WASHINGTON — Dan Glickman, who takes over today as Hollywood's chief lobbyist, is already on location.
The former Clinton administration Agriculture secretary and Democratic congressman from Kansas is tooling around the Republican National Convention at New York's Madison Square Garden. At Glickman's side is his legendary predecessor, Jack Valenti, 82, who is retiring after 38 years as president of the Washington-based Motion Picture Assn. of America.
For Glickman, the convention is more than a chance to soak up some of the star wattage of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, with whom the veteran Democrat met. It's also a reflection of the bipartisan work ahead of him if he is to successfully push the agenda of an industry that tilts Democratic.
Glickman, 59, took time out to talk on the phone to Los Angeles Times staff writer Jube Shiver Jr. (The new MPAA chief noted that this wasn't his first GOP convention: As a volunteer for Republicans from Sedgwick County, Kan., Glickman attended the 1964 gathering in San Francisco that nominated Barry Goldwater.)
Question: On the eve of your first day as president of the MPAA, you are attending the Republican convention. Do you think the MPAA needs to mend a lot of fences with the GOP?
Answer: I don't really think so. Almost everybody here that I've met has been open, curious, friendly and positive. They all want to work with me.... I recognize that there are some who wanted a Republican in my job of president of the MPAA. But I think folks also wanted somebody good at consensus building and that would fight for the motion picture industry. Clearly the movie industry, and all the industries interested in creative and copyright protection, have a lot of friends here in the Republican Party.
Q: The MPAA has changed a lot from the days your predecessor, Jack Valenti, was hired to head the organization. How do you plan to deal with your studio members that in recent years have developed varied interests as a result of diversifying into everything from television and cable networks to amusement parks?
A: Carefully! I don't say that flippantly. This is a complicated industry. It is more complicated from an organizational perspective than it was 20 or 30 years ago. These are multifaceted operations. But the creative juice is the thread that runs through virtually all of the businesses these companies have.
I think you can pull the companies together on these issues where they have commonality and build on those relationships. Based on my discussions so far, I think the commonality of creating content and creating the story are the foundation of all these companies ... even though some have different lines of businesses.
Q: How separate should the MPAA's film-rating system operation be from the main lobbying activities of the organization?
A: The ratings system is part of the organization. It's located in the Los Angeles office. Jack has done a great job of keeping it operationally independent. He's going to continue heading it for a while. At some point it's going to come over to me. But I have got a lot of other issues to get up to speed on in the meantime.
Q: One of those issues obviously is piracy. How do you plan to cope with the perception in Silicon Valley and among many consumers that MPAA is anti-technology and acts to thwart innovation?
A: I don't think that MPAA is anti-technology. But it's vital that we combat piracy with a three-pronged approach: improve [piracy deterring] technology, enforce the laws and educate people, largely the younger people, in high schools and universities.
Q: Have you already prepared a legislative agenda you intend to pursue in Congress to achieve those aims?
A: We are engaging Congress on piracy. There are several bills that predate my coming into this job that are aimed at addressing this issue. These bills will make it easy to go after pirates. I think what we need to do is make the standards [that allow law enforcement] to go after violators more realistic.
Q: Have you spent much time yet in Silicon Valley?
A: No, not yet. But I intend to. I have spent time with our technology people in Washington, trying to familiarize myself with the technology. But the bottom line is, we need to make it as difficult as possible for people to engage in piracy activities. At the same time we have to work cooperatively, so that people have access to creative works.... It's a complicated task across the board.
Q: What about Hollywood? What's your experience there and what is your impression of the financial health of the industry?
A: I've spent a fair amount of time there. Jack has introduced me to quite a few people there. I think the financial health of the industry is good. But it's complicated by the piracy issue, which is kind of a dark cloud over all the copyright industry, and we are going to have to wrestle with these problems long term ... if it is not dealt with correctly today.