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Producers Wade Into Uncharted Territory at Guild Awards

This year’s Producers Guild Awards has already made history, thanks to a record number of nominees for the coveted Darryl F. Zanuck movie award. For the first time, 11 films made the final ballot.

The reason is prosaic — there was a tie during the nomination process — but the uncharted nature of the final vote fits the uncertain times in Hollywood.

Producers gathering Jan. 20 at the Beverly Hilton for the guild’s annual awards ceremony will both toast excellence and grapple with ways to address challenges ahead due to a widening sexual harassment scandal, the big six studios shrinking by one and a dismal summer box office.

Movies ranging from indie “Lady Bird” and “Call Me by Your Name” will vie against studio blockbusters “Dunkirk” and “Wonder Woman” for the Zanuck award, while TV shows including “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” will compete for top honors in their respective categories. The guild will also pay tribute to members with annual milestone and visionary awards, among others.

Guild leaders acknowledge the challenges ahead for its 8,200 members and the industry in general.

The PGA expelled long-time producer-studio executive Harvey Weinstein in October after a wave of sexual harassment and assault charges, and is about to issue results from its Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force, which is specifically charged with researching and proposing “substantive and effective” solutions to sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.

“We are taking this very seriously,” says PGA co-president Lori McCreary. “The people on the task force are from all areas of the industry and are working very hard. We’ll be issuing the guidelines soon.”

Co-president Gary Lucchesi says that it’s a crucial move because of the central role of producers.

“Producers really do set the tone on sets,” he adds. “I do think that if something wrong happened now, many of our members would step in.”

The duo, who are completing their fourth year as co-presidents, also issued a forceful statement in the current issue of the PGA member magazine with the headline “It Stops Here. It Stops Now. It Stops with Producers.”

“We can try to find ways to soften the impact of this statement, mentally re-categorizing him as ‘mostly an executive’ or ‘mostly a distributor,’ ” the statement begins. “It doesn’t change the fact that whenever Harvey’s name appeared onscreen, it was next to a producing credit and he was, until recently, a member of the Producers Guild.”

The statement goes on to acknowledge that sexual harassment is not only endemic in the industry, but “for much of its existence, our community widely tolerated harassment. This tolerance took many forms,” it continues, listing various ways people rationalized the behavior. “2017 will be known as the year we dropped those justifications.”

Calling harassment one of the most important issues the guild has ever faced, the manifesto vowed determined leadership of the guild to “change our professional culture for the better.”

Lucchesi and McCreary say that PGA members have strongly supported that stance, even as they also scramble to keep up with the blizzard of other changes hitting Hollywood, such as Disney buying most of the Fox assets.

“One less buyer is always a problem for producers, but the explosion of content and the methods for distribution are making this a very exciting time for producers,” McCreary says. “Because content keeps getting better and better.”

Lucchesi agrees, noting that it’s important for the PGA leaders to stay ahead of the curve.

“I’m older now, in my 60s, so I’ve seen a lot of change so there’s a phrase that I keep in mind; I don’t believe that an old man’s pessimism should be equal to a young man’s optimism,” he says. “And there’s so much content now and the appetite for that content is not abating.”

The duo are particularly pleased with the growth in regional branches, popularity of the Produced By conferences and the widespread use of the 6-year-old PGA certification, consisting of a lower-case “p.g.a.”

“IMDB Pro is now showing the PGA certification so it’s really mainstreamed,” Lucchesi notes.

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