On October 12, 2010, the Producers Guild released an "open letter” from 145 of the industry’s most prominent motion picture producers, addressed to their studios, distributors and colleagues. The letter read: "As PRODUCERS, we hereby place our full support behind the PRODUCERS MARK, as endorsed by the Producers Guild. In doing so, we wish to stipulate that our names when credited as ‘Produced By’ in motion picture productions, be followed by the distinctive mark: p.g.a.”
Less than two years later, the first Producers Mark appeared on The Magic of Belle Isle; the certified producers were two PGA members, Lori McCreary and Alan Greisman, and one non-member, Rob Reiner. A few weeks later, the second film bearing the Producers Mark, Lawless, was released with two of the film’s four producers — Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher — certified with the p.g.a. As the year concluded, the Guild celebrated the first animated feature to receive the Mark, Rise of the Guardians, and the first certified Oscar nominee, Silver Linings Playbook.
There’s more where that came from.
Early this year, the Guild announced that three of the industry’s six major studios — Universal, 20th Century Fox and Sony (under its Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems banners) — had signed agreements with the Producers Guild to implement the Producers Mark on their releases. DreamWorks Pictures and DreamWorks Animation likewise signed. While not yet a signatory, The Weinstein Company has demonstrated its early support by implementing the Mark on Lawless; and Silver Linings Playbook. As this magazine prepares to go to press, the Guild is finalizing its agreement with Disney to implement the Producers Mark on their films.
Make no mistake: The Producers Mark is going to be a regular feature on movie screens going forward. As the first new screen credit in a generation, it’s important for readers of this magazine and members of the producing community to learn what the Producers Mark means, how it came to be, and most important: how to qualify for and receive the Producers Mark on their own credits.
This represents only the third time in this magazine’s 13-year history that we have not featured a "Case Study” interview as our cover story. We hate to break precedent, but it’s not every day that our Guild makes entertainment history. Within our editorial coverage, we’ve included testimonials from some of the Producers Mark’s most passionate supporters. The pride and excitement of those prominent producers reflects our own; we are overjoyed to share it with our readers and our industry.
Making The Mark
The road to the Producers Mark has been a long and winding one. Produced by editor Chris Green talked to PGA Presidents Mark Gordon and Hawk Koch (the latter on leave of absence from PGA duties) and National Executive Director Vance Van Petten to learn how the Producers Mark became a reality.
So, what’s the story behind the Producers Mark?
MARK: Really, the story starts at least 20 years ago. The AMPTP made a decision in their negotiation with the Writers Guild to move the producer’s screen credit from the second position to third, so that the writer’s credit contractually would appear just before the director. Traditionally, that had been where the producer’s credit went. Producers were very upset, I think, for two reasons: number one, we wanted to retain our position; and number two, there was no consideration as to how producers would feel about this. No one picked up the phone, even on an unofficial basis, to ask how this was going to go over within the producing community. So a lot of producers, myself included, gathered at a meeting at Dick Zanuck’s house.
HAWK: I was there.
MARK: Every important producer in town was there. I don’t know why the hell they invited me, but I was thrilled and honored to be there, and I really listened. There was a lot of anger, disappointment and ultimately, frustration. At the end of the day, producers were left asking, well, what can we do? And the answer, really, was nothing, because we weren’t organized. It was very painful.
HAWK: We all felt that we weren’t being taken seriously, that we were disrespected. After all, we knew what we brought to the industry. But though there wasn’t a concrete solution that came out of that meeting, it was important because it got the ball rolling. I wasn’t a PGA member at that time. Very few of us were.
MARK: I wasn’t. Not until years later.
HAWK: I’d been in the Directors Guild for a long time, and the DGA always looked out for its members. I didn’t feel like there was anybody looking out for the rights of producers, and I thought, "You know? This is something I’d like to do.” And so I joined and I was recruited to be Vice President. But within a very short amount of time, we realized that in order to accomplish anything, we needed not just a small cadre of producers who’d been doing it for a long time, but we needed fresh blood in the Producers Guild. Our Executive Director, Charles FitzSimons, was retiring, and I was part of finding and hiring Vance.
