140 high-profile members back 'p.g.a.' initiative

Capping a decade of effort and backed by 140 of its most powerful members, the Producers Guild of America is campaigning for an official PGA designation to producers certified by the guild.

The PGA promised Wednesday that the new “producers mark” — a lower case p.g.a. — will start appearing next year. But it still remains uncertain whether the six major studios will play ball with the PGA since signing on would mean the guild would arbitrate disputes over producing credits.

Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. all had no comment Wednesday, even after the PGA had spent the past two months assembling key producers to back the campaign.

The endorsement list includes J.J. Abrams, Warren Beatty, Kathryn Bigelow, George Clooney, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Clint Eastwood, David Fincher, Gary Goetzman, Brian Grazer, David Heyman, Ron Howard, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Graham King, Alex Kurtzman, Laurie MacDonald, Frank Marshall, Neil Moritz, Roberto Orci, Walter Parkes, Scott Rudin, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis.

The PGA has made proliferation of undeserved producer credits its signature issue since the 1998 Oscar ceremony, in which five producers were credited for “Shakespeare in Love.” The org held its first credit arbitrations in 2001, promulgated a Code of Credits in 2004 and gained traction in 2005 when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced that the PGA’s credit determination process would be the one it uses on best picture nominations.

The PGA’s also become the go-to org for credit determination for the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., along with TV nominees for the Emmys. PGA exec director Vance Van Petten, who originated the idea of certification a decade ago, told Daily Variety that the campaign comes with the studios now familiar with the PGA.

“We’ve had 400 arbitrations over the past nine years,” he added.

Still, studios may be reluctant to officially endorse the PGA’s process above and beyond awards season titles — particularly on films that have a lengthy development history, since there’s a long practice of using producer credits to close deals. Van Petten asserted that the PGA’s trying to stop that.

“For years, the role of the producer has been devalued because nearly anyone could negotiate a credit. This is something Producers Guild members have fought passionately to change,” he said in a statement. “The new p.g.a. mark is an innovative solution to a long-standing industry dilemma of awarding credits. The PGA leadership and the industry are embracing the producers mark as a way to ensure the protection of the ‘produced by’ credit and the credibility and integrity of the producer’s work.”

The PGA, which has 4,500 members but no collective bargaining agreements, has long pressed studios for official recognition of its PGA’s Code of Credits, which spells out the qualifications for those eligible to receive the “produced by” credit for features and executive producer credit for TV. The code attaches specific weight to the producer functions: 30% for development, 20% for pre-production, 20% for production and 30% for post-production and marketing.

The PGA code includes job descriptions, guidelines and rules intended to help resolve credit disputes and protect the integrity of the “produced by” credit in features and exec producer credit in TV. It requires that a person must have had substantial involvement adding up to a majority of those functions to qualify for the credit.

When the PGA hammered out the Code of Credits in 2004, it went so far as to hold a news conference where its leaders proclaimed optimism that at least one studio would sign on. The group also promised at that point that it would take studios and nets to court for violating the state’s false-advertising statutes if they persisted in handing out unwarranted producer credits, though that scenario never came to pass.

PGA co-presidents Hawk Koch and Mark Gordon said Wednesday that the Code of Credits has become the standard.

“The code not only helps define who should be honored with a Producers Guild Award, an Oscar or Golden Globe but also gives everyone in the industry a way to determine what qualifies someone to hold the title of producer on a movie,” the duo said in a statement. “We were determined to work to further protect the producing credits. We’re proud to be a part of the collaborative effort within the guild’s leadership ranks and the broader entertainment community to implement the ground-breaking producers mark program, which serves to recognize deserving storytellers for the work they have done. We look forward to working with our industry friends and colleagues to implement this process swiftly across all films, as well as an honorable and important distinction for producers.”

The new PGA mark will be given only to producers who request it and who have been certified through the PGA arbitration process. PGA membership’s not a requirement.

Under the PGA process, companies will provide a “notice of producing credits” to the PGA — as they currently do for awards contenders. The notice must be filed before the commencement of post-production.

The PGA has no immediate plans for the program to be expanded into TV and new-media productions.

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