruthie showed me the pictures that she has taken around the MPTF campus.  Every one of them was formatted beautifully.  Ruthie and I have just started a project together, so I’m looking forward to learning more from her.”

At some point, Ruthie talked with Sarah about the change-over from shooting photos on film to using digital and then mentioned that she was having trouble with Pandora on her iPad!  Don’t you love it!  Now the tables turned and Sarah was able to help Ruthie get Pandora set up properly.

“Most of the residents at MPTV Fund are willing to embrace new technology like Ruthie is and we get to help make that transition easier for them.  It is a two-way information sharing process.”

Sarah’s conclusion is delightful:

“There is no age limit to doing what you love.  Channel 22 fills a void and gives residents an opportunity to show off what they work on.  On the other end of the spectrum Channel 22 gives kids like me access to the stories and knowledge of MPTF.  I can honestly say that I have never been anywhere that is anything like Channel 22.”

So there you have it.  Spanning the generations (call it 85 years difference or so between Ruthie and Sarah), sharing a little history and a lot of love, helping each other in spoken and unspoken ways.  Our MPTF residents truly are inspiring – and Ruthie is one of many – and so are our young volunteers, like Sarah, who bring so much just by being there and listening and sharing.  And, of course, helping with iPads!

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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