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Credits flap darkens ‘Sunshine’

PGA, Acad producer rules differ

Who knew so much Hollywood unhappiness would be fueled by a little “Sunshine”?

Film credits have been under dispute for about a century now, with no sign of letup. But the flap over the “Little Miss Sunshine” producer credits has pretty much everyone — producers, the Academy and the Producers Guild of America — admitting something’s gotta give.

PGA exec director Vance Van Petten acknowledges the hot-button emotions involved (see accompanying letter). And he tells Variety, “We’re trying our very best to work hand-in-hand with the Academy to have absolutely identical rules and processes.”

Academy exec director Bruce Davis hints the 2-year-old nuptials between his org and the PGA needs serious marriage counseling.

“My thinking is that we need to straighten things out,” says Davis. “Either the two groups are going to have to synchronize their rules, or the Academy may have to go its own way.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences decided in 1999 that a maximum of three producers are eligible for a film. Since 2005, the Acad has used PGA research and guidelines in allocating credits.

But the PGA doesn’t have a cap on the number of producers honored for a film, and the Acad is recognizing only three of the five producers who accepted the PGA prize last month.

“If there are five people actually involved in producing a movie, there’s no reason why someone who’s made a good enough film to be nominated for an Academy Award should be precluded from being rewarded for the work they did,” says producer David Hoberman.

Lynda Obst, who has served on the Academy’s producers branch exec committee, disagrees.

“By and large, five people don’t make a movie,” she says. “If this is an exception, then it’s a sad situation. But you don’t destroy a rule for an exception.”

The “Sunshine” case marks the first real divergence between the PGA and the Acad since 2005, when the latter began relying on PGA recommendations to determine Oscar eligibility.

While the org has a three-person cap on producers, five screenwriters are nommed this year for both “Borat” and “Children of Men.”

Both the Acad and PGA admit some fine-tuning is needed, including convergence of a key discrepancy: The PGA and Acad have different rules regarding producing teams.

While the PGA acknowledges producing partners Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa as a single entity for “Sunshine,” the Acad doesn’t acknowledge teams, so it counts the duo as individuals. That factor is said to have weighed against them in the Acad’s decisionmaking process.

In 2005, the two bodies formed an official alliance and the Acad began relying on the PGA’s vetting processes and recommendations. Before that, the Acad arbitrated on its own, in many cases leaving it up to the producers to shave their own ranks down to three if there were four or more on a film.

That was the case on films including “Seabiscuit,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Aviator” and “Ray.”

The situation has become more complicated, however, now that the Acad officially relies on the PGA’s recommendations. And it’s more heated as producer credits have become a hot-button issue — witness Bob Yari’s legal wranglings over the 2005 “Crash” and Brad Grey’s appeals to both the PGA and the Academy for credit on “The Departed” this year.

Whether the two orgs can align their interests remains to be seen.

Obst points out another key difference: “The Academy has to deal with the Academy Awards, and that’s the difference,” she says. “The PGA is not televised.”

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