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Good afternoon, I'm Robin Bronk, executive director of the Creative Coalition, and welcome to our annual Sundance sushi stars and society panel with Heineken, and we are delighted to be here. I first wanted to open up by telling you a little bit about the Creative Coalition, we are the membership organization of the entertainment industry can we cut the music? I mean, I like it. Because we're going to have our panelists dance up here. We are the nonprofit, nonpartisan, public advocacy arm of the entertainment industry, we walk the walk, we talk the talk and we bring issues to the forefront of the national agenda by shining the spotlight of the entertainment industry on those issues and moving it forward. We have a very exciting event for you today, and sneaking up behind me are some of the panelists, but before we introduce them, I'm going to introduce Dan Tiernel of Heineken who is a great support of the Creative Coalition, a great mentor, and we're delighted to be here again. Thank you, Robin. Thank you. Once again, it's great to be able to sponsor this event with the Creative Coalition, this is I think the third year? The third year we've done this out here, it seems like ten. At Sundance. And we've done a number of other events with the Creative Coalition. Social and events that are more thought-provoking, we've got some celebrity panels about alcohol issues in Washington and Chicago, and I can say to you that the weather here is a lot nicer than it was in Chicago, kind of foggy. But we're happy to have all of you here today, I'm glad you could all, if any of you were here last night, it was a very late night, and a lot of fun, and if you were there you rarely get up to come to this, so we appreciate that, and I'd especially like to thank our panelists for being here with us, we have a great group of folks of varied backgrounds all tied in with entertainment or public policy issues, and I think we'll have a very lively discussion on today's topic. So I'm going to hand it back to Robin and once again we thank you on behalf of Heineken USA for being here today. Thank you. Thank you. So, just to introduce the drill today. And thank you all for getting up and coming here. Lawrence O'Donnell, who is our moderator, will open up the discussion, and we have on our panel actor Daphne Zuniga, next to her is Rita Prosyak, who is the Vice President of 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment-- It says Rita Drucker on my list. Joey is on Prozac. How would you like to be addressed? Rita Drucker is fine. The honorable Miss Drucker. Her Royal Highness. Then we have Joey Pompliano, who is actor and co-president of the Creative Coalition, Eric Alterman from The Nation, Tom Ortenberg, president of theatrical releases of Lion's Gate, and Cara Seymour, who also is an actor and who also has a film here in Sundance. And now I'm going to turn it over to Lawrence O'Donnell, he's going to open it up, he's going to talk, he's going to get people riled up, and then we're going to get a couple, we're going to have some time for questions from the audience, and we remind you, I'll be walking around with a mike, we know you're all in the entertainment industry and we know you have a lot to say, but keep it as a question. And then afterwards, when we have sushi and lunch and lots of fun, then you can talk. Oh! So we're going to questions, at some point? Right. Joey, let's start with you as a are you busy? No, keep going. As one of the many presidents of the Creative Coalition, and this being a discussion of... He just likes to yell. I was going to ask as long a question as necessary for you to get a microphone. And this being a discussion in general of social responsibility and moviemaking, what is the Creative Coalition's general position on this and what are you trying to get the creative community to think about this? Well actually, we use the creative community to educate the general masses out there whoa it's too hot this way, there's an echo. So we take on initiatives, things that are important to the board, that deal specifically with creative arts. And it's always our intention because we are nonpartisan organization, that we would be able to being up things that both the left and the right could agree on, children, education, free speech, and we know the power of the movies and television to be able to bring that forward is always a really important. So we're always looking and we love bringing people out on these panels who totally disagree with each other, and in a heated discussion everybody can have a point of view and see all sides. Uh, let's go to the non movie maker on the panel. Eric Alterman, you're a Washington insider and a Hollywood outsider. How does it look to you, what is your sense of Hollywood's sense of responsibility in moviemaking and are you disappointed in the outcomes, or do you have higher hopes for it, or what is your hopes or expectations from Hollywood. Lawrence, I left Washington right around the time you did because I felt there was just no reason to live there anymore. So you're more of a New York insider. Yeah, I asked actually to go last in this panel, maybe... You've got to tell me that. See, someone has to tell me. Otherwise... Uh, here's what I think. Um, I mostly defend Hollywood in the political realm, because the thing I like about Hollywood is that Hollywood is really the only lobby that puts its money behind its ideological agenda, and its ideological agenda doesn't serve its own interests. In other words, people are always making fun of these rich, pampered, Hollywood elitists with their personal assistants caring about poor people and caring about global warming and so forth. But it's really the only big money outfit out there, it's one of the three pillars of the democratic party, financially, that is not lobbying for something to help itself. I mean there is a Hollywood lobby that's sort of copyright law and they have their lobbies on that kind of thing, but when Democrats go out to Hollywood to raise money, they're just sort of saying the right things