Producers Guild reaches out to community

Produced by Conference to return this year

For every high-profile producer who successfully launches a project, there are many who struggle in the trenches every day, with little to show for their hard labor.

And with over 4,000 members, the PGA has, in recent years, become acutely aware of the need for educational forums and outreach programs to help address the needs of the less fortunate in its ranks.

The result is a series of initiatives, including its popular Produced By Conference (now in its second year), the Producers Challenge contest and various mentoring programs.

“Often producers feel very isolated when they’re working on a project, and the PBC is a great way for producers to get together and learn from each other,” says PGA president Marshall Herskovitz. “So from an educational standpoint it’s very valuable. Also, it helps educate the community, including the executives who run our industry, about exactly what producers do and why they’re so essential.”

Gale Anne Hurd, PBC event co-chair, notes that it addresses the needs of aspiring producers as well as established ones.

“We have a number of sessions specifically designed to help them, such as, how do you sell a reality TV series? What are the tools you need?” says Hurd, who says the landscape has changed dramatically since she began her career.

“What does a producer need to know today in order to successfully launch an independent film, a Web-based project, or TV series, and then be able to get that project marketed and distributed?” she asks. “The PBC has experts in (each) field who can educate and give concrete advice to both the seasoned and novice producer.”

The list of featured speakers for this year’s conference, running June 4-6, includes such pros as Mark Gordon, Brian Grazer, Richard Zanuck, Gary Goetzman and Paula Wagner.

In connection with the event, the org is also sponsoring the Producers Challenge contest. Participants submit work in four separate categories: narrative short films, documentary short films, independent webisodes and studio- and network-produced webisodes.

“We felt it’s important that PBC isn’t just a theoretical discussion, and this allows producers to showcase their work,” Herskovitz says. The org hopes to expand the challenge to include feature films in the future.

The PGA offers various mentoring programs, including the Diversity Workshop. “Aspiring producers of color are mentored with individual projects they can then hone with the input of established producers, so there’s a tangible result,” Hurd says.

“The guild also runs mentoring breakfasts several times a year, and a small group of PGA members is paired with a mentor. The relationships are set up to be extremely practical, and often extend beyond the timeline of the official program.”

Though the programs are designed to benefit tyro and transitional producers, Herskovitz stresses that the sessions help to educate members about the nature of their own job as well.

“Producers do so many different things,” he explains. “They generate material, they find financing, they hire the creative team, they’re involved with marketing.” With members coming together, everybody stands a chance to learn from each other — and adjust their own careers accordingly.

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