The Producers Guild of America has remained a distinctive voice during the Hollywood awards season — often in favor of including popular mainstream movies that might be overlooked otherwise.
That tendency was clearly in evidence on Jan. 10 when the PGA nominated “Deadpool” for its Darryl F. Zanuck Award along with the expected high-brow contenders — “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and “Moonlight.”
Prizes will be handed out during the 28th annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony on Jan. 28 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Along with “Lion,” “Deadpool” was the biggest surprise among the nominees. The Ryan Reynolds action-comedy is by far the top grosser among the PGA nominees with $783 million worldwide on a $60 million budget.
Awards trackers theorize that producers are more likely to be impressed with strong box-office performance in honoring a film that won’t go on to receive a best picture nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That’s been the case before with four major box-office hits — in 2011, with the raucous comedy “Bridesmaids”; in 2012, with the James Bond movie “Skyfall”; in 2014, with the thriller “Gone Girl,” and in 2015, with the music biopic “Straight Outta Compton.”
Both the PGA and AMPAS expanded from five nominees to 10 in 2009, following an awards season with a similar scenario: the PGA nominated the blockbuster “The Dark Knight” for the Zanuck along with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” AMPAS nominated “The Reader” rather than “The Dark Knight” along with the other four.
The Academy revised its process in 2011 to nominate between five and 10 films, while the PGA has continued to set 10 contenders.
Despite the divergence on blockbusters, the Zanuck has become a strong indicator of Oscar sentiment in recent years, partly because it uses a balloting system that’s similar to the one used by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The PGA also looms large in the Oscars race because of its credits certification program. The PGA made reining in the volume of producer credits its signature issue in the final years of the 20th century, sparked by the 1998 Oscar ceremony, where five producers were credited for best-picture winner “Shakespeare in Love.”
The guild held its first credit arbitrations in 2001, promulgated the 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 as a guideline on best picture nominations.
The Producers Mark — a lower-case “p.g.a.” after a certified producer’s name — was first used on “Lawless” when it screened in May 2012. The Academy relies on the PGA determinations in its best picture nominations but is not bound by them. The PGA 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 producer functions — 35% for development, 20% for pre-production, 20% for production, and 25% for post-production and marketing. The PGA has certified approximately 150 films that were scheduled for a 2015 calendar release, 325 films that were scheduled for a 2016 calendar release, and 110 films that are currently scheduled for either a 2017 or 2018 calendar release. The process has become part and parcel of what producers do.
“It has become ubiquitous,” says Lori McCreary, PGA president. “It’s truly meaningful to sit in the theaters and see the Producers Mark on films.”