Ask the world why it dreams to visit the United States and at the top of the list you will find Hollywood. The world however, might not yet be aware of its shifting platform. American major studios find themselves recycled into an uncertain globalized financial and storytelling whirlwind, at the cost of its staff and audience. Hollywood, our cherished state-of-the-art American dream, has spread its wings away to search for opportunity, buy or sell into it.
A subtle flickering hope in the heart of Hollywood nevertheless remains, for it never reached to conquer the world but win its heart. At the core of it is Bring Hollywood Home, a 501 (c)(4) organization developed by Sharon Jimenez, a woman whose vision today holds the key to our most cherished masterpiece. That vision is shared in by journalists, lawmakers, artists and scientists alike, athletes, young talent, but most of all Hollywood producers and studios whose passion wouldn’t be the same in new, uncertain territory.
The Bring Hollywood Home Network Concert Celebration at the New Roads School in Santa Monica, at least for one evening, fulfilled the organization’s goal to support California’s creative economy through new tax credit incentives and other initiatives that will keep film, television and post production jobs from leaving Hollywood. To lighten and emphasize the importance of the dinner’s message, Seanna Pereira, 11 years old, began the celebration on a sweet acoustic national anthem tune. Her simple and powerful performance echoed its mission, and to one of the most powerful minds in the room.
“A wonderful, wonderful song. Every now and then something like this gives you chills,” says Chair of the California Board of Equalization Jerome Horton. “Now we have 100 million dollars set aside. I believe in tax credits, using tax policy to stimulate the economy instead of taxing it. Two hundred and fifty million dollars went unused. Here in California around 19 billion dollars goes unused every year. We have millions of dollars living the state of California and we’re not employing Californian citizens.”
My mother once told me if you don’t stand up, you will never be seen. If you don’t speak up, you’ll never be heard. Let me encourage you, to stand up, speak out and do it just one day more than those that stand against you.”
The evening concert was electrified in a spectacle of talent brought together by Martin Guigui, award filmmaker and Grammy nominated producer. His All-Star band on the stage of Bring Hollywood Home joined forces with legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff, keyboardist Rami Jaffee and bassman Mike Merritt. The awe moment and reason for it all – the dropdead beats, tuned up guitars and Swarovski shoes of legendary rockers – was Martin’s own Guigui family performance: two-year-old guitarist Noah, drummer chick Rebecca, nine-years-old, and Esther, 11, whose soul vocal chords captured the audience with a young confident talent.
Guigui was awarded the Golden Spirit Award by the non-profit Hollywood With Students and for good reason. Martin was the first producer to believe in Bring Hollywood Home. His reason is closest to his heart, as it is for many others: his family and the ability to see his daughters and son grow, without having to constantly chase Hollywood out-of-state or internationally.
“It took me 25 years to launch Friday night,” says Sharon. “Twenty-five years of realizing all the problems of Los Angeles, thinking who are the courageous people of this city, who are the people that are willing to roll up their sleeves and try to do something about the inequity.”
When the foundation first took root, Martin called Sharon. They met at Marie Callendar’s and tried to makes sense out of an overwhelming reality. “There are so many people that want to see but have never been able to see it happen. You’re looking at 25 years of runaway production. You’re just the next person,” said Martin.
“Do you understand how strong you’re going to have to be?”
“I understand, Martin,” replied Sharon. “But I didn’t have a clue,” she admits today, in an uneasy but strong willed voice.
Her task isn’t easy. With the Motion Pictures American Association turning their back on Bring Hollywood Home, and without an explanation, Sharon already knows that cheerleading on the sidelines for small to medium sized production companies isn’t going to be enough. She also knows that there is an array of fans in Sacramento and D.C.’s legislature waiting to see her organization succeed. Most importantly there are producers, artists and Hollywood’s backbone, its staff – some that have moved out-of-state to work in California – that would like to keep their jobs, benefits and storytelling legacy.
“I’ve made my career in media and television. It’s very close to my heart,” says Sharon. “I understand the importance of storytelling, of exporting our cultural value from the United States by having small to medium sized production companies. They have the freedom to tell more profound stories, then the big films. The big films it takes a lot of money.”
With a great grandfather named Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, a beloved governor of Florida between 1906 to 1910, and his wife First Lady, great grandmother Annie Douglass Broward a force in the struggle to win women’s rights, Sharon is descendant from a family of leaders and forward thinking lawmakers. Today at the heart of her cause sits her own Jimenez family; husband Bob Jimenez, an esteemed journalist in the media industry, Pulitzer Prize and five time Emmy Award winner, and the first Latino correspondent for NBC. Daughters Anna Jimenez Lyle and Jessica Jane Jimenez Perry also work in media and production. The future of Sharon’s work mirrors in her grandchildren’s eyes, who although young, joined “forces” too with Bring Hollywood Home to uplift everyone’s spirit and highlight with a smile, the limitless possibilities of a next generation.
This isn’t Sharon’s first feat either. By her mid-twenties, she was State Capitol Bureau Chief in Atlanta. With a love for being hired on for the toughest jobs, Sharon reported, changed laws and shadowed public officials throughout her career, including then President Carter. As a journalist she has taken “her blinders off” – as she calls it – many times to pierce into and shake a society that is constantly changing, for the better or worse.
“If we lose the manufacturer of our television, film and post production, we really lose our ability to tell our story. The state has the resources to allow these small to medium production companies to become state-of-art. They will be American based, American owned and export our dollars to the world.”
Once you are a reporter, Sharon mentions, you can never actually work as an elected official. Her role in Bring Hollywood Home is the culmination of an entire career. It’s the calling of her family’s legacy. Today’s Hollywood resonates in her message, as well as past and future voices, still strong, before fading away forever.
Music wasn’t the only entertainment. The dinner, quietly harmonized with color and live painting by artists Gary Visconti (former American ice skater), and Preston Smith, embodied the full creative spirit of Bring Hollywood Home. Fine art found a special place in the middle of the conversation, subtly reflecting how connected the creative industry is. It painted an image that invites its audience to reflect deeper on the value and importance of a home grown American, Californian economy.
Photography Credits by Photographers TRACY SAUNDERS, DONNA DYMALLY and BOB JIMENEZ – Starring BRING HOLLYWOOD HOME concert produced by MARTIN GUIGUI host of celebrity dinner BILL DUKE images retouched by DAVID TONELSON
(from left) Actor and Humanitarian Bill Duke, Photographer Tracy Saunders and Chair of the California Board of Equalization Jerome Horton. (Photo by Tracy Saunders/October 7, 2016)
Read more about Bring Hollywood Home here.