Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lifestyle Change

From Brentwood to Pnom Penh - from FilmStew.com
For years, Scott Neeson helped spread the word internationally about some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters. Now he's started a new chapter in his life that could be worthy of its own movie adaptation.

As the fourth of July approaches, there is perhaps no one in Hollywood who personifies the spirit of "independence" better than Scott Neeson, a former big time executive with 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures. Exactly four years ago this month, in between jobs at those two studios, he traveled to Cambodia on holiday and was so struck by the plight of street children in the capital of Pnom Pehn that he decided to start an organization to come to their aid, the Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF). One of the films Neeson helped oversee while at Fox was Independence Day, but the theatrics of that 1996 blockbuster have nothing on the December 2004 day Neeson chucked everything - Brentwood mansion, 36-foot yacht, fancy car - to move to Cambodia full-time, where he continues to this day to administer the efforts of the CCF. Most recently, Neeson got Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone to make a donation of $500,000, which will be used to establish the Sumner M. Redstone Child Rescue Center, a facility designed to provide safe have for about a hundred wayward kids ages five through 16. "I am hopeful that, just as Scott has raised my consciousness about this intolerable situation, my contribution will bring awareness to others who may also seek to contribute to the important lifesaving mission of the Cambodian Children's Fund," Redstone said upon making his gift. "This initial donation, which is the maximum amount that the CCF can currently absorb from one donor, is just the beginning of what I expect will be an ongoing program of support from the Sumner M. Redstone Foundation."

The actions of this Edinburgh-born hero deservedly continue to generate worldwide media attention, most recently in UK's Daily Record. As the former President of 20th Century Fox International and head of international marketing for Sony Pictures, Neeson well remembers the flipside of selfless giving, such as for example the time he had to fly the co-stars of a movie to Europe in two separate private jets because they didn't get along. That spirit is still alive and well, unfortunately. During one of his recent visits to Los Angeles, Neeson tells the Daily Record that a friend of his was dealing with female movie star's publicist, who was demanding to find out the thread count of seats on a private jet her client was set to fly on. "I didn't want to reach the age of 70 and look back at my life and think, 'Well, I have had a very successful corporate life,'' Neeson tells the paper. "That just wouldn't be enough as I want achieve so much more." Way ahead of that age, he already has.


Anonymous said...


Andy said...

Redstone to help Cambodian kids
Mogul offers grant of $500,000 to charity - by Peter Gilstrap (Variety.com)

After meeting a 13-year-old named Lyda, Sumner Redstone has turned an entire country of in-need children into one of his most personal causes.
Redstone has made a grant of $500,000 to the Cambodian Children's Fund, a nonprofit program that provides a wide range of critical health and educational services to impoverished and abused children in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

Org was founded in January 2004 by Scott Neeson, who as president of 20th Century Fox Intl. was involved in films such as "Titanic," "Braveheart" and "Ice Age."

In 2003 Neeson became head of Sony Pictures international marketing; he left shortly thereafter to start the charity after witnessing the Cambodian situation during a vacation. Neeson, who now acts as full-time CCF executive director, covered all initial costs for the establishment and operation of the CCF facility.

"From Hollywood to Cambodia was a really tough transition," Neeson said from his Phnom Penh headquarters. "The biggest was how little power you have here to help people. In Hollywood you can get most things fixed; here there are limitations to what you can do," he explained.

"I was intrigued that Neeson quit his job and sold everything and went to Cambodia to help these kids," Redstone told Daily Variety. "I had no idea what went on in Cambodia. When I met him, he had with him a little girl named Lyda. She had been abandoned by her parents like tons of kids. Scott found her at a dump where countless poor (children) lived, scrounging for food or something to sell. She had a back deformity."

In addition to his donation, Redstone is making 13-year-old scoliosis victim Lyda a personal priority.

"I've given big money to big charities, but you never get in touch with the actual person, even though you help a lot of people," said the philanthropist. "But I met this little girl, and I've arranged to have her operated on by a top pediatric surgeon at Cedars-Sinai."

Currently, the CCF aids more than 250 children through three facilities that provide shelter, food, inhouse health services, cultural classes and a range of educational and vocational training.

Among other projects, Redstone's contribution will be used to create the Sumner M. Redstone Child Rescue Center, a stand-alone facility scheduled to open this fall for children 5 to 16.

"The amount I gave was very small for me, and I will give more, but it was the maximum amount he can accept without losing his status as a public charity," said Redstone. "My real motive in getting the story out is to inspire others to help."