Producers beef up

Merged entity to be more effective

Seeking more clout for their 1,300 members, the Producers Guild of America and the American Assn. of Producers have merged following a near-unanimous vote.

The combined entity will retain the PGA name and continue to operate out of its Sunset Boulevard suite of offices. PGA exec director Vance Van Petten will remain in the same capacity.

Members of the 18-year-old AAP, which has about 600 members working mainly in television production, will be repped through a council within the PGA. The new org also includes a council for feature film producers, who had constituted most of PGA’s membership prior to the merger.

More brawn

“The combined size of the new PGA, along with our commitment to furthering the status and credibility of our membership, ensures that the producers and their team will have a strong advocate within the industry,” AAP chairman Tim Gibbons said.

Leaders of the PGA and AAP, who have been working on the merger for the past two years, believe the merged entity will be more effective in raising the status of producers by repping the entire producing team; cracking down on credit fraud; providing an expansion of the existing health and pension plan and offering a new self-pay plan; combining data and resources; and expanding job opportunities and education.

“We took this very slowly,” PGA prexy Thom Mount said. “This merger ensures a bright and more dignified future for all producers and begins to turn the tide on credit fraud and other issues that are critical to our industry.”

The new PGA has no immediate plans to begin seeking status as a collective bargaining unit for its members, but it could start moving in that direction if that’s the will of the membership. Mount said members have preferred to be repped through an association along the lines of the American Bar Assn. and the American Medical Assn.

“It has been fruitful for us to operate without the restraint of federal labor guidelines,” he added.

Mount said the combo is particularly attractive because of the AAP’s strong track record in such areas as seminars, employment opportunities and networking. “We love the AAP’s ability to function as a farm club to develop producers,” he noted. “They are very close to the ground.”

Mount, former prexy of Universal Pictures, said the PGA can help nurture young people through various producer roles and take on some of the development process that was once the province of studios and nets.

The merger vote, which generated only seven “no” ballots, was announced Saturday night at the PGA’s Golden Laurel Awards at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. Mount said the work of former Writers Guild of America West exec director Brian Walton, hired two years ago to map out a strategic plan for the PGA, had been invaluable in putting together the merger.

The Screen Actors Guild recently tapped Walton as its chief negotiator in upcoming bargaining with studio and networks repped through the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers over a new film-TV contract. Gibbons and Mount stressed that the PGA has made itself available as a go-between and resource for the unions and the AMPTP in upcoming negotiations.

“Producers are united in the strong feeling that strikes can be avoided,” Mount said. “We are unifiers by nature and have a fundamentally different perspective from anyone else in the industry.”

Recruiting o’seas

The new PGA has started recruiting producers in Gotham and plans to launch similar efforts in Australia and Great Britain with the goal of adding as many as 1,500 new members.

The PGA kicked off its credits campaign a year ago when it excluded two dozen names from previously announced television nominations for its Golden Laurels Awards. It used anonymous three-member panels to review each TV program and movie to limit the number of producers per category to three.

The PGA has also launched a voluntary certification program under which the org allows producers to include the PGA certification mark — a laurel with the PGA initials — in producer credits that the PGA has reviewed.

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