HOLLYWOOD, October 28 The shooting tragedy at a Colorado high school last year has triggered an unusual gathering in Hollywood next week which will focus on the portrayal of guns in movies and TV. "It was at that point that I said we need to be more pro-active in terms of how the industry addresses these issues," says Brian Dyak, President of the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC). "We need to show Congree we are not just blowing smoke in terms of these problems."
The invitation only meeting on November 4 comes as Federal Trade Commission investigators at the direction of President Clinton pour over thousands of TV shows, movies, music videos, video games and related promotional materials to see if the public, especially gullible underage children, are being sold on violence in improper or even illegal ways.
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Chairwoman Meryl Marshall and "Law And Order" producer Dick Wolf will be among those involved in the discussions.
"Does the industry have a responsibility to these issues," asks Dyak. "I don't know if that's part of the formula for advertisers and creators to have a successful show. However, they do have a responsibility to accurately depict these issues."
Dyak hopes to develop guidelines, and come up with ideas for the creative community which will suggest ways to appropriately depict gun usage, safety and the responsibility of parents.
Once materials are prepared, they will be sent to those who write for TV shows, especially on programs where violence is a frequent theme. It is similar to what the EIC has been doing for more than 16 years with such issues as illegal drug use, AIDS prevention, seat belt safety and alcohol abuse. The EIC offers guidance without dictating to the creative community. Dyak says they have seen it produce real and dramatic results.
To provide reinforcement, the EIC started the Prism Awards to honor those who give the right kind of message about tobacco, drugs and alcohol. They are presented in association with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Submissions have risen from 35 three years ago to 105 last year.
Founded in 1983, the EIC says it has over 300 members of the Hollywood creative community involved in its activities, including almost 70 who are members of the board of trustees. The organization is based in Reston, Virginia, where it is active in government relations, with offices in Burbank, California which handle movie and TV production related issues.
The EIC's staff meets with the creative teams of individual shows like "Dawson's Creek" and "Becker" as well as network executives from Fox, MTV and Disney, to discuss depictions. "What makes it unique is our folks really study the shows," says Dyak. "These aren't just another power point presentation. They seriously discuss the current character arc and specific plots of each show."
The meeting on November 4 might not be as specific, but the issues are certainly large. Whatever the government decides to do, it will ultimately be up to the people who make and sell the show to respond.
"It's the beginning of a process," says Dyak. "We reach out to that portion of the creative community which is focused on how to get it right."