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Walker Webcast: MPA’s Charles Rivkin—Ideas on Entertainment, Diplomacy and Leadership

The multi-faceted resume of Charles H. Rivkin includes plenty of public service (U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs) and a lot of business (after receiving his MBA from Harvard Business School he joined Jim Henson Co., eventually becoming President and CEO of the organization). Since 2017, Rivkin has served as Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

Rivkin’s multi-faceted resume generated a multi-faceted discussion during the Aug. 17, 2022 Walker Webcast. The hour-long event touched on movies, television and streaming in the post-post-pandemic world (all are doing well) and the challenges of exporting visual content to other countries.

Fun fact: One reason why “Spiderman No Way Home” isn’t playing on theater screens in China is because the Chinese wanted all references to the Statue of Liberty scrapped. The problem, however, is that much of the movie’s latter part takes place in and around the iconic statue. “We said no,” Rivkin told Willy Walker, Chairman and CEO of Walker & Dunlop and the Walker Webcast host.

Rivkin also put forth the idea that the motion picture industry (which includes movies, television and streaming services) represents an ideal mirror of American society, both good and bad.

While serving as U.S. Ambassador to France, Rivkin showed an American movie in the embassy screening room about the 2007-2009 global crisis – “It was either ‘Too Big to Fail’ or ‘Margin Call,’” Rivkin recalled. Among the guests attending was a high-level French minister was in attendance. At the end of the movie, the minister took Rifkin to task, blaming America for destroying the world.

Keeping a calm demeaner, Rivkin responded that movies shine a spotlight on issues, to hopefully avoid them from happening again. “I told him we weren’t afraid to admit our role one way or the other,” Rivkin recalled. Then he asked the minister when France had produced a movie about the France-Algerian war. “This is a sensitive topic for the French,” he said. “They’ve never done a movie on that. “But we did wars about Vietnam when it was still an open wound in our nation.”

In addition to discussions about motion pictures, public service, politics and international affairs, Walker found time to ask Rivkin about leadership; the latter led businesses, helped oversee foreign policy and today runs the MPA, all of which are different roles. How, Walker asked, had Rivkin been able to pull it all together?

“I think the common element is diplomacy,” Rivkin responded. “Diplomacy, at its core, is about finding common ground.” In other words, an important part of leadership is introducing issues that matter to everyone involved.

Rivkin explained that other keys to strong leadership involve standing behind people and leading by example. “I think, at the end of the day, it’s about character,” he said. “I started off in the entertainment industry, then I went into diplomacy, and then found the only job that I can think of on earth that marries these two worlds.”

On-demand replays of the Aug. 17, 2022 webcast are available by clicking here and through Walker & Dunlop’s Driven by Insight podcast series.


Inside The Story

The MPA's Charles RivkinWalker & Dunlop's Willy Walker

About Amy Wolff Sorter

I love content. I love writing it, visualizing it, and manipulating it to fit into different formats. I have years of experience in working with content, both as creator and editor. The content I create and edit provides assistance with many goals, ranging from lead generation, to developing street cred through well-timed thought-leadership pieces. Content skills include, but aren't limited to, articles and blogs, e-mails, promotional collateral, infographics, e-books and white papers, website copy and more.

  • ◦People
  • ◦Policy/Gov't