Monday, July 30, 2007

Kudos to Lifetime

Recently I had the opportunity to congratulate Andrea Wong, President and CEO LIFETIME Television on her new position at a reception in Washington DC. Significant leadership from a host of women’s organizations filled the room. I found myself observing (while having some tasty shrimp and great crepes) and listening (in some instances eavesdropping) and learning about important women’s concerns. Hillary Clinton’s run for president and the need for special attention to specific women’s health concerns seemed to be hot topics of discussion.

As I was listening I flashed on a movie I recently watched about women’s suffrage, IRON JAWED ANGELS, starring Hillary Swank, and could only wonder how long will it take—more importantly why it takes so long—for social change to CHANGE from philosophy to action? To take root is one thing; for change to grow, blossom and become assimilated into society is another.

The recent political posturing of whether Hillary Clinton or John Edwards could better serve women further seasoned my thinking.

BOTTOM LINE: Who is better is not the issue at hand. The issue is about how men and women work together to support each other, for the common good and most importantly future generations. I applaud the commitment of Lifetime’s leadership to promote targeted programming for women and especially their most recent campaign to encourage women to vote.

Given the hum I heard about women’s health concerns, EIC will put into our 2008 program plan a PICTURE THIS forum to further explore development of depiction suggestions for the creative community. This meeting with bring together key leaders in the field of women’s health to deliberate on what issues of special interest to women are the most pressing to be communicated to the public through entertainment.

Such a meeting of women leaders convened by EIC, an entertainment industry entity, is imperative at a time when stories of Hollywood starlets behaving recklessly and taking chances with their health and safety have become ubiquitous, possibly skewing the perceptions of girls and young women during their formative years.

Who knows, down the road the bold headlines associated with Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan may be positive ones. One day, these women may join the many female leaders who work tirelessly to accelerate the pace of social change.


*By the way…
When EIC was founded (1983), one of my founding principles was to establish an organization within the entertainment industry that could help to curb sexism, racism, ageism and encourage the notion that one should have control over his or her own life and not be weighed down by the “-isms.”

Yet as I worked to put the EIC Board of Directors and Trustees in place, not one woman was in the very top position. Among rising women executives at the time—Sherry Lansing, Renee Valente, Suzanne DePasse, Nancy Dockry among them—EIC had their support and, in fact, enlisted their efforts to guide us toward the future. However, top, leadership was in the hands of about a dozen male studio and network executives at the time.

I am delighted that Andrea Wong is one of many top female executives leading our industry today, and look forward to her numerous contributions of good ideas and great programming.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quality Control vs. Creative Freedom: Who Gets To Judge?

Quality: A general term applicable to any trait or characteristic whether individual or generic (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

Check it out! A new Wall Street Journal article, “Drinks, Drugs, Dysfunction Star on Summer Cable TV” by John Jurgensen (July 20, 2007), analyzes creative depictions of substance abuse on cable shows. I am extremely pleased to see the PRISM Awards recognized in the article along with the concept of accurate depiction integrated into story telling.

EIC has pioneered depiction efforts working with the creative community for close to 25 years, initially addressing the perceived glamorization of drug use in comedy and drama, exploitation of drug use without the reality of negative consequences, or the portrayal as funny, sexy, or macho during the 1970s and ’80s.

As we were founded and are governed by entertainment professionals, EIC places a priority on creative freedom; we believe that writers and other creative people should be allowed to do what they feel necessary to tell a story the way it needs to be told. This is called artistry. After a couple of years of taking a strong “Just Say No” approach, EIC shifted focus from glamorization to accuracy. The response to this new attitude—challenging creators to be as accurate as possible while maintaining creative integrity and engaging audiences, rather than pointing the finger at “glamorous” portrayals and watering down everything for a general audience—was astounding. Our peers in the industry took on the challenge and asked for more.

This led to our publishing of a comprehensive creative community depiction encyclopedia, EIC's Spotlight on Depiction of Health and Social Issues: Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Use and Addiction, in partnership with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). This resource set the standard for accurate depiction providing show researchers and writers with quick reference information about substance abuse all vetted by NIDA. In fact, we are updating the book right now.

Given today’s availability of resource information on myriad health and social issues for the creative community, I feel now is the time to issue a reality check for people who are never satisfied with what the entertainment industry produces. This constant complaining comes down to one common denominator: QUALITY. Quality is in the eye of the beholder.

EIC focuses on accurate, science-based information because by definition, the quality of anything is entirely subjective. What one person thinks is ‘off the mark’ may be ‘on the mark’ for others. You may find a particular depiction or character’s dialogue not entertaining and offensive, and I may find it a reflection of life as I know it or fantasy—escapism storytelling.

The bottom line: WHO IS TO JUDGE?


Friday, July 6, 2007

Welcome to the EIC blog!

As President and CEO of EIC, I look forward to esoteric exchanges with those of you who get the fact that the entertainment industry takes the hit for a multitude of faltering institutions in society…the convenient fall guy…the easy out…the victim…barraged with blame for the inadequacies or failings of others. In fact, there are so many wonderful contributions made by our industry daily that contribute to a healthier, more informed, and better-educated society…all while entertaining people in the process.

Yet, news of these contributions of “good” doesn’t play in the news…for as sexy as entertainment industry seems, it’s not sexy enough for its good works to get coverage.

For as violent as we may be accused of being, there doesn’t seem to be enough action in our positive messaging to catch a headline.

And for as indecent as our industry can be accused of being, the reality is that the vast majority of entertainment professionals are decent people with good intentions who struggle to be creative and produce “good” works in the face of criticism from the outside.

Has my message struck a chord with you? Whether you agree or disagree, I want to know what YOU think. Your comments will help shape this discourse.

For now, my message is simple: I defend the actions and the rights of the entertainment industry’s creative community, and I encourage them to continue their good works, and challenge others to start paying attention to not just the bad and the ugly, but the good.

And I haven’t said anything about freedom yet. Write ON!