As they prepare for this season’s 33rd annual Producers Guild of America Awards on March 19, PGA presidents Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher are taking stock in the chaotic years they and the guild just navigated and look ahead at what’s to come.

“Producers have prevailed!” says Fisher. “Despite difficulties and hardships our industry has faced, despite COVID and the boomerang effect we all felt with starting and stopping productions, high-quality entertainment got made and viewers around the world were happy to once again be able to enjoy new entertainment and were left wanting more.”

Berman is excited to return to an in-person ceremony at the Fairmont Century Plaza, after last year’s virtual affair in light of the pandemic.

“We, along with many in the industry, are excited to be able to come back [safely] and be together in person with our exceptional nominees and honorees,” says Berman. She says many of them have mentioned that celebrating together with their peers will be a highlight for them.

Along with honoring the work of the past year, the PGA will also present its 2022 signature honors, which had been skipped in 2021, to reflect broader achievements over the years and careers of the honorees. The 2022 honorees include Issa Rae (the Visionary Award), George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy (the Milestone Award), Greg Berlanti (the Norman Lear Achievement Award), Rita Moreno (the Stanley Kramer Award) and Mary Parent (the David O. Selznick Achievement Award).

While the general public might not know many of the names behind the scenes, this awards ceremony isn’t designed for them.

“The lifeblood of our show and what distinguishes it from so many others, is that it is based on producers recognizing their fellow producers,” says Fisher. “No one knows better than their peers how difficult it is to develop anything and get it made and seen.”

While the show has returned to an in-person ceremony, the reach and ability to include participants around the world means that the virtual component isn’t going anywhere.

“Last year we streamed our show for the first time, and we will be live-streaming our in-person show again for all members,” says Berman. “The PGA Awards are peer-to-peer and more casual, upbeat, with an emphasis on celebrating the work of the nominated shows and movies and the honoree’s body of work over time, and less about having to perform for a television audience. It is like drinks with friends.”

The massive work of coordinating the awards and the ceremony couldn’t happen without a determined and talented team in place. Berman and Fisher point to event co-chairs Chris Thomes and Melvin Mar, as well as awards show executive producer Branden Chapman and co-executive producer Carleen Cappelletti, who are both returning for their 12th year and helping to ensure the show will be safe as well as entertaining.

During the pandemic, producers found themselves tasked not only with making a production happen, but happen safely.

“As we all know by now, COVID protocols are a strain on budgets across the board no matter what you are producing,” says Berman. “We want to celebrate the persistence, entrepreneurial doggedness and endless creativity of the producers who were able to get these fantastic, varied movies, from large studio films to independent productions, made, even at insurmountable odds.”

Aside from the awards show, helping producers navigate the pandemic has been a primary goal of the PGA, especially as the guild has seen historic growth in its ranks, reaching an all-time high of more than 8,400 active members.

“For us, member support has been top of mind for the last two years — out of the gate we established the PGA Members Relief Fund to provide financial relief to qualifying members,” says Berman. “And as the situation progressed and productions started up again, we oversaw the Hire PGA initiative to help members get back to work.”

Early on in the pandemic, the PGA formed a task force led by president emeritus Lori McCreary that published a comprehensive safety guide for producers titled “COVID Safety Protocols for Producing Independent Productions.”

The convergence of COVID with advances in technology and connectivity led the PGA to innovate and expand on services previously limited to the number of people that could fit into one space.

“A popular change with membership has been the virtualization of our ongoing community events and panels,” says Fisher. “We were able to expand this even more with additional virtual engagements for members as well as the general public, such as the Producers on Producing speaker series.”

Another continuing focus of the PGA is on expanding the opportunities and benefits available to everyone, especially to those who find themselves on the outside looking in.

“Gail and I began our term as presidents with the core goal of advancing diversity and equity at the guild and within the producing profession,” says Fisher. “Producing as a whole needs to do better in this area and along with key support of chairs and guild staff, we were able to make many key advancements in our efforts.”

Fisher points to the PGA’s One Guild Steering Group, an umbrella initiative established in 2018 to address the specific needs of underrepresented and underserved producers by strategically focusing on the guild’s internal efforts and external collaborations to increase and foster membership, guild leadership, employment and to encourage authentic depictions on screen.

“A key example is PGA Create, launched last fall, which is an immersive program for emerging and mid-career creative producers from backgrounds underrepresented in the industry,” says Berman, adding this is part of the One Guild Initiative.

“The inaugural cohort of 10 producers or producing teams met over four days in October. Since the program’s completion, four of the producers from the program have since become members of the guild, underscoring the importance of establishing programs that assist the guild in creating pathways and opportunities into the organization.”

Berman adds that Google has come aboard as the lead sponsor of the PGA Create program.

Along with steering through the pandemic and working to improve diversity and inclusion, the PGA is also keenly aware of the threats to its members, the industry and its audiences posed by climate change, and are looking to address those concerns with the PGA Green Initiative.

“PGA Green was founded in 2008 by Mari Jo Winkler, Lydia Dean Pilcher and Katie Carpenter as part of the guild’s commitment to actively promote sustainability in the entertainment industry,” says Fisher. She is describing the initiative’s partnership with the Sustainable Production Alliance to create GreenProductionGuide.com, a website that includes best practices checklists, a carbon calculator, an international vendor guide, and educational materials including case studies, industry reports and news.

At this year’s United Nations’ COP26 summit, the PGA called on the industry to accelerate the investment in and implementation of clean energy infrastructure and electrification of transportation to reduce carbon emissions by 50% on productions by 2030.

Ahead of this year’s PGA Awards, Fisher and Berman see the organization as vital to adapting to the many changes ahead.

“More than anything, the guild continues to adapt and change to better support members in a rapidly shifting industry, says Berman.

“Adjusting focus and priorities quickly to respond to world-changing events has been key for us during our tenure,” adds Fisher. “And the lessons learned and the stepping stones we have set we feel will continue to guide the guild in the future.”