You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kudos spotlight PGA’s credits conundrum

It takes a lot of entitites to make a film, but not all of them are producers

The Producers Guild threw a lively party over the weekend and handed out its annual awards, but finding myself sharing a table with 10 producers triggered the inevitable question: Why does it always take 10 producers to produce a movie?

The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. Indeed, producers are fighting a war about the ludicrous proliferation of credits. It’s a worthy fight because a growing number of people are demanding credit for a shrinking number of movies.

Every movie begins with a succession of four or five company logos (why isn’t there an award for best logo?) followed by a long list of producers and executive producers. I can understand why an offbeat film like “The Help” needed co-financing (its credits look like a United Nations treaty) but even a genre thriller like “Contraband” billed eight producers plus logos for six production entities. (My personal favorite is Mark Walhberg’s Closest to the Hole Productions.)

The Producers Guild is starting to win its battle to single out those producers who actually perform production services on a film. Some studios have agreed to put the “PGA” mark adjacent to the names of those producers. I am sympathetic with this campaign: I personally have received production credit on five films, only two of which I actually worked on (I didn’t even request credit on the others).

The credit issue is tied to a broad problem: The diminished status of the producer in the filmmaking power pyramid. The great Sir Laurence Olivier complained in his memoir that his producer, Samuel Goldwyn, was constantly nattering at him over his performance in “Wuthering Heights’ and that he rarely heard from his director. A great producer like Hal Wallis not only had sole credit on his films but, on a picture like “True Grit’ (the first one) he supervised the cut instead of his director.

The decline of the producer began in the ’70s when obstreperous young filmmakers seized many of the responsibilities of producers. Most of the films that emerged from this epoch were low-budget — and most went over budget. Long forgotten is the fact that renegade producers like the late Burt Schneider fostered the best of those films — “Easy Rider” and “Five Easy Pieces,” for example.

It takes a range of packagers and financing entities to bring a film to life these days and they deserve credit for putting their bucks — and their butts — on the line. But do they all have to be producers?

One admirable trait among producers is that they know how to deliver a gracious acceptance speech. This is a dying skill, judging from the bizarre acceptances at the Golden Globes. The normally serene Meryl Streep mumbled a profanity, blew off her speech and claimed she’d lost her glasses. Octavia Spencer delivered her laundry list of agents and acolytes. Dustin Hoffman started thanking his wife and agent even though he was just a presenter. George Clooney, normally a master at this, was so generous to his friends and colleagues (and to the ubiquitous Brad Pitt) that it seemed as though he’d forgotten that he’d actually won something himself.

Part of the problem, of course, is that winners want to remind everyone that they know it’s just the Globes — it’s a big show but it’s not the main event. For that reason, it’s imperative to be at once grateful, yet humble — and that’s a major test for any superstar.

In a couple of weeks Tom Sherak, the president of the Academy, will deliver his annual speech at the Oscar nominees luncheon, where he will plead for concise, even eloquent, acceptance speeches. “This is your moment in the sun,” he will remind them. It is an opportunity to inspire young talent, to summarize lessons learned and traps avoided. It is a rare chance for actors and filmmakers to display the smarts that are obscured on the red carpet. There’s no need to rattle off lists of parents, press agents and proctologists.

Sherak himself will deliver a good speech. His admonitions will be ignored.

More Film

  • With PGA win, 'Green Book' is

    Oscars: With PGA Victory, 'Green Book' Becomes Best Picture Frontrunner

    Save for a pair of recent back-to-back discrepancies in “The Big Short” and “La La Land,” the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Theatrical Motion Pictures has been a fairly reliable barometer for the annual Oscar season outcome. At least, ever since both the PGA and film Academy expanded their top categories, sharing the [...]

  • Peter Farrelly30th Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    PGA Awards: 'Green Book' Wins Top Feature Film Award

    “Green Book” has won the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award as the top feature film of 2018. The 1960s drama-comedy topped “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite,”  “A Quiet Place,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born” and “Vice. “When you make ‘Dumb and Dumber’ you never expect to get an award,” [...]

  • Netflix HQ LA

    Andy Gruenberg, Veteran Film Executive, Dies at 68

    Veteran film executive Andy Gruenberg, who most recently oversaw theatrical distribution at Netflix, died suddenly on Friday. He was 68. Gruenberg worked on classic films like “Ghostbusters,” “Karate Kid” and “Silverado” while at Columbia Pictures in the 80s and 90s. He then moved to MGM where he served as exec VP of distribution. There he [...]

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. “Early this morning, Antonio (Tony) [...]

  • Glass Movie

    'Glass' to Rank in Top 3 MLK Debuts With $48 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is on its way to a solid debut with an estimated $48 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. A sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split,” the Universal superhero thriller should bring in around $41 million from 3,841 domestic locations over the Friday through Sunday period. The estimates are [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content