The Washington D.C.-based Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA, recently hosted a conference on "The Business of Show Business". Designed to raise awareness in Washington about the contributions the film industry makes to the national economy, the MPAA conference was the first such meeting of its kind. And as VOA?s Jim Bertel reports, plans call for this new conference to become an annual event

"The Business of Show Business" was a day-long event in which film industry experts met to inform politicians, policymakers, and others about the financial benefits of the American motion picture industry, particularly the industry's contribution to the national economy.

"Together with leaders of government we are setting aside one day in Washington to draw the spotlight where it rarely goes, to the starring role American film and television play in our nation's economy -- what we call 'The Business of Show Business.' "

So said former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, who is currently chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA. It is a lobbying group for the U.S. motion picture, home video, and television industries.

"We are creating good-paying American jobs. Direct employee salaries typically run nearly 80 percent higher than the national average," he added.

Participants discussed financial strategies for making and marketing films, investment and risk management, and other business challenges. Former film star and now California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed the group with a recorded message.

"The film industry is a giant engine of economic growth, employing more than 750,000 people and boasting a surplus balance of trade with every single country in the world."

The attendees here met in small groups as well as in formal symposia, and included filmmakers, lawmakers, cinema arts students, and other industry constituents from around the world.

Producer Lindsay Doran is past president of United Artist Pictures. "If you visit other countries you see American movies everywhere," she said. "There is something about the optimism of American movies that is so inspiring in every single country. It is not just the money that we spend on them or the comic book nature of some of them. It is these stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances who make something happen that nobody thought they could make happen that just continues to inspire people and has been for a hundred years."

A presentation of film clips by young filmmakers helped drive that point home.

California Senator Diane Feinstein reflected on both the art and the commerce involved in filmmaking. "Great movies, I believe, shape who we are as Americans, in our own eyes and in the eyes of the world. And this industry not only impacts American culture, but it impacts our economy."

An economic impact report released at the conference finds that the U.S. film industry generates more than 1.3 million American jobs, pumping $60.4 billion dollars into the U.S. economy, and generating $10 billion dollars in tax revenue

Those revenues could be substantially higher, said the report, were it not for the global phenomenon of copyright theft. Illegal downloads and pirated DVDs cost the industry billions, a matter that is sure to be addressed in future conferences.