Guild gains ground in credit battle

Org's code lays out guidelines that set the standard for the industry

With little fanfare, the Producers Guild of America has cemented its status this year as the final word on a key question: Who’s a producer on Hollywood’s most important films?

The 2,700-member group, despite the lack of collective bargaining agreements, has become the official go-to org for determining the names listed as producers of picture nominees when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences makes its announcement Jan. 31.

AMPAS announced last June that the PGA’s credit determination process would be the one it used on those nominations, with no more than three names. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. also agreed to use the PGA to decide the producers for its Golden Globes picture award noms.

It’s the final step in an evolution that began seven years ago when the Oscar ceremonies saw five producers getting credit for “Shakespeare in Love.”

As a result, rather than the Acad waiting for a determination to be made by a film’s producer team as it has in the past, the PGA will have already taken care of that complicated detail. Even though producers may privately grouse about the PGA, it’s a role the group relishes after half a dozen years of striving to put the brakes on credit proliferation.

“Having the PGA process get endorsed by the Academy has changed the landscape in Hollywood,” says PGA exec director Vance Van Petten. “It’s shifted the fierce contest to be among the three named producers” away from the Acad and over to the PGA.

The PGA’s Code of Credits process attaches specific weight to the producer functions for determining the “produced by” credit for features and the executive producer credit for TV:

  • 30% for development;

  • 20% for pre-production;

  • 20% for production; and

  • 30% for post-production and marketing.

The PGA investigations focus on any case where there are more than three producers or if a producer has multiple credits such as writer, actor or director.

The PGA then contacts producers with a three-page eligibility form, seeking responses as to the level of contribution on 44 functions.

The PGA went so far in late 2004 as to proclaim optimism that at least one studio would sign on; the group also promised it would take studios and nets to court as being in violation of the state’s false-

advertising statutes if they persisted in handing out bogus credits.

Neither scenario came to pass, but the guild’s leaders believe they’ve made significant progress just the same.

“It’s somewhat slow going,” admits PGA president Kathleen Kennedy. “We’re trying to educate people with a new code of credits and industry definitions. Increasingly, the conversations are between the filmmakers, studios and business affairs. Everyone’s taking them seriously.”

PGA VP Marshall Herskovitz asserts that the response to the PGA efforts has been so positive that there hasn’t been a need for the guild to take legal action.

“There have been several cases — which we feel should remain confidential — where very powerful but undeserving producers have stepped aside and taken lesser credits now that they understand the shift in attitudes that is overtaking the community,” he adds.

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