Hollywood producers are mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.
Fifty of some of the industry’s most influential filmmakers — including Ray Stark, Walter Mirisch, Arnold Kopelson and Kathleen Kennedy — have come together to establish the Producers Credit Board, an organization to determine who is entitled to have a producing credit and to establish guidelines for how producers are to be identified and treated.
The organization seeks to limit those allowed to receive a producing credit on a film to participants who have performed “substantial producer services.” In other words, managers or other individuals who set up projects but do not perform a producing function are likely to be affected by this group’s efforts.
Another bone of contention is credit placement in films and in the films’ advertising.
The creation of the Producers Credit Board, which is supported by the Producers Guild of America, hopes to act as an arbiter in credit disputes. While the PGA has long sought to reduce the number of producers’ credits, the PGA is not recognized as a bargaining unit by the National Labor Relations Boards the way the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America are.
The members of the PCB started talking about forming a recognized guild of sorts four years ago. Out of that discussion came the idea for a recognized arbitration board.
The wake-up call came two years ago, when the WGA negotiated a contract clause with the studios’ rep, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, that allowed the writer credit to be placed immediately before the director’s credit on prints just before the film begins. In recent years, it was the producer’s credit that had penultimate placement on films.
“It was demoralizing,” Kennedy said. “It spoke symptomatically of what producers are beginning to feel and how we are beginning to be treated. We certainly would like to change the position of credits on films, but that’s not in the forefront. What’s happening now is that the producer credit can be bought. Right now our focus is on features, but there is a group in TV which is equally concerned. The fact that the credit can be bought completely erodes the respect for the credit. The industry as a whole needs to take responsibility.”
Those in the group point to the growing number of producers on a single film. For instance, “Face/Off” and “The Associate” have nine producing credits, “Space Jam” had eight and “Quiz Show” had 10.
The group hopes to put an end to the “unregulated proliferation” of producing credits by taking producing credits “off the table” as a negotiable element. The group is asking that an industrywide agreement be reached about credits and that the Producers Credit Board be a recognized arbitration board.
“What makes studios nervous is that another guild will be formed, and what they are really nervous about is the issue of residuals. This is not the first step to organize a comprehensive producers guild in the same definition as the WGA or DGA. This is purely an arbitration board,” Kennedy said.
However, the PCB will first have to be recognized by the AMPTP to have any jurisdiction whatsoever over credit issues. The AMPTP has stated emphatically in the past that it has no intention of recognizing such a board for producers.
The PCB members plan to approach the studios next. One of the group’s selling points to the studios’ reps will be that the motion picture companies can save money by denying producing fees to those who don’t deserve them.
“The tough part is if a studio head sits down with an actor that makes $20 million per picture and he says he’ll do the movie, but his manager or his brother-in-law wants a producing credit, the studio will agree to do it to get the actor,” producer Mark Johnson said.
There is some support for the group from outside producer ranks. Kennedy noted that the group already has the support of such directors as Steven Spielberg, Barry Levinson, Oliver Stone and Clint Eastwood.
Other producers in the group include Larry Gordon, David Brown, Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer, Peter Guber, Debra Hill, Gale Anne Hurd, Dan Melnick, Steve Tisch, Lawrence Turman, Paula Wagner, Irwin Winkler and Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck.
“What we want to do is create a wall of solid support. There needs to be fairness and equity for producers. This does not mean that a manager cannot get a credit on a movie, but under this scenario they would not get a major credit unless their work is comparable,” producer Thom Mount said.Mount said that the way the arbitration would work is that three producers will be selected on a rotating and anonymous basis and those three producers will make determinations on who will receive credit. They would have right of appeal to the PCB. In essence, the board would work in the same way the WGA arbitration board functions.
“It’s everyone’s feeling that they have been picked at and diluted for years. And we’ve had it,” Mount said. “We are not going to be giving credits to people who don’t do the work.”
Not everyone agrees with this view, however. One top producer who requested anonymity called it “utter nonsense.”
“Men in Black” director Barry Sonnenfeld questioned the effectiveness of a producers arbitration board. “The more insane rules you create to govern an art, the more you lose the art,” Sonnenfeld said. “If I have rights to a book and do nothing else but sell it to Disney and allow it to be made into a feature, does that mean I should have a producing credit? Probably. The more arbitration boards we have, the more we are going to limit the creative process. Are there too many producing credits? Yes. Is an arbitration board a solution? Absolutely not. I think it can be regulated by contract.”
Producer Joel Silver said position of credit on films doesn’t matter. He mirrored the opinions expressed to Daily Variety from various studio execs and other producers: “Who cares where the credit goes on the movie? It’s about ego. The general public doesn’t care, and it doesn’t matter one iota where our credit goes.”
On the issue of establishing the Producers Credit Board, Silver said: “The idea of producers banding together for rights is ludicrous. We put the movies together, it’s our job. We hire people, we do what it takes to get the project before the cameras. (Paying out producing fees) is the cost of doing business. You have to pay commission to agents, too. It’s part of setting up the project.”
To which Kennedy replied: “That doesn’t mean it’s right.”