New MPAA president and CEO Dan Glickman, who is succeeding Jack Valenti after his 38-year stint as the organization's head, discusses the position with Anita Chabria
Anita Chabria: You recently made your first major speech as head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to the entertainment community at the ShoWest trade show for theater owners. It was the first time your predecessor, Jack Valenti, didn't deliver this speech, and it caused a lot of media attention.
Dan Glickman:Obviously, replacing Jack is a very daunting challenge because he certainly had these great strengths in PR and public speaking. That said, I thought my appearance at ShoWest was fine. I was able to get out the points I wanted and talk to an awful lot of folks in the industry.
I knew the importance of ShoWest. I think it was, I hate to say, a coming-out party. It was certainly the first time a lot of the press had seen me in action, as [it was for] a lot of folks on the theater side who had not seen me before. I knew that this was a big event, but reading the press coverage of it, I could see that it was a time [when] the press was going to take a look at me as the new guy on the block.
Chabria: How did you feel about the resulting press coverage?
Glickman:Frankly, I thought it was pretty good. I actually had no real complaints. You'd like to have better-looking photos, but I am losing my hair. I am what I am. As a member of Congress, I largely dealt with the local press in my area in Kansas. And as the Agriculture Secretary, while I dealt some with the national media, it tended to be pretty heavily the trade press.
This is a whole new type of media. It's a very intensive media, the trade press particularly. What we do here is very important to what they print. What I've found is that everything I say takes on more significance than it did when I was at the USDA. My throwaway comments here find their way into Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, or other trade press - quoted very accurately.
Chabria: You have just been through your first award season. Is Hollywood what you expected it to be?
Glickman:My son [producer Jonathan Glickman, most recently of The Pacifier] is in the business, and I have spent some time out there with him, so I do have a little firsthand knowledge about the business from him. But I'll never forget when I walked into the Academy Awards and stepped on the red carpet. Of course, nobody recognized me. I saw thousands of cameramen and photographers, I saw some of the stars, and I watched the reaction of the crowd to these people. I got the impression that this is a lot different than anything I've ever done before. It's almost America's answer to royalty.
People honestly think this business is something special, which I believe it is. Even on the Hill, there are some people that profess not to have the best feelings about "Hollywood," but I know a lot of those people love the movies. They may not love Hollywood, but they love the movies. And one of my jobs is to continue to brand my role as being about the movies. If it's about the films, people will feel very good about it. It's not about Hollywood. It's about the movies.
Chabria: Piracy is a big concern. How do you intend to keep it a hot topic for media, and keep the discussion in the news and on people's minds?
Glickman:If we don't stay ahead of this issue, it really does have the potential of taking the economic strength out of the motion picture and TV industries. If people can get something for free, they'll take it for free. We have to show people on a continuing basis that it is wrong, unethical, illegal, and it will be punished. At the same time, we must show that there are reasonable ways to get the product using modern technology. So we have to be both the carrot and the stick. We've got to keep this on the agenda - the PR agenda, the education agenda, and the enforcement agenda.
Chabria: You've been overseas on behalf of the MPAA and have done outreach to a number of foreign countries. Why is the international scene important to your agenda?
Glickman:One of the things the [MPAA member] companies have asked me to do is become even more engaged in international issues on a couple of fronts. One is piracy. I'll be going to China, which is a big problem [area] for us in terms of piracy activities. And I just came back from Mexico. Internationally, piracy is a very serious problem in many venues - Eastern Europe, Russia, China, Mexico. So obviously my presence in trying to encourage enforcement around the world is a big part of my international effort.
One of the other things, however, is to use this office to encourage more access of our products into foreign markets. A lot of those markets are pretty open to us, [but] many, like China, are restricted to us. We've got to do our best to keep those markets open.
Chabria: Have you made any efforts with the technology crowd to reach out or convince them that the MPAA is not anti-technology?
Glickman:I went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where I spent a lot of time talking to the new technology companies. It's a mistake to see us as anti-technology. Frankly, we are working with most of the tech companies in a positive way on [piracy].
I do think that it's important to recognize that there are some people out there who would like to trade our content for free. I've heard some say if you don't allow it to be traded for free, you're against technology. My response is that if it is traded for free, there will not be any content to trade because nobody will produce it.
Chabria: One of your first actions in this job was hiring two GOP aides - Stacy Carlson and John Feehery. Why did you do that?
Glickman:First of all, they were both highly talented people, but it was obvious that I was a person who had Democratic credentials. I took very immediate notice of the fact that the House, the Senate, and the White House were all controlled by the other party. It would have been foolish of me not to try to build some bipartisan staffing here.
I've tried to make it a point that I am not excessively partisan. I try to operate in a bipartisan way. I'm also going to try to build bridges with the Republican majority.
Chabria: What has been the best part of taking over the MPAA? What's been the most difficult?
Glickman:The best part of the job is seeing movies. I love movies. My wife and I, along with our children, have seen dozens and dozens of movies a year for the last 30, 40 years. So the biggest joy is being able to watch films, and see them in a slightly different light now that I know a little more about how they're made.
The toughest part of the job has been learning a whole new business. A big part of this position is in Washington because I am going to be the spokesman before Congress and the executive branch. I am also, however, a spokesman internationally, and I'm essentially the spokesman in Los Angeles with respect to Washington. So it's a very complicated job.