VANCE: After I took the job, I spoke to all of the Board members, all of the producers I could, really, and I asked them their number-one priority. And by a substantial margin, the answer was "credits.” We’re a more diverse membership now, so we have more priorities, but there was a mandate to address the credit problem from the very beginning.
HAWK: Once Vance came on board, we worked well together. I was very supportive of bringing Kathy [Kennedy] in as PGA President, and her mantra was about the need for job criteria. The only way anybody was going to understand what a producer does is if we listed all the criteria. A short time later, we all went up to Kathy’s house on a weekend, and literally sat down around a table and asked, "Alright, what do you do as a producer?” There was a TV section over here and a features section over there, and we talked everything out and wrote it all down. It was like the First Continental Congress of producing!
MARK: We had to make it clear from our perspective, from the Guild’s perspective, what a producer is and what it is that qualifies a person to receive a producer credit. So the first order of business was to create a code of credits. That was step one. Step two was to enforce that code at our own Awards, to be able to say that we at the Producers Guild believe that these are the people who truly produced our nominated features and TV shows, that this is what it takes to be a bona fide producer.
HAWK: Not long after, I was fortunate enough to be elected to the Board of the Motion Picture Academy. Kathy was on the Board; I think Larry Gordon was the other producer on the Board. And as we started to arbitrate our Producers Guild Awards, we saw naturally that if we could get the Academy to use our arbitration system, that would really give it some teeth. The executive committee of the Producers Branch of the Academy saw that the Producers Guild was doing a good job arbitrating and giving out awards only to the people who actually produced the movie, even though other people may have gotten producer credit. So eventually, the executive committee decided to use the PGA arbitration system to inform and guide the Producers Branch as to who they thought were the right people to be nominated for an award. We got a lot of traction through the Academy.
MARK: I think we felt emboldened to the place where we thought that if we can make the determination for the Academy, we should be able to arbitrate credits on screen. And so on both a formal and informal basis, we began having conversations with the studios. It became very clear to us that although we felt that we were right in what we wanted to accomplish, we were not going to be able to persuade the studios to allow us to determine who would get "Produced By” credit on a film.
HAWK: A number of prominent members — including Kathy, Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer, Dick Zanuck — came with us to meet with the studios. And although they were hesitant to say so in the room, at the end of the day, the studios’ answer was always no. It wasn’t gonna happen.
MARK: It was met with such universal rejection that we stopped for a moment and went back to the drawing board. A couple of years earlier, Vance had proposed an idea, which was effectively to put a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on producing credits. It would be some- thing like a trademark that would appear on screen to distinguish between the producers who really did the work versus producers who were given the credit but did not qualify, based on our standards, as bona fide producers of the movie.
VANCE: It was clear that the studios were not going to give us control of the "Produced By” credit. So what we needed was something that we did control. A certification mark could be "trademarked” and controlled by the Guild, and licensed out to distributors or copyright owners for use in screen credits.
HAWK: Mark and I were elected as Guild Presidents in 2010. Not long after, Vance came back to us with the idea for the Mark. Studios could control the credit. But only the person who did the work could get the Mark. Mark Gordon and I realized, wow, this is a way we can do it. We saw the light, and we started to use our contacts in the business to try and make it happen.
VANCE: Early on, we determined that the Mark should be the initials of the Guild, but rendered in a way that was distinct from our logo. Clint Eastwood was actually a pivotal voice in those early talks; he persuaded us that the Mark shouldn’t indicate "membership in the club,” but should apply to every producer who did the work, regardless of whether or not she or he was a Guild member. So that was how we arrived at the lowercase p.g.a. The biggest hurdle after that was making sure that there wasn’t a conflict with the Professional Golfers Association. But we’ve always gotten along very well with the "other” PGA.
MARK: There was a lot of conversation about how people would feel about the Mark following their name. It was something that the community had seen with the ASC, the ACE, the CSA, and so on, but those were membership designations, indicating that a person belonged to an organization. The Producers Mark was different — it was specific to an individual film, and would indicate the nature of the work performed on the picture, not what group you were a member of.
