Chelsea Clinton to Meet With Network TV Writers on Saturday
Once and, perhaps, future first daughter Chelsea Clinton will be in town Saturday to meet with some of Hollywood's leading comedy writers to discuss ways to promote early childhood education and national service through their entertainment projects.
Clinton will be representing the Clinton Foundation, which has made both of Saturday's themes major priorities in its work across the country. Patti Miller, director of the foundation's Too Small to Fail initiative told The Hollywood Reporter that the meeting will "bring together a cross section of the industry, with leading television comedy writers, hoping they can help us reach our audience with creative, funny content that addresses our two issues."
"What we are trying to do at this event," Miller said, "is actually to focus on two types of content: scripted comedic content that can be distributed to a platform like Funny or Die and celebrity-focused PSAs and videos. We're hoping to come away with some key concepts that would address both of those."
Locally, Greg Propper of Propper Daley, a social-impact consulting firm, has pulled together the writers who will attend this weekend's gathering. He told THR that his efforts had focused on writers from "shows that are really relevant." They include writers from Parks and Recreation, The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, How I Met Your Mother and Glee, among others.
"We tried to get representation from shows that reach different audiences so that we have lots of perspectives and points of view in the room," Propper said. "They all are, for the most part, funny. That's the common thread. This meeting is meant to be a way to engage creative, hilarious storytellers in creating original content and coming up with fun concepts. We feel like there are, over time, certain issues that lend themselves well to this idea of popularization and normalization, where film, TV and popular culture can help create positive change."
"We also realized that not everyone is watching traditional television," Propper added. "Some folks are getting content or news or information and inspiration online. We also want to create some original content. PSAs, fun, entertaining, engaging, hilarious content that gets our message across."
Trophy Wife co-creator Sarah Haskins, who will serve as a team leader at Saturday's event, said that "we're getting these minds together to see what we can come up with. All of these people are coming from the world of writers rooms. We are all communicators by nature."
Haskins recalled a meeting last fall in which "Chelsea told this story about when the Fonz on Happy Days got a library card — there was this massive jump in applications for library cards. Obviously we're living in a more divided media landscape now. If we can have even a fraction of that kind of impact or get the message out there in the fun, viral video way, it would be awesome."
Veep producer-director Stephanie Laing will lead the portion of Saturday's discussion focusing on early childhood education. "I'm the mother of three kids, and I believe in everything this initiative stands for," Laing said. "As parents, we are our children's first teachers. I think I talk so much to my kids that they probably want me to stop talking. But when you're talking, you're teaching, and I just really believe in it."
The gathering hopes to build on the success of that meeting last fall, which Hillary and Chelsea Clinton held with a select group of television executives, writers and showrunners on how early childhood education and national service could be woven into entertainment programming. Producers Guild of America's Mark Gordon co-sponsored that event and offered opening remarks along with Rob Reiner. Among the participants in that meeting were Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly, Modern Family co-creator Steven Levitan, Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes, New Girl creator Liz Meriwether, CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler and Parenthood creator Jason Katims.
"We had a very successful launch event with Chelsea and Secretary [Hillary] Clinton in November," the Clinton Foundation's Miller told THR. "We had more than 150 TV executives and content creators attending. Since that time, we've been meeting individually with writers and producers."
"We've had tremendous feedback from the creative community," Miller added. Since launching the initiative, three shows have incorporated the content into their scripts. Netflix's Orange Is the New Black included a mom telling a dad how important it is to talk to babies, Miller said. Also incorporating the messages into the storylines were NBC's Parenthood and USA Network's Royal Pains. Similar projects with other shows are in the works.
Miller explained that "a lot of people don't know that it's really important to talk, read and sing to their infants as soon as they're born. People think that it's not until a baby or a toddler can talk back that you should actually be engaging with them. It really should begin at the earliest weeks and months."
"Hollywood plays a powerful role in influencing cultural norms and educating viewers about important social issues. We want to try to reach as many parents as we can," Miller added.
Chelsea Clinton told THR: "Many of the best writers draw on real life experiences to create hilarious, relatable characters so I'm grateful that this group is lending their talents to help share the importance of service and early childhood education.
"Further, digital stars have shown a natural ability to connect with their often massive and devoted audiences and so I'm thrilled they're also showing an interest in talking about these two important topics with their followers," she added. "I can't wait to see what they all come up with."
As a surrogate for her then-candidate mother in the 2008 presidential campaign, the former first daughter extended her political family's long-standing ties to Hollywood by building a following of her own among younger entertainment industry figures. Saturday's solo meeting with the writers may be a preview of the role she could play, should her mother decide to go ahead with a run for the 2016 Democratic nomination.