Herskovitz endorses increased number of contenders

The two-year-old move to double the number of best picture contenders received a strong endorsement at Saturday’s Producers Guild of America panel discussion for the 10 nominated films.

“Many people thought that expanding the category was cynical but I knew it was a great idea,” PGA president emeritus Marshall Herskovitz told a capacity audience of 300 in his introductory remarks at the Landmark at the Westside Pavilion. “I don’t know how you would get rid of half of them. I love every one of them.”

The PGA, which has over 4,500 members, followed the lead two years ago of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in expanding the field for its marquee trophy.

Herskovitz moderated a two-hour discussion with a producer from each film contending for the PGA’s Darryl F. Zanuck award — Christian Colson for “127 Hours,” Scott Franklin for “Black Swan,” Emma Thomas for “Inception,” David Hobernan for “The Fighter,” Jeffrey Levy-Hinte for “The Kids Are All Right,” Iain Canning for “The King’s Speech,” Cean Chaffin for “The Social Network,” Basil Iwanyk for “The Town,” Darla Anderson for “Toy Story 3″ and Scott Rudin for True Grit.”

Herskovitz noted that Rudin’s also a nominated produce on “The Social Network,” adding, “He’s up against himself.”

Much of the discussion focused on the wide variety of hurdles — with Rudin indicating that dealing with Facebook during the development and making of “The Social Network” was a time-consuming task since Facebook was asserting that the movie wasn’t going to be truthful about founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“Once it opened, they calmed down,” Rudin said of Facebook. “They went from feeling that we were going to be tough on Mark to feeling like we had made him look like a rock star.”

Levy-Hinte noted that “The Kids Are All Right” carried the not uncommon trademark of elusive financing in the indie sector with the number of shooting days for director Lisa Cholodenko cut in half.

“We got our financing in place on the first day of production, which is better than the day after the start of production,” he recalled. I’d like to give Lisa more than 23 days next time.”

Franklin noted a similar time crunch for “Black Swan,” forcing director Darren Aronofsky to shoot Natalie Portman’s dance scenes in only five days. And he gave credit to Portman and her castmates after having teamed with Aronofksy on “The Wrestler.”

“There was a lot of sweat and broken bones,” he added. “These girls are a lot tougher than wresters.”

Thomas noted that the worst part of producing “Inception” came in post-production when spouse Chris Nolan became doubtful and told her “I don’t know what I’ve done” before finishing. “Inception” went on to gross well over $800 million worldwide.

Iwanyk admitted that he’d faced a similar crisis of confidence on “The Town.”

“We lost our way in post,” he said. “We were trying to be great and we wound up mediocre so we took a week off. We had kind of forgotten the movie.”

Variety was a sponsor of the event.

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