about the world, they're not saying to these people, "I'm going to give you what you need so that you can be more selfish in the political process." You know, there's a famous dinner that David Geffen once had, where he got like the 13 richest guys together in Hollywood to lobby Clinton not to lower the capital gains tax. They said, "We're so rich, we don't mind paying a little more in our capital gains," and Clinton gave it to them anyway, it didn't work. So the idea that there's something dishonorable about lobbying on behalf of clean air and healthy children and so forth, as opposed to lobbying for oil rigs for the oil industry, I think it's ridiculous. The problem with Hollywood is that it's so damn sanctimonious about it that it won't admit to what it's doing. And if people would just own up to the fact that look, this is what we believe in, this is what we're giving, if we don't have any particular expertise in these issues some of us do, most of us don't but we just want to live in a better world, then fine, that would be the end of it. But there's so much sanctimony about it, there's so much, you know, we're so wonderful, people in Hollywood need their egos stroked, that I think it grates on people and gets them a lot worse press than they really deserve. Daphne, there is one issue that has concerned the Creative Coalition and certainly the creative community, that is in their interests, and that is in the whole world of FCC fines that's developed since the Janet Jackson incident at the Superbowl, the Creative Coalition's been very active on that, and now there's some real legal challenges that the networks are bringing to these FCC fines. Is that something that you find the creative community getting unified behind in a self-interested way, as opposed to the more general kind of advocacy that Eric was just talking about? Um, I think what you're talking about is that they're changing the law, they're trying to change the law, so that whoever the artist is that says something that might be offensive or break some FCC rule, they're now going to be personally liable for it. So if I said something and I was doing a Lion's Gate movie I'm free by the way, after pilot season it wouldn't be you gotta love Hollywood, deals everywhere but it would now be up to me that could be sued or fined. And I think it probably depends on the context, but no, as an actor, you know, actors, it's amazing, I've been doing this 23 years, I'm just recently learning that I'm a commodity, that I have a currency and there's all these things that go along with being in a business where you know, I love to act, I love to bring human emotions and stories to screen so that the audience can relate and feel somewhat seen and understood, but it also is a business, so no, overall I would, you know, Joey was working on the hill for this issue, overall I think that if I'm working on a film or if there is a studio that is paying me that for the most part, they should be responsible, well I should be responsible human being, but I don't think that they should come after me to fine me a million dollars for speaking my mind if it offends them or-- It's only 500,000. Or trust me, I'm never going to be showing anything, they can't even pay me enough to do that but I think that if the studios that are making all the money off of my 14 hour days, if they're going home with most of the money, and the producers, there's a responsibility that comes with that, basically, I think. Rita, there's a lot of movement now in the area of product placement in the area of television and movies, it's very difficult to do in television because when we were doing the West Wing, we wanted to make a deal with one of the airlines, United or American, that flew nonstop to Washington because we used to shoot there a lot. The trouble is, the studio, although it wanted the money, couldn't do it. Because you'd be syndicating the show out there and selling ads out there in a world where you might want to get an American Airlines ad but they won't do it if United is already in the tv show. In movies it's different because you have a closed environment, and you can do a certain amount of product placement in movies that won't in any way harm where you're trying to go. But is there some sense that you have to bring to that, of the social responsibility issues involved in exactly what you have people using and doing in movies, smoking being the big example that everyone's really seen a change on in the last decade in movies. Musical microphones. Uhh, yeah, I would definitely say so, I think about one of the that we're confronted with, you know my responsibility at Fox is to generate awareness and excitement and drag the film properties into the culture, and doing so I am working with brands and kind of given other brands in corporate America and leveraging their media dollars to do that. And most of the time, there are product placement and product integration opportunities in the film, and sometimes there aren't, and I think that from my standpoint is for example, especially these days, in the child obesity issue which has really gained so much traction in Washington and lobbying groups and Disney recently announced that they weren't going to tie in with, at the end of their McDonald's relationship they weren't going to tie in with fast food partners anymore, there is definitely a social responsibility that we need to take into consideration when we're placing certain brands or working to promote certain brands, but the thing that frustrates me the most, and this is purely a personal point of view, is that there is no individual responsibility. When did Hollywood and when did all these lobbying groups all of a sudden become our parents? And that's what frustrates me, is that there's individual responsibility first, and then of course social responsibility by these media companies and the producers and the filmmakers who have, who place the product, and who create messages and have characters smoking on screen and so forth, but there comes down to pure and simple individual responsibility, which I think is really