VANCE: In fact, the biggest reason that our members didn’t embrace a certification mark 10 years ago was the worry about how a producing credit would look with those initials after the name. Maybe the biggest change we’ve seen in the last decade is that the PGA really has become an organization that more people are actively proud to be a part of. Those letters after your name are now a positive, something you’re proud to be affiliated with and certified by.
So how did it all come together? I remember the work that went into putting together the "open letter” that pretty much every major film producer signed on to.
HAWK: Honestly, I just picked up the phone and started calling everybody. I walked them through it, I read the letter to them and said, "I need your name on the list.” I personally talked to a majority of those people on that letter, and I told them, you’ve got to do this. You are a producer and you gotta do it for your profession, and for the producers coming down the road.
Did the producers grasp what the Mark was trying to do?
HAWK: Absolutely! They got it. They were asking me, "Do you think this can help?” They were all struggling with how nobody wanted to listen to them. And I said, "This is the way we can make this happen.” We sent the letter to every studio, to every executive at the studios. We put it in the trades. And then Mark and I went to work, behind the scenes, at all the studios.
MARK: It helped that our proposal was not asking to change who studios would be willing or not willing to give producer credits to. By the way, one of the things that was also heartening for us is that even though we weren’t able to get the studios to allow us arbitrate screen credits, over the last five or six years, studios have cracked down very aggressively on "Produced By” credits. They do not give out those credits with the frequency that they used to. That is a direct result of the aggressive work that the Guild has been doing for the past 10 years in arbitrating eligibility for the awards shows, and our "Campaign for Fair Credits,” which was led by Marshall Herskovitz. We had already seen the positive result of our work, and we had already come quite a long way, but now we wanted to put the finishing touches on it to say, "These producers really did their work.”
HAWK: This proposal had meat to it. The studio still could give credit to another producer who had negotiated it. They just weren’t going to get the Mark if they didn’t do the work. If you do the work, you get the Mark!
MARK: We went to every studio, and we went again and again and again, and it was not easy.
VANCE: There were all kinds of obstacles. One studio actually requested that we obtain a Business Review Letter from the Department of Justice, confirming that there would be no anti-trust concerns as a result of the Producers Mark. This is not an easy thing to accomplish. At the time we submitted our request, in the summer of 2011, the Obama administration had only issued five such letters — just five letters over 2 1⁄2 years. But we succeeded. And not only did the Department of Justice confirm that there would be no anti-trust implications to the Producers Mark, they stated an opinion that the adoption of the Mark would be a positive development for the industry and for the public. An ironic postscript: the studio that requested that we obtain this letter still hasn’t signed on to support the Mark.
MARK: But we also found champions in the community. It was a very brave thing for these guys to do. No one likes change. No one likes to commit to something that takes their time and reduces some flexibility. But three studios signed agreements to certify their producing credits with the Producers Mark, starting with Ron Meyer at Universal, and then Michael Lynton at Sony; the third studio to come in was Fox, thanks to Jim Gianopulos. They agreed to do this because they felt that this was the right thing to do — that it was fair, it was appropriate, and that it should be clear who really did the work of producing a film. Because the job of the producer has so many functions, screen credits can be misleading. Producers credited onscreen can be everything from someone that just wrote a check, to someone’s manager, to the actual person who developed the script and saw it all the way through from beginning to end. Without the Mark, those people on the screen all look the same, so to be able to distinguish between those names is a very, very powerful thing.
HAWK: Putting up money is not producing a movie, that’s an important thing to say. Financing a movie is not the same as producing a movie. You want to know what a producer does? Look at our Code of Credits. Look at our criteria. If you do a majority of those things, you qualify for the Producers Mark.
So what’s the next step? How will the Guild encourage producers to request the Mark?
HAWK: I think that like everything else, it starts small and it starts to happen. As movies start to come out and that Mark is on it, the other producers say, "I want that Mark on my movie, because I’m a producer!” It starts to snowball. What should happen now is that every producer, no matter if you’re doing a little movie or a big movie, should insist on the Mark.
