Producers group near rules limiting credit

A group of producers has nearly finished a set of guidelines to limit the use of the producer credit in motion pictures and television.

The latest effort is backed by such top names as Arnold Kopelson, Richard Zanuck and Robert Rehme, who have for years expressed anger at the awarding of producing credits to managers, financiers and others who do not actually take an active part in the production process.

But even with guidelines and big names behind them, they face an uphill battle, because the Producers Guild of America does not participate in collective bargaining with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, nor are they recognized by the National Labor Relations Board. In fact, the Producers Guild has long been discussing the idea of setting up guidelines or a “blue book” in hopes of limiting the credit (Daily Variety, Sept. 9, 1992).

Bargaining chip

Since then, producers say that the proliferation of credits has only worsened, with the title used as a bargaining chip between studios and production companies and talent.

The new guidelines define the role of the producer, spelling out 26 different functions such as selection and briefing of a director, the approval of props, the ordering of retakes and additional scenes, and the “spotting” of sound effects and music. An arbitration panel would supervise the awarding of credits – with similarities to the Writers Guild arbitration process – to make sure that those who get the title actually meet the definition.

The producers group is almost finished with guidelines for theatrical movies, but they have completed their guidelines for television, an area where writers have long enjoyed credits such as “co-producer” and “supervising producer.”

Under the PGA rules, the “produced by” credit would be given only to an individual who supervises and coordinates all aspects of the production process, from inception to completion. The credit of “producer” would go only to individuals who perform a substantial number of producer duties. The “executive producer” credit would go only to an individual who actively supervises “the performance of multiple producer functions by another producer or producers.” And the “associate producer” credit would go to an individual who performs one or more producing functions, under the supervision of a producer.

Others barred

Others in the production process – such as writers, attorneys and managers – would be barred from taking any credit that has the word “producer” unless they do actively perform producer functions. In fact, the titles “supervising producer,” “coordinating producer,” “segment producer” and “line producer” will be prohibited.

And on TV movies and miniseries, credits will be limited to “produced by,” “executive producer,” “producer” and “associate producer.”

There is also potential conflict with the Writers Guild of America, given that the guild has long enjoyed the status of writers as show runners or the creative leaders on TV shows. And writers with lesser titles, such as “supervising producer” and “associate producer,” have gone on to become show runners.

There already have been efforts to limit producers credits – such as guidelines for production companies issued by CBS – but there are no sanctions for those who violate them.

Charles FitzSimons, executive director of the Producers Guild of America, said that “there may be a halfway step to collective bargaining that is to the advantage of both parties.”

“The only way you can control is where everybody agrees to go along,” FitzSimons said. “You have to have something where everyone says, ‘We will adhere to the rules.’ “

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