National Press Club

Motion Picture executive stops short of endorsing regulating violence at NPC Luncheon

February 15, 2013 | By Audrey Hoffer | audrey@ahoffer.net

Former Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of Amerca, speaks at a NPC Luncheon, Feb. 15, 2013

Former Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of Amerca, speaks at a NPC Luncheon, Feb. 15, 2013

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

Regulating content is not the response to violence in films, said Christopher Dodd, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America in a Feb. 15 National Press Club Luncheon speech.

Dodd stopped short of agreeing to limit gun violence in movies even as he recalled driving through Newtown, Conn., the night before the shooting tragedy. “I care deeply about the subject and will be working with the [Obama] administration to provide assistance,” he said. But “when you try to regulate content it’s a very slippery choice.”

Focusing on mental health problems with “meaningful resources” is one way to deal with gun violence, Dodd said.

Dodd is a former senator and 36-year veteran of Congress representing Connecticut. He joined the Motion Picture Association two years ago.

Protecting intellectual property is essential but not at the expense of restricting speech, Dodd said. “‘Free and open’ cannot be synonymous with ‘working for free,’” he said.

Dodd wants to strengthen the nexus between creativity and technology rather than limit the reaches of technology that enables easy pilfering of films. For example, he is trying to strip away the financial advantages to illegal copying of movies but he is “not enthusiastic about legislating.”

Both content and technology are necessary. In California the two worlds are next to each other — Hollywood boasts top creative talent and Silicon Valley is the epicenter of technological advances.

“The issue becomes can these two worlds co-exist? I believe they can and must,” Dodd said.

Referring to the controversial first 20 minutes of "Zero Dark Thirty," Dodd said it is a movie not a documentary and “there is a lot of poetic license in films.” The director tells a decade-long story, he explained, and if the torture scenes were absent there would likely have been a bigger uproar.

As a vehicle for pleasure, jobs, creativity, artistry and the branding of America, Hollywood’s top lobbyist and voice of the entertainment industry said the importance of the film industry is vast. “The best movies ground us in common values and ideals,” Dodd said.

Movies tell stories, help viewers make sense of the world, stimulate the mind, provoke truths, challenge stereotypic beliefs, challenge policy and educate. And the industry increasingly matters globally because films display the openness of American culture.

“We’re not afraid to talk about ourselves,” Dodd said in response to a Chinese official he met who expressed astonishment that American films examine, ridicule, attack and challenge American policies and even give them awards.

The movie and television industry accounts for 700,000 direct jobs involving production, marketing, manufacturing and distribution in a national network of 95,000 small businesses. Overall, 2.1 million direct or indirect jobs emanate from the industry.

Rich and famous stars are but a mini microcosm of these thousands who work behind-the-scenes to make movies a vital sector of the economy. Keep that in mind next week during the Oscars, Dodd advised.