not being discussed enough, and somehow the burden is placed on these other organizations and individuals to sort of baby-sit. Who do you mean, individual responsibility? I mean parents. I mean the idea of parents not allowing their kids to watch certain shows that they don't find responsible or going to the movies. I mean, there's a rating system in place for a reason, I don't necessarily think it does a good job of describing the content in the films, but there's a rating system in place. Parents need to be responsible about what they allow their children to go see. And the same for television and the same for music. There's a lack of individual responsibility. Tom, do you feel that too much is asked of movie studios from both sides, meaning say from the liberal side that's interested in social responsibility, getting nervous about how many cigarettes are smoked in a movie, to the conservative side that worries profusely about which words of profanity are used in movies at what time, from where you are, in the center of moviemaking, do you feel just kind of besieged by both sides about what is essentially a work of art being interpreted as a work of politics when that isn't even necessarily intended? Absolutely. I would like to say something quickly about the last couple of comments, I agree with Rita, simply there are such things as off-switches and things like that that are available to most tv sets and choices when you're walking into a movie theater, so I do think a little bit more personal responsibility instead of always the blame game whether it's blame Hollywood, blame something, personal responsibility, would go a long way towards making the country a better place, but also making entertainment better and making it easier for us to bring more choices to people. I also have to say with what Eric said, there's a fair amount of sanctimony in Hollywood, but I think the media exaggerates it and I don't think it's necessarily fair to say that they are so sanctimonious, there are certainly some big examples, but I think the media gets great play out of exaggerating the sanctimony and parodying it and that's fun for people to watch on the tabloid shows or Fox News or something, but to answer your question, it is. It can be stifling. When you're trying to make creative decisions, whether you're reading a script, deciding whether to green light a movie, deciding how we're going to market a movie, and always having to think who's going to attack us for this. You know. If we do this, are we going to get it from over here, if we do that, are we going to get it from over there, it really is stifling. I do think that not much should be expected from studios in terms of social responsibility, I think anybody, I think you can say studios should have a level of social responsibility, it's easy to say and it's probably right, but I don't think anybody should expect it. Studios are in business for one reason, and that's to make money. And for whatever reason the people involved in the studios have chosen the movie business for their personal ways to make money, or part of a larger multinational corporation, part of that business, but I do think that it's really up to creative types like actors, directors, writers, the occasional enlightened studio executive to try and push the studios to try and push those large corporations that we work for, and as Daphne said, even actors that are at the base, they're commodities and are treated as such anyway, that it's our responsibility to try and push the studios and show them there are ways, there are socially responsible ways, to make money. And to make broad entertainment that is also socially aware, we're a company at Lion's Gate that kind of made our name with socially conscious art house films at the beginning - pictures like Monster's Ball and several others, and then we became known for being the horror movie company, I'm sorry to say that that's what we're best known for, even though it's fun to do, which makes doing movies, when you do a movie like Crash all the more rewarding, you know, a) because it's a great movie and has a great message of tolerance, but also personally speaking, just for my people, that some of us at the company actually still like doing good work and not just soft core Hostel 17 or something. But it is. It is. To answer your question, it is stifling, it is very difficult knowing that almost everything we do, having to measure everything we do by how much flak we're going to get from one side or another, if it's a horror movie, how far can we push. Can we do a blood drive for Saw III without getting these people up in arms, you know, even though, for the blood drive persona, we got over 10,000 pints of blood. We actually did good work with it, and yet you have the hate emails and letters that I got about it, you know, were nasty. You know we donated tons of you know, it's hard. It's really hard, I wish it wasn't that way, but I think it's always going to be that way. By the way, I want to congratulate you on the snowfall that occurred in Los Angeles last week, because one of the big criticisms I heard about Crash, which I didn't take very seriously, was that, you know, come on, snowing in LA, that's ridiculous, I was on Sunset Blvd watching the snow accumulate last week, it was pretty great. Yeah, Paul's thrilled. It snowed pretty close to Paul's house. Cara, actors are the last thing added to a movie project, the very last thing. And so they are, in many ways, in the worst possible position to determine or to influence the direction of the project, and to raise issues like what are the social responsibilities we have in making a movie like this. Do you find yourself and your friends in the acting community thinking about that much, talking about that much, or is there so much general career desperation about getting the next job that it's hard to even get that into your thinking as one of the factors? Well I think from what inspires you and makes you passionate about your work, is your connection with the world and your concern about it. And also as an actor, we've all probably trained