Charlie Ebersol Teams up with Michelle Obama for ‘6 Certified’

TV runs in Charlie Ebersol's family. But his new project is all about America's veterans

Photo credit: Got Your 6/Brian Dowling. Chris Marvin, managing director of Got Your 6, with producer Charlie Ebersol at Got Your 6's inaugural Vetfronts event in Beverly Hills.
Chris Marvin, managing director of Got Your 6, with producer Charlie Ebersol at Got Your 6's inaugural Vetfronts event in Beverly Hills.
Photo credit: Got Your 6/Brian Dowling. Chris Marvin, managing director of Got Your 6, with producer Charlie Ebersol at Got Your 6's inaugural Vetfronts event in Beverly Hills.
Chris Marvin, managing director of Got Your 6, with producer Charlie Ebersol at Got Your 6’s inaugural Vetfronts event in Beverly Hills.
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First Lady Michelle Obama and industry executives launched 6 Certified in Washington, D.C., this morning. It’s an effort to integrate accurate portrayals of veterans into film and television shows. The program is part of the Got Your 6 campaign, a military term that means “I’ve got your back,” which was launched in 2012 as a response to a call to action by the First Lady and her Joining Forces initiative.

Once a project enters post-production and meets 6 Certified eligibility requirements, a studio or production company may submit the project for consideration. If subject matter experts grant “6 Certified” status, the project may display the badge during credits. For instance, Warner Brothers can submit “American Sniper” to be considered for certification as of today.

Charlie Ebersol, the son of longtime NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol and actress Susan St. James, is behind the 6 Certified program. As president and CEO of The Company he’s also producing unscripted series including CNBC’s “The Profit.”

FishbowlDC: What is the premise behind 6 Certified?

Charlie Ebersol: More than anything it’s about creating a line in the sand for the entertainment industry that says, “Which side of this conversation are you on?” If you’re going to say, “We support veterans,” then this is the way for there to be an objective measurement if you’re actually doing it. And if you’re not doing that, you’re not getting certified.

The view is that we’re very big on hollow gestures in the media, especially in Hollywood. It’s very easy to get up and say, “I support the troops” or to say we have a responsibility to take care of our veterans and then turn around and misrepresent the veteran community in a movie well, that can do way more damage than good. 6 Certified is holding people’s feet to the fire to make sure they live up to the platitudes that we as a Hollywood community have spoken.

And it’s all about subtle integrations. You don’t have to feed people spinach but you can put vegetables into something that tastes good. People will actually consume it. For example, with the LGBT movement, shows like “Will & Grace” enormously affected how the country looked at the sub group and shifted the paradigm. This is not in any way to indictment the media for not doing a good job. It’s trying to draw out and award people who do it the right way. There’s been a lot of truth from American Sniper and Lone Survivor — they do an excellent job of accurately representing veterans and with Modern Family, in telling a veteran storyline in a normalized yet beneficial way.

FishbowlDC: What is the biggest stereotype facing veterans from a production perspective?

Ebersol: You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of highly trained people who work hard and are highly technically trained and yet we boil them down to one of two things: they’re either heroes or victims.

One of the best vehicles is “Modern Family” because of Ed O’Neill’s character Jay Pritchett. He’s a veteran but he’s not portrayed as a hero – it’s not a hyperbolic performance but they do highlight things that as a veteran make him a very productive member of society.

One of the biggest scripted production companies and showrunners called us last week and said, “I want to hire veterans and I want to be able to tell stories about them in a real and accurate way. How do we go about doing that?” That engagement and that conversation is a huge win. And what he will do for his five or six television shows on air is that he’ll start to recognize the value of reaching out to that community to hire people but to also tell stories. From our perspective, it’s the awareness of education more than anything. The power of the media is about the subtlety of messaging and it becomes an important part of the process.