Do you remember the first time you saw the Mark on a film?
HAWK: The first time I saw the Mark was on Lawless, after Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher’s names. I was so proud. We’ve made a difference in the lives of real producers. I’m as proud of this as just about anything I’ve ever done.
MARK: This was a very, very important issue for Hawk and me. We went about this with the fervor of getting a movie done, which is: We cannot fail. We will not fail. We must accomplish this. We will not take no for an answer. Fortunately, we had some terrific men at these studios who were willing to change our culture. It was a very wonderful and heartening thing in this day and age, when everything is so business-oriented and corporate. But these guys did stand up and say, "This is the right thing to do. We are going to stand with you.” These men made it happen and our debt to them is enormous.
HAWK: Over the whole process, my only regret is giving up that argument over what the certification should be called. This thing could have been "the Producers Hawk.”
MARK: Nice try, pal.
How Do I Get the Producers Mark
by Nikki Livolsi
When the Guild first proposed that we could provide a mechanism for arbitrating producing credits, the industry was skeptical. The Guild was told that it would never be able to get producers to fairly arbitrate and evaluate their peers’ contributions. As PGA National Executive Director Vance Van Petten observed, "[The industry] thought that producers were too independent and self-interested. What none of the naysayers took into account was the growing outrage within the producing community surround- ing deceptive credits. Producers may be fiercely independent, but they readily recognized that this was a collective problem that required a collective solution.”
Here we are, more than 10 years later, and the determination process has not only survived, but thrived. First utilized for the 2001 Producers Guild Awards, the eligibility process was created to determine which producers on a film should receive producing honors for their work on a motion picture. Through the years, this process has been revised, fine-tuned and made applicable not only for awards consideration, but has been extended to determine which producers on a film are eligible to be certified via the Producers Mark.
Over the years, this process has gained such credibility that several major studios have agreed to submit every one of their releases for Producers Mark certification. Those companies include 20th Century Fox Studios, Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, DreamWorks Studios and DreamWorks Animation. The Guild is currently in negotiations with the industry’s other major studios and companies. We’d like to take this opportunity to lead you step-by-step through the determination process as it applies to motion pictures that are submitted for Producers Mark certification.
The process begins at the start of post-production on a motion picture, when a studio or production company decides to submit one of its productions for Producers Mark certification. This decision is communicated to the PGA by submission of the "Notice of Producing Credits,” a two-page form listing names, titles and contact information for all major creative and executive contributors to the project. The studio or production company in charge of submission of the Notice of Producing Credits Form must also submit the film’s proposed or actual Onscreen Credits list, as well as the Crew Member Contact list. Companies are encouraged to utilize the easy-to-use, online Notice of Producing Credits Form via www.producersmark.org. Once that Form and the attachments are received, the serious work begins.
After the Notice of Producing Credits is received, the PGA emails Eligibility Forms to all eligible producers. For motion pictures, only those who have received the "Produced By” credit are eligible. The Eligibility Form itself is the most essential component of the process. Three pages long, it lists the many varied duties of a producer, from development through pre-production, physical production and finally, post-production and marketing.
The Eligibility Form is literally the result of years of research into standard industry and production practices, based on input from hundreds of producers. As any reader of this magazine knows, the job of the producer is fundamentally multifaceted. The Eligibility Form captures a full and comprehensive range of a producer’s potential duties; for each of those duties, the eligible producer is requested to indicate her/his level of responsibility — minimal, substantial or final. The Form also includes "free response” questions, inviting the producer to describe the nature of her or his involvement with the project.
As Eligibility Forms are distributed to the credited producers, Third-Party Verification Forms are sent to non-producorial contributors to the project — the writer(s), director, casting director, costume and production designers, director of photography, UPM, production supervisor,assistant director, associate producer(s), production manager, visual effects supervisor (if applicable), editor, composer, and post-production supervisor. These forms are far simpler, and merely ask the respondent to indicate which of the eligible producers they interacted with over the course of their work. At no time are studio executives invited or required to be a part of the process; apart from the initial submission of the Notice of Producing Credits, the entire undertaking takes place wholly outside the studio auspices.
