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Breaking the siege

Letter to the Editor

Why has our industry chosen to suffer the delusion that we don’t know what a producer does?

We all know what a producer does: find the story, hire the writer and director, hire the crew, supervise the production and budget, and generally ensure that the finished project fulfills its creative and commercial promises.

But somewhere along the line — in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement and a collective voice among producers — the powers that be decided that maybe “producing” could mean other things. Maybe it meant attaching a star. Maybe it meant the project passed through your hands on the way to its final creative team. Maybe it simply meant, “the movie couldn’t have happened without you.”

Make no mistake: Attaching stars is important work. So is assembling financing. So is developing the script, and closing the distribution deal. But when individuals who did part of the work of producing were rewarded with full credit, the true nature of the producer’s job became distorted.

Thus, for the past decade, the producing profession has been under siege. Development fees for producers have remained stagnant for 25 years. Worse, only a relative handful of producers retain the kind of studio deals that were standard practice less than a generation ago. The studio investment in creative research and development is virtually nonexistent.

Over the last five years, the PGA has created a compromise solution that recognizes the contributions of script developers, financiers, line producers, packagers, and all the myriad subcategories of the producing world. The standard is simple: Do a majority of the producing work, and you’re a producer.

It’s time for this industry’s studios and distributors to step up and get behind that common-sense standard. It’s time to shake off the convenient delusion that the “produced by” credit means whatever they want it to mean. Through our awards arbitration process, we have demonstrated that individual producers’ contributions can be assessed rigorously and without bias.

The PGA’s hard-fought consensus has been demonstrated as valid, both in the court of public opinion and the court of law. It’s time to restore control and value to the producing profession. It’s time to break the siege.

Van Petten is the executive director of the Producers Guild of America.

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