Variety editorial

Is the film producer extinct?

No, but clearly endangered. As evidence, survey the list of 18 producer credits adorning the new thriller “Narc” emerging from Paramount and Lions Gate. Producer credits have been proliferating in recent years, but on movies like “Narc” the producers outnumber the cast.

The Producers Guild of America has been trying to cope with this problem, but like all guilds it moves in glacial fashion. The Guild is rightfully reminding the community that the producer’s role is a vital one in maintaining a balance of power. It’s the producer who often acquires material, risks resources, assembles the elements. And it’s the producer who also maintains responsibility not only for holding to the budget, but also holding to the storyline. Not that long ago, the Hal Wallis-style producer assumed control of post-production showing his director his cut only when he was ready to do so.

Two forces have eroded the producer’s role: the growing power of the director along with the arrogance of studio executives who believe they can run the show.

Now, the Producers Guild has begun to make the rounds of studios, asking for their help in righting the balance. Its aim is to arrive at a basic job description for producers as well as to establish suitable arbitration procedures.

Most of all, the studios must halt their practice of assigning producer credit as a means of avoiding fees. It’s simply inappropriate for studio business affairs executives routinely to put the names of managers or random rights claimants on the credits in exchange for dropping their demands.

We hope the studios will awaken to their responsibilities to the once-proud producer community.

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