Monday, July 4

Entertainment Community Fund Steps Up to Support Life in the Arts


The Entertainment Community Fund (formerly the Actors Fund) has been there for everyone on stage, on camera and behind the scenes since 1882. This national human services organization has proven an essential resource for people who work in film, theater, television, music, opera, radio and dance.

The Entertainment Community Fund has offices in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago; an assisted living and skilled nursing home in Englewood, N.J.; and supportive housing residences in Brooklyn and Manhattan, N.Y., and West Hollywood, Calif.

Joe Benincasa, president and CEO of the Fund, oversees the organization’s comprehensive supportive services, including health and wellness, career and life, affordable housing and more. I’ve known about the Fund since my time as president of the Writers Guild of America West, but I didn’t know the true depths of their reach until I got involved almost a decade ago as a board member. I sat down with Joe to hear more about the Fund’s growth in recent years.

Christopher Keyser: What makes the entertainment industry so crucial to our society?

Joe Benincasa: Entertainment is the quintessential American export. It generates over $1 trillion for our country’s GDP. In cities across the country, it drives tourism and economic development. Imagine the last few years without it! Impossible.

CK: How does the Fund support the entertainment community?

JB: For 140 years, the Fund has been the only organization — with reach from coast to coast — committed to helping all who work in entertainment and the performing arts, in every aspect of their lives, and throughout the entire course of their careers. We provide support by helping clients manage their health, lives and finances, as well as assist clients with finding mental health services, so that crises can be avoided. And then, when crises hit, we’re there to help lift them up and gain steady footing again.

CK: Why did the Actors Fund change its name to the Entertainment Community Fund?

JB: The Actors Fund was founded in 1882, when the word “actor” described anyone working in entertainment. Since then, we’ve grown exponentially to support all performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan. Since the height of the pandemic in 2020, we saw 63% of the arts workforce become fully unemployed with 95% reporting income loss. This is where the Fund made sure that our artists and industry workers were kept afloat. The Fund serves everyone who works in entertainment. We are still the Fund and we have a renewed commitment to serve even more people and in more places.

CK: How does your new tagline, “Supporting a Life in the Arts,” convey the Fund’s mission and purpose?

JB: Life in the arts requires resilience, and sometimes the pressures and obstacles are too significant to bear alone. The assistance we offer allows those in the industry to not only persist, but thrive in all aspects of their life in the arts.

CK: What message do you have for those working in entertainment?

JB: As artists and entertainment workers support the community, the community must also support those who make the art. From your first job in this profession until retirement — we are always there for you.

CK: What lies ahead for the Fund?

JB: One plan we have in the works is the Hollywood Arts Collective. This new building project will address Los Angeles’ cultural community’s affordable housing and space needs, as well as Hollywood’s economic and job development goals. Currently under construction, this project is a culmination of 12 years of cultural planning and development by the Entertainment Community Fund, developers Thomas Safran & Associates, and the City of Los Angeles Departments of Cultural Affairs, Housing, and Transportation, as well as Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.

Additionally, as crises often do, the pandemic revealed profound needs and some very difficult truths. If a life in performing arts and entertainment was precarious before, the pandemic pushed many who work in the industry to the very brink. Within days, the Fund transformed to meet the needs of a desperate population. All in all, since March 2020, our programs have reached more than 68,000 people. We have distributed over $26.7 million in direct COVID-19-related financial aid.

But for every thousand people we have met and served, it has become clear that there are ten times that number whom we have not yet reached, in every city and in every state. For starters, we are deepening our relationships and partnerships in cities around the country that are hubs of production and the arts, so that we can better serve entertainment professionals who live and work in those areas. Their work is essential to the cultural life of this country. They are tomorrow’s entertainment industry, and the Fund wants to be there for them. We have ambitious goals for the Entertainment Community Fund, and it starts with increasing the number of people we help.

With all that’s in the works, we’re so excited to embark on our next chapter for the Entertainment Community Fund. To learn more about our efforts to support the entertainment and performing arts community, visit our website entertainmentcommunity.org.

Christopher Keyser is a writer, producer and board member of the Entertainment Community Fund.





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