Got Your 6 Initiative: TV, film shaping image of veterans


LOS ANGELES -- When the Got Your 6 initiative was launched two years ago to enlist Hollywood in the effort to help military veterans, it focused on benchmarks in crucial areas including jobs, housing and education.

Some of the goals have been met and even surpassed, initiative members said. But work is just getting started on another task, that of using the industry’s creative power to shape the public perception of veterans.

Got Your 6 -- a name drawn from military slang for "I’ve got your back" -- was holding its first conference Thursday with TV and film industry executives, producers, writers and others to discuss how to make that a reality.

The gathering was to hear from veterans and recognize those in the industry who have found effective ways to include veterans in storytelling without the hyperbole that makes them either heroes or charity cases, said Chris Marvin, the initiative’s managing director.

"Historically, we’re not at a place where the entertainment industry is vilifying veterans in any way," said Marvin, himself a veteran, but there is a need for "neutral" depictions of vets in everyday life. Ed O’Neil’s veteran in ABC’s "Modern Family" is such a character, he said.

"Studies prove that by putting that portrayal in front of people, they start to think about veterans more positively and as assets in their community, which is what a veteran should be," he said.

The conference highlighted work that illustrates how to handle the challenge, such as Aaron Sorkin’s "The Newsroom" on HBO, which has included passing references to the military background of featured character Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston).

" In a nutshell, that’s what we’re talking about, normal veterans. ... People who have gone on in the next chapter in their lives," said Amy Gravitt, HBO Programming vice president and a Navy veteran.

The Got Your 6 initiative, which includes every TV network, studio and agency along with more than 30 nonprofit groups, counts progress in areas including employment.

Disney, which committed in 2012 to hire 1,000 veterans in three years, has hired more than 3,600, according to company. It has increased its goal to hire 1,000 additional veterans by 2015, Got Your 6 said.

Another media giant, Comcast Corp., announced last November that it and NBCUniversal had hit the goal of hiring 2,000 veterans since January 2012 and had done so almost two years ahead of schedule.

The conference in Beverly Hills on Thursday was done in conjunction with the Hollywood Radio & Television Society.


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