Org holds down the line on producer credits

The Producers Guild of America remains focused on its signature issue — holding the line on the proliferation of undeserved producer credits.

“Our members are 100% behind our accreditation process after nine years,” declares PGA co-president Mark Gordon. “It’s working and it’s working well.”

The PGA’s been around long enough to be staging its 22nd awards show on Saturday, but a key event took place in 1998 during the Oscar ceremonies, when the five credited producers crowded the stage to accept the best picture Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love.”

The organization 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 has 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 Patten, who originated the idea of certification a decade ago, points out that the town’s now familiar with the PGA and its process.

“And we’ve gone through the process every year to make it better, so we now have fewer functions listed,” Van Petten says. “We are always tweaking it.”

The next hurdle for the PGA is the creation of an official PGA designation to producers certified by the guild, which would extend the purview of the PGA well beyond awards-season titles.

The PGA promised in October that the new “producers mark” — a lower case p.g.a. — would start appearing next year but it’s still uncertain whether the six major studios will play ball with the PGA.

“We’ve been having productive and positive negotiations with the studios,” says PGA co-president Hawk Koch. “The members want this, so I don’t think we’ll have any problem finding volunteers to staff arbitrations.”

The big six studios — Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. — have not yet commented publicly on the latest PGA campaign. The push was launched after the PGA had spent two months assembling key producers to back the campaign including J.J. Abrams, Kathryn Bigelow, George Clooney, Clint Eastwood, David Fincher, Gary Goetzman, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Graham King, Frank Marshall, Scott Rudin, Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg.

Van Patten remains optimistic and says the studios want to go ahead with the PGA “mark” but working out the logistics of doing so has been complex and time-consuming.

“We’re hammering this out with two studios and making sure that the process is really clear,” he adds. “The key for us was establishing a consensus among powerful producers. So we’ve already been in the trenches on this.”

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: 35% for development, 20% for pre-production, 20% for production and 25% 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 in a majority of those functions to qualify.

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 is not a requirement.

Besides campaigning for the PGA Code of Credits, Gordon and Koch have also been reminding major producers that they should hire PGA members. They’ve been expanding the membership via a new Northwest chapter based in San Francisco and reaching out to producers in the Atlanta area.

And they’ve been asserting that the job of producing remains an essential component of the entertainment industry amid the seismic shifts in the business.

“In times of change, we still have tremendous opportunities,” Gordon says. “There are fewer studio films but there are more indie films, more TV and more TV channels. The challenges and rewards are greater than ever.”

More on the PGA Awards:
PGA honors Rudin | PGA solidifies its credit standard | Cameron earns PGA Milestone | ‘Stand Up’ woman lauded | PGA fetes Hanks, Goetzman

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