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The Actor’s Fund Becomes the Entertainment Community Fund, a Name Change 140 Years in the Making


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The Actor’s Fund is now the Entertainment Community Fund, the 140-year-old organization announced during its bicoastal annual gala event Monday night.

Fund chairman and Tony-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell presented the news during the simulcast ceremony and fundraising event, which raised a record-breaking $1.7 million for the longstanding organization. A host of industry guests were in attendance in Los Angeles at Paramount Pictures and in New York at the Marriott Marquis for the announcement, including Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, Alex Newell, LL Cool J, Chandra Wilson, Amanda Kloots, Kenny Leon, Harris Yulin, Edmund Donovan and Paramount CEO Brian Robbins.

“It’s a new name and a new look, with the same mission,” Mitchell told the crowds. “We recognize the dedication of technicians, camera operators, stagehands, writers, musicians, stage managers, actors and thousands more who work in film, television, radio, music, theater, dance and opera. They all contribute to our country’s cultural vibrancy. We value them. We support them. And the fund is here for all of them.”

The name change arrives a month before the Fund’s 140th anniversary this June. “Since 1882, the message has always been that we help everyone in the performing arts and entertainment community,” Fund president and CEO Joseph Benincasa told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Monday’s announcement. “Who those people were is a little different than it is today, but the term ‘actor,’ when the organization was founded, applied to everyone working in show business. So there’s always been this discussion.”

Benincasa said the current branding shift — which includes its first-ever logo (a heart shaped by spotlights) — really began 15 years ago with an earlier and smaller rebranding effort that produced the Fund’s first tag line, “for everyone in entertainment.” But in the years since, the organization felt that even that still didn’t quite clarify how broadly the nonprofit defines entertainment industry worker and just how many people its housing, healthcare and emergency financial assistance programs actually supports.

So around five years ago, the Fund formally surveyed “the entire performing arts and entertainment community,” Benincasa said, including members of the unions and guilds as well as employees of the studios and theaters. “What came back to us loud and clear is that our name should say who we are, who we help, have a tagline and introduce our first-ever logo,” he said.

The organization carried that effort out and was gearing up for the announcement of its current rebrand when the pandemic hit. The Fund was forced to cancel a live event where they were going to make the announcement before being quickly swept up in the demands of supporting members of the entertainment industry amid various production shutdowns, including some 100,000 people on Broadway who were out of work and lacking healthcare for nearly two years.

“During the pandemic, we realized that people didn’t know they could turn to us for help. So we had to do a lot of promotion and a lot of publicity around that to let people know that the Actors Fund was here to help them through,” Benincasa told THR. “The pandemic demonstrated to us is that this decision was warranted.”

Beyond Monday’s announcement, the Entertainment Community Fund will be using its advertising campaign, “most of which has been donated,” Benincasa said, to spread the word and encourage more people in the industry — from crew to entertainment trade press — to turn to the group for support. It plans to do this with the help of the unions, guilds, theaters and studios and its star-studded board members.

That includes actress Annette Bening, showrunner Greg Berlanti, former head of Writers Guild West Chris Keyser and The Good Fight producer Brooke Kennedy. (Keyser and Kennedy were also in charge of producing the organization’s three-minute video announcement for the name change, which featured Stokes and other big Fund names.)

Looking forward, the Fund president says the organization wants to “triple the number of people we help” over the next three years and hopes that this rebrand will help the nonprofit achieve that goal.

“We don’t beat our chests. We don’t talk about ourselves too much,” Benincasa says about the Fund’s board, volunteers and workers. “But we do talk about what we do and how we help. We want people to know they can turn to us.”

“During the pandemic, we helped 68,000 people and offered $27 million in direct financial assistance,” he continued. “We want to make sure that everyone knows that our organization can help them at some point in their lives or throughout their lives.”

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