Yari takes on PGA over 'Crash'

Are the money men getting snubbed?

As one of the “Crash” producers, Bob Yari is on a collision course with the Producers Guild of America over what he calls an unfair auditing and arbitration process that eliminated him from the producer roster that’s eligible to receive a PGA Award for best picture.

Worse for Yari, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences adheres to the PGA determination of credits.

That means that if “Crash” gets an Oscar nomination as best pic — or wins — Yari won’t be officially recognized. He’s not alone, as the PGA only approved the film’s writer-director Paul Haggis and Yari’s former producing partner Cathy Schulman as producers.

That left Yari, “Crash” star Don Cheadle, co-writer Bobby Moresco and Mark Harris off the list. All are listed as producers in the credits of the film.

The PGA has been working to shave the proliferation of producer credits. Rules state that a maximum of three producers can be recognized for one film during the awards process.

Yari said the PGA vetting process is biased against producers who come from the financing side. He said he is contemplating a lawsuit against the PGA and might appeal the decision to the Academy.

“I’m hardly opposed to the PGA’s agenda to reduce or eliminate people getting vanity credits without having done the work,” Yari said. “But the PGA has a membership makeup of largely studio producers who essentially get hired to make movies. They’ve got a bent against financiers. In this case, they picked the wrong film and the wrong guy to attack.”

The PGA beef was mentioned in a lawsuit that Yari filed against former Bulls Eye Entertainment colleagues Schulman and Tom Nunan, with speculation that the lawsuit was motivated by Yari’s opinion that Schulman poisoned the well for him with the PGA (Daily Variety, Jan. 18). PGA executive director Vance Van Petten said that after Yari was denied credit, his attorney threatened a lawsuit and voiced the same suspicions about Schulman.

“I told him this simply wasn’t the case, it’s not how the process works, and that there were no comments from her concerning Bob in the arbitration process,” Van Petten said. “I found it disturbing that this allegation was made.”

Yari said the lawsuit is separate from his beef with the PGA and not some sour grapes campaign.

Yari, who began his career as a director who failed and then returned to Hollywood after making a fortune in real estate, said he’s been around long enough to know the difference between moneymen and producers.

” ‘Crash’ was a script that I acquired, and when no studio wanted Paul Haggis as director — and when talent had trepidations about a guy now regarded as a genius — I pieced together a bank loan and the financing so that I could set him as director. By the time I handed the script over to Cathy Schulman under our producing partnership, I had approved every cast member, down to the smallest roles.

“I worked out the distribution deal with Lionsgate after the film was completed, including the P&A commitment. Cathy was on the set every day as my partner, because I had a company to build. I feel that this film, in large part, was made possible by my passion over almost two years, and that’s why this is very tough to swallow.”

PGA’s Van Petten said that the judgment was made by three producers who investigate who did what on the producing roster, based on conversations with department heads and other involved parties. Yari and the other excluded producers appealed, and three more veteran producers serving as arbitrators upheld the ruling.

Yari found the process wanting, particularly after he’d gotten support from Haggis, who himself had been excluded from the producer roster of “Million Dollar Baby,” ironically in favor of Lakeshore moneyman Tom Rosenberg.

Credit arbitrations are common, particularly among writers, but Yari said the PGA’s rules are more frivolous.

“The WGA process is based on people looking at pages of scripts, hard data, with no potential for bias or for adversarial witnesses to speak against you,” he said. “That’s not the case here. If they had an open forum, I would be willing to accept their decision. But they’re not a guild, they’re a club.”

PGA attorney George Hedges said the credit scrutiny process was one honed over a five-year period since producers got fed up with freeloaders who padded resumes with undeserved credits. He feels the “Crash” spat shows that the procedure has teeth.

“This dispute is indicative that this process is starting to work, and that people know that when someone gets on the podium, they weren’t just providing financing or talent, but rather they had substantial creative input,” he said.

Yari said he will likely test its validity, possibly in the courts.

“I wouldn’t sue for damages, only to right the procedure, and we’re looking into all of our options,” he said. “I don’t want to take this sitting down and I’ll do everything in my power to right what I feel is a wrong.”

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