in studying drama anyway, and we care about the quality of the writing, and we care about how the human condition is explored in drama. And most of all, I'm getting a little sick and tired of the sex and violence obsession. What about our obsession with the quality of the drama? You know, we owe it to our kids to give them good quality stuff, we owe it to them good writing, good acting, you know we have warnings on the beginning of television and films about swearing, what about bad acting or bad writing. We, and the world is in a slightly desperate position outside of our privilege here, and how are we responding to it? If we really care about our kids, do we care about the world that we're giving them? And how are we as artists, as dramatists, as writers, as movie producers, how are we exploring that? I'm not being a prude here, at all, we shouldn't be entertaining, but let's give it a go at doing something good with all respect, not at popsicles, but give them something, put the money into, you know, getting this I am a bit of a prude, aren't I? Joey, you have kids. Did that change, when you had children, did that in any way change some of the decisions you made about what kind of roles you do and what kind of work you do, when you're, do you think, I can't let my kids see this, so how am I going to handle that, or I'm really glad that this is something my kids can see, how does it affect those choices? Well I'm, in terms of the food chain, most of the time there's a lot of projects I take because I need to put food on the table. So when I do movies like Bound or the Matrix, I just don't allow my kids to go see it. And what we do at home now is, with the advent of TiVo, it's become a lot easier. But my, I have my daughter's 21 in college and my son's 26, so he's out. Can they see the Matrix now? Marco just saw it, he liked it. But the 8 year old and the 14 year old are still in the house, and so our tv in the kitchen, which is the kid's tv, is just TiVo and videos. Or dvds. And what they watch on a loop is Gilmore Girls and Grey's Anatomy. Which I think is pretty good, so, and my daughters they always ask, is it R-rated, because they won't watch it. And then I think that that education is important. You know, it's easier to censor your kids if they're going to a movie, because you know where they're going. The big problem, I find, is in television, and the vertical integration of all these studios owning everything. Where I think that the network television business in the next ten years is going to be like AM radio. And everybody's gearing their way to the cable because they can give them more and we become, as an organization, a lot more popular over the last two years because of our vertical integration, because of piracy, because of indecency, you know, we can go up there and say, you know, teach the parents, teach the parents, don't sue, if a guy saw a truck go though a plate glass window and a live news team said, "What'd you see," and he says, "I don't know, I was walking down the street and this fuckin truck just you know," he would be fined. It's not just artists, it's the man on the street. Eric, you were signaling me when you were listening to Tom talk about don't expect studios to exhibit a social responsibility, what's your reaction to that? Well, I think there's a little bit of unreality about the conversation about personal responsibility, because it's just, with two parents working, and with the internet, everything's on the internet now, you can't control what kids see, it's just impossible. You can convince yourself that you are, but you're not. Kids can see whatever they want. They know how to use the internet better than you do. And so to say that it's up to the parents to prevent all this gratuitous violence from coming to the house, particularly violence toward women, I'm personally shocked and offended by what I see on television. I just think that the studios have a the people who work in not the studios themselves, those are corporate entities that are responsible to shareholders, but I do think it's entirely fair to shun these people, in fact it's moral, it's the right thing to do, you're a bad person if you don't do it, if someone is making a living by glorifying cutting up women, screwing women and then cutting them up, or any variation of that, I think it's fair to say, we in Hollywood don't believe in that kind of thing. We have different values. But the fact is, it's my impression, and I'm sure there's an exception for every person in this particular room, what Hollywood seems to respect above all is money. So if Mel Gibson makes $400 million with the most blatantly anti semitic violent snuff film, in my opinion, that's great. He only gets in trouble when he calls a woman sugar tits. You know. So-- Well, he said more than that. No, but what I mean is, is that the comments that he made as a drunken crazy person were a lot more offensive to people, were a much bigger deal, than this vicious violent movie that transmitted these insane anti semitic stereotypes, and by the way, we're washed out a little bit in the American version in the subtitles, but they're still there in all the foreign version, which is really where the problem is. So I think that Hollywood has an ethos that if you're successful, and if success is defined by money, then that's the answer to everything. That sort of shuts everybody out. And I would just, I don't know how you do this, but I think there ought to be some sort of community standard within Hollywood, that sure you can make your money on violence or on exploitative porn, you know, we're not going to stop you, we're not in favor of censorship, we're a business where we need to be creative, but you know, you're not in our community, we don't want anything to do with you. And I think that will have a lot to do with it. Because once you make enough money, what you want is the respect and admiration of your peers. And you won't get it if you do this kind of thing. That would be my illustration. Tom, is the industry defense to that sort of angle on it simply that look, there's a violent