Jeffrey Katzenberg Welcomes Young Hollywood to MPTF's NextGen Summer Party

MPTF's Annual NextGen Summer Party - Getty - H 2018
John Sciulli/Getty

The annual event was co-hosted by Yvette Nicole Brown and Clark Gregg on Thursday evening.

Hollywood takes care of its own.

That was the loud and clear message at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s annual NextGen Summer Party at Paramount Pictures Studios, where the industry’s current guard and up-and-comers gathered to support the MPTF’s social service and elder care efforts, providing for its veteran players and as they enter their twilight years or face unexpected adversity.

DreamWorks Animation co-founder and WndrCo head Jeffrey Katzenberg, who serves as the chair of the MPTF Foundation, welcomed guests including The Walking Dead actor Tom Payne, Fear the Walking Dead star Maggie Grace and Property Brothers sibling Drew Scott to the fete, which was dedicated to introducing a new generation of industry figures to the program, which has helped its aging generations live with dignity and security since its formation in 1921.

Katzenberg recalled being drafted into service early in his career by studio titan Lew Wasserman. “I was working here as a young executive in the 1970s, and this very powerful and amazing studio trying to think of a way to give back, when an undeniable force of nature called Lew Wasserman took me literally by the hand out to the campus and said, ‘This is the one, and we all need to be behind it,” he recalled. “It was an honor and a privilege. He was my guiding light. He was my north star.”

“I've always been proud and inspired by how generous and giving and philanthropic Hollywood is, and this charity is for its own,” Katzenberg added. “To see this up-and-coming next generation take on ownership and responsibility and have the same kind of commitment and passion too that others have come before – it's essential. This is how pass it down. The baton gets passed on, and this is a group of people that have accepted that and thank goodness.”

Actress and television personality Yvette Nicole Brown co-hosted the event and serves on the NextGen board of directors, admitting her affinity for her elders made it a personal pleasure.

“I heard about the Wasserman Campus and that it was a place for older people in the industry to go, and I was like, ‘I want to take a tour,’” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “I fell in love with it, and I said, ‘How can I help? What can I do?’ So I started doing game shows and winning money and giving it to them, and they said, ‘We're starting this NextGen board, which is the younger industry members that are gonna push forward the word about what we do. Would you like to be a part?’ I'm like, ‘Yes!’

“Everywhere you're trying to go, they've been,” Brown said of the rewards of building connections with the MPTF’s elder beneficiaries. “So if you're an agent, there's somebody at the campus that probably started an agency. They have a lot of wealth of wisdom about how they got over. They can help you. And guess what? You can help them, because maybe they don't have company as often as they would like to. Maybe they want to share everything that they've learned and they don't have kids or grandkids that they can share it with.”

Brown’s involvement has led to some eye-opening revelations, she explained. “I've heard wonderful stories about people on their last leg — I can't say who — not knowing how they're gonna get over, and being too prideful, because they're known, to go and get help. And then there being a counselor at MPTF that said, ‘Come in here. I got you.’ So these people's lives have been turned around by something they didn't even know existed. It was someone you would know, and it broke my heart that they could be in the industry this long and there not be something in place to make sure they don't end up where they were, but then I got happy again because MPTF is there.”

Actor and co-host Clark Gregg, fresh from wrapping shooting on Captain Marvel and prepping to direct the sixth season debut episode of his series Agents of Shield, revealed that even while he and wife Jennifer Grey had the means to properly care for Grey’s mother as she faced challenges to her independence, it was MPTF that provide them with key information and resources to get her settled.

“Who do you call if you've never been through this?” said Gregg. “You don't know, and you can go on the internet, but the internet is undistilled: you don't know how much of what you're looking at is valid or valuable. You can talk to friends, it's just not the same. These are skilled professionals who've been through this many times. I just didn't realize how much I didn't know about what the MPTF can do, and it really became a baby mission of mine to try to help spread that word.”

Although his mother-in-law had been a Broadway actress, it was Gregg and Grey’s place in the film and television industry that helped open the door for her with the MPTF, ultimately getting the accommodations that best served her lifestyle. “It was an idea she had resisted, because she liked her independence,” he said, “but once she got into a community, I think she started to realize how isolated she had been. To have all that process made easy and to have that information presented by people who knew what they were talking about really made it a lot easier for her. I think she's just much happier now.”

The event also featured a performance by Nashville actress and recording artist Clare Bowen and her husband Brandon Robert Young, as well as a video from Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt, who recalled being the recipient of much-welcomed helping hands when he was a couch-surfing actor freshly arrived in Los Angeles.

Gregg noted that his interaction with the MPTF had resulted in a lifelong commitment to the organization — something he jokingly admitted was also in his own best interest. “You know, it's only gonna become more paramount in my existence.”