Herskovitz to lead an eager PGA

Org taps new prexy to succeed Kennedy

The Producers Guild of America — a fairly low-key Hollywood player until the dust-up over “Crash” credits — looks likely to maintain its newly prominent profile.

The 3,000-member org announced Monday it has tapped Marshall Herskovitz to succeed Kathleen Kennedy as president after four years as VP. Mark Gordon and Bruce Cohen have been named the new VPs, with Courtney Cowan as treasurer.

Herskovitz, whose credits include “The Last Samurai,” “I Am Sam” and “Traffic,” is pledging the PGA will be active on several sticky fronts: fighting to curb credit proliferation, pushing for studios and nets to coordinate on new technologies and offering to mediate in upcoming labor negotiations for the WGA and SAG.

“This organization is still defining itself, but we want to go beyond what it’s been,” Herskovitz told Daily Variety.

The PGA drew significant notice during the past awards season as Bob Yari complained about how the “Crash” credits had been determined, with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences opting for the PGA’s decision on producer credits. Despite Yari’s suit against the PGA and AMPAS, he was excluded from receiving the best picture Oscar for “Crash,” which went to Cathy Schulman and co-writer and director Paul Haggis.

Yari had complained that the process — under which the PGA attaches specific weight to 40 different producer functions — was secretive, arbitrary and unfair. Herskovitz remains unswayed, saying he hopes the org’s determinations will be extended beyond the Oscars, though the PGA’s still been unable to persuade a studio to sign its Code of Credits agreement.

“We have the goal of being the ultimate arbitrating body for producer credits,” Herskovitz added.

Herskovitz also said the PGA plans to get involved in brokering labor peace next year. He declined to offer specifics of how the PGA, which has no collective bargaining agreements, might intervene in the process other than possibly providing a long-term perspective.

“The negotiations are certain to be contentious at best,” he noted. “I’d offer this as an analogy: A producer of a film is the one person on the set who’s concerned with the totality of the film, so in the same way, there might be a place for a group looking at the health of the industry.”

The current WGA contract expires in October 2007, while the SAG and DGA pacts expire in June 2008. Talks are expected to be unusually complex due to more assertive elected leaders at the WGA and SAG, plus the emergence of new distribution platforms such as cell phones and iPods.

Herskovitz said the PGA also plans to push studios and nets hard to clear up the uncertainty surrounding new platforms to dispel growing fear and confusion over the direction the industry is taking. “The disastrous example of the music business hasn’t been heeded,” he added.

Herskovitz plans to seek an expansion of the PGA’s health-care program, available to about 30% of members.

PGA announced delegates from the PGA East: David Picker, chair; Lydia Dean Pilcher and Harvey Wilson, vice chairs; Lisa Diamond, financial officer; Robin Berla and Robert E. Frye.

Associate producer delegates: Victoria Slater, Kathleen Courtney, Stacey Hope Herman, Christina Lee, Stephen Marinaccio, Ty Warren, Shoshanna Ezra, Kimberly Austin, Maureen Dooling, Alia Anthony, Paul Leonard, Clark Henderson and Melissa Brockman.

New Media Council delegates: Alison Savitch, Derek Hildebrandt, Amy Jacobson, Marc Scarpa, Scott Russo, Duncan Wain, Susan Zwerman, Jenny Fulle, Stu Levy, Elaine Spooner, Steve Hoffman, Chris Thomas, Ira Rubenstein, Chris Pfaff, Joe Russo, Cindy Pound, Gregg Spiridellis.

Producers Council delegates: Kathleen Kennedy, Hawk Koch, Jerry Bruckheimer, Erin O’Malley, Dorothea Petrie, David Friendly, Gary Lucchesi, Ian Bryce, Michael Manheim, Debra Martin Chase, Walter Barnett, Sarah Green and Lori McCreary.

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