crime every few seconds in the United States, and that all of the behavior we're putting on film is all out there and it all exists and we aren't really inventing anything, and we don't really have any responsibility beyond that, holding up this mirror to this society. It's not my defense. I don't know, but they're tough issues. In many ways I don't believe Hollywood is a lot different than most other industries, which is that the dollar is the bottom line. For better worse, that's the society we have chosen to live in. I don't think that it always means that we're always coming up with the best product, I share Eric's outrage at some of the product that is developed by Hollywood and is embraced, whether it's violence, whether it's sexual violence, whether it's anti antisemitism, whatever it might be, any level of intolerance, so it's an important issue and honestly I don't know what the answer is, but I don't think everybody on this panel, everybody in this room, we're at a movie festival so we're talking about Hollywood, but I think that it's a problem more emblematic of society than just pigeonholed in Hollywood, and I certainly don't mean to imply that the answer to keeping, to protecting our children from images which are not appropriate for them, is to say, don't watch it, and then hope that they don't. The world's changing faster than a lot of us are adapting, and so I think there's important questions that are raised. I don't know what the answer is. I do believe, as I said before, that whether it's actors, writers, directors, crew people, studio executives, yes, people do have personal responsibility to push the people that are paying our checks, signing our checks, to do more socially responsible work like that, but whatever the solution is to protecting the kids, and those are the ones I'm certainly most concerned about, I'm less concerned about adults making their own decisions, because they are capable and they make good decisions or not, we have to allow them to be capable to make their own, I don't know what the answer is, I do think that Hollywood is capable of doing better work, and more better work, I think Eric's suggestion is noble, I also think it's probably not practical in the present day. I don't know what the answer is. Joey? You know, I think that art and commerce has never gotten along, and you can't really make them be friends, and the business model is, maybe you have to regulate entertainment, and so that you have, we were talking about this earlier, you have a moral responsibility to force some of these important issues down America's throat. It's getting to a point where executives and heads of studio and CEOs don't see the difference, or care to see the difference between, a show like Gray's Anatomy and American Idol. As far as they're concerned is, on American Idol you can be more vicious and more mean, as long as it's getting ratings it's a great show. In fact it's better than Gray's Anatomy. I mean, back to Crash, I mean isn't it true that Crash took about two years, I mean a movie was just floating around, and probably it was to Paul's success with Million Dollar Baby and that it got interest again, and I take my hat off to you for picking the movie, but they had a hard time selling that movie, didn't they? Paul had a really hard time raising the financing to get it made. Lion's Gate and I'm sure Fox, among every other studio in Hollywood passed. At script stage. Everybody loved the script, execution-based, tough concept, what was most interesting to me was, a little bit off the point, but the picture premiered at the Toronto Film Festival September 2004, we did not make the movie, we all loved it, we all went out and bought it right away, but I was shocked that there wasn't a bidding war for it, and maybe that does speak to your point, you know, whether Lion's Gate were the only ones who got it, who saw it, I don't know, once it was done, but I was stunned when the movie ended there were several of us in the theater who turned to each other, we're all shaken, we're looking at each other, we huddle, as acquisition people always do after the screening and going to find the corner and huddle, and we're just amazed that we went out and bought it. We paid a fair price, but nobody else was chasing it, and I don't know whether that speaks to some of the points of should some of the others in Hollywood have gotten it, that there was no other competition to buy that film shocked me. Daphne, you wanted to get in here. I think the good news is that this business model that you guys are talking about is changing, and in fact compassion, and what we all know innately as human beings and as citizens of this globe that's getting smaller and smaller as we all know, is now becoming a commodity, and that corporations are making money by doing what they know is the right thing, because they know that the consumer is wanting that now, especially today. I was at, with my friend Ted here, at a house just yesterday, and it was these filmmakers making these films about their issue, what was important to them, I saw one on an orphanage in Africa, I saw one about child abuse, and I saw one about AIDS, and USA Today was there as a sponsor, the UN was there, Stars picked up the distribution of these, and Netflix was there, and trust me, they were all happy to be there, because these kids are not waiting for Hollywood to catch up, the old business model to catch up, they're making their movies now, and they're getting distribution, they're online, and they're being handed cameras and making them and you and everyone else will be clamoring to get their materials, so I really think it's important. The good news is that the tide is turning. I mean, we're such, the bad news is that we're, the world is in such tremendous, horrible place right now that uhh, it can only get better, that people can only look inside and see their own way that they can give, and I think personal responsibility, meaning each one of us, and the parents, and the studio heads are people too, so I think all of that is now changing, and we'll be able to make money at it.