All Eligibility Forms and Third-Party Verification Forms are kept strictly confidential. The success of the process is absolutely dependent on the respondents’ willingness to be candid in their testimony, and the only way to promote such candidness is to maintain the strictest confidentiality in every case. All completed forms are sent directly to the PGA, and go immediately into the production’s file. In the rare event that they are shared, it is only in confidence with other reputable organizations for the sole purpose of making award eligibility determinations.
It takes a lot of work to assemble this documentation. Most producers are busy enough on their current projects that they’d understandably rather not take the time to complete several pages of additional paperwork. As a result, getting the completed forms back often takes a few polite, persistent reminders.
Once the documentation is assembled, a date is set for the determination panel. Such panels typically consist of three experienced producers (though never less than two), each with numerous credits in the genre of the production in question. Those three producers are drawn from a lengthy list of potential panelists. Prior to the commencement of the arbitration, all eligible producers are sent that list, and have the opportunity to strike any name, for any good faith reason, if a producer feels that a panelist might demonstrate bias. So while producers whose projects are being arbitrated don’t know the names of the panelists conducting the arbitration, they are assured that any panelist who might display a conflict of interest will not be a part of the proceeding.
The determination proceeding itself is completely confidential. Over the course of the determination, panelists examine and debate sensitive questions that will determine producers’ eligibility. Apart from the PGA Administrator(s) offering summaries and clarifications on the rules, no one apart from the panelists is present during the proceedings.
Once the panelists have arrived at a clear understanding of every producer’s contributions to the project, it’s their job to weigh those contributions according to the guidelines laid out by the PGA. In motion pictures, the Guild suggests that contributions to the development of the project are weighted at 35%; pre-production is weighted at 20%; physical production 20%; and post-production and marketing are, collectively, weighted at 25%.
The rationale for this weighted system is simple. Because the producer’s job is so wide-ranging and has become increasingly complex over the past 10–15 years, it’s unrealistic to expect a producer to have final responsibility over every producing function listed on the Eligibility Form. In order to qualify for Producers Mark certification, a producer must demonstrate responsibility for a majority (more than 50%) of the functions. Thus, a producer who was deeply involved in development (35%) and pre-production (20%), not involved in physical production, and partially involved in post-production or marketing (some portion of 25%), would be certified. Conversely, a producer with no involvement in development, heavy involvement in pre- production (20%) and physical production (20%), but no further involvement following principal photography, would not qualify, as the producer’s demonstrated responsibilities only totaled 40% of the overall producing functions.
In terms of assessing the level of contribution within a given phase, it’s important to note that not all job functions are weighted equally. Hiring the director, for instance, will nearly always carry more weight than participating in location scouting. A producer who hired and consulted with the visual effects team will be considered differently if the project in question was an effects-heavy studio tent pole release as opposed to a smaller independent feature with sparing use of visual effects. In all cases, the arbiters rely on their considerable experience and perspective to arrive at a decision appropriate to the individual project.
After a panel’s decisions are handed down and distributed to the participating producers, aggrieved parties may file an appeal with the PGA, suggesting that the panel was not in possession of important information that would have changed the outcome, or was in some manner derelict in its duty. After collecting any additional information, the PGA Administrator will convene an appeal panel, including one panelist from the original panel and two new panelists, who will approach the issue with fresh eyes. The panel first determines whether or not the grounds for an appeal are valid. If not, the prior panel’s decision is re- instated. If there are legitimate grounds for the appeal, the panel will review all documentation in light of any new information, and render a new decision. After an appeal decision is handed down — either re-instating the initial panel’s decision or offering a new list of certified producers — there is no further recourse.
That’s all folks — the story of the Producers Mark determination process made easy. It is the most accurate and successful system to date to determine which producers actually performed a majority of the producing functions on a project.
Nikki Livolsi serves as Director of Legal Affairs & Arbitrations for the Producers Guild.
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