Former MPAA chief: 'It is a very difficult job'

Dan Glickman weighs in on studios' search for head lobbyist

Dan Glickman was a Kansas congressman and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture before becoming the second person to head the MPAA. He held the job from 2004 until early this year and now is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. He talked Tuesday with THR's Alex Ben Block about his former job.

The Hollywood Reporter: Has the MPAA job become tougher?

Dan Glickman: Yes, it is a very different job for a couple reasons: The days are past when you dealt mostly with content and censorship issues. Today, we have this overwhelming piracy and intellectual-property issue, coupled with the complexities of all these new delivery systems and new ways to get content and information into people's hands. So you need somebody who's not only familiar with the business of making movies, but you have to become an expert in how the movies are delivered, and that is a whole new world.

THR: So is it an undesirable job?

Glickman: This is still a great job, a very interesting job. You work with smart people. They can be difficult at times. I've learned that politics and entertainment both have people who share big egos. But on the other hand, you're dealing with a product people love. As I traveled the world, there was nothing more interesting to people than American movies, and that makes up for a lot of the complexities. But it is a complex job, and it requires somebody who is willing to work the Hill (and) work the legislative avenues of state and international government as well. In some people's minds, it looks glamorous; you're with movie stars all the time.

THR: Is it tough to get the six member companies to agree?

Glickman: They certainly are competitive in terms of the products they make. They are in competing lines of business. And their parent companies are in multiple lines of business. That's different than it was 50 years ago, when they were all (only) movie companies.

THR: While the job pays well, other lobbyists make more.

Glickman: It's true some places pay more, but some pay less. There are other benefits to this job. ... When I traveled the world, my access as MPAA chairman was often greater than as a cabinet member to see foreign leaders, so there are benefits that are intangible as well.

THR: Didn't the MPAA cut some staff on your watch?

Glickman: The board felt times had been tough. They were downsizing, so it was important for us to go through some of the same things they did. But my judgment is the MPAA is as effective now as it has ever been.

THR: What should the MPAA seek in a new leader?

Glickman: The most important thing is understanding the business. It took me a while to really learn the business of movies, the business of entertainment. I think you have to understand the business, and you have to like working Capitol Hill and the Washington scene and then possess leadership skills you would want in any kind of thriving organization. And you need somebody who can communicate.

THR: You said one needs to know the business, but the MPAA keeps seeking people who only know Washington.

Glickman: You need both. Smart people can learn a lot of it. You can't do your work, however, unless you know the business. At the same time, the relationships I had during those 20-odd years in government made a difference.
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