This year's awards gala, on Jan. 26, will celebrate a new distinction, the Producers Mark, which should allow some studios to avoid hangers-on and keep their credits honest-
(This story first appeared in the Feb.1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. It is reprinted with permission.)
To the average guy on the street, the letters PGA probably summon images of country clubs, fairways and putting greens. But the Producers Guild of America is determined to change that -- at least for those in the entertainment industry -- by giving new meaning to the lower-case letters p.g.a.
When "p.g.a.," known as the Producers Mark, shows up after a producer's name in credits, it signifies that the producer so designated actually did the work of producing the movie onscreen. The mark began appearing in film credits for the first time this fall on such titles as the Weinstein Co.'s Lawless and Silver Linings Playbook. By November, several studios -- Universal, Sony and Fox -- had agreed to adopt the practice. DreamWorks Animation came on board, and as the new year began, DreamWorks has joined as well. While the companies involved have agreed to participate in the process, the mark itself is added to a film only when an individual producer voluntary requests it and offers evidence of his work.
"We feel really good about it; we've reached a critical mass," says Vance Van Petten, national executive director of the PGA, which holds its annual awards dinner Jan. 26 in Beverly Hills. "The initial agreements took some time to negotiate, but now they seem to be coming rapidly one after the other."
The PGA, a trade organization representing more than 5,000 producers in film and TV, long as sought to raise the status of working producers by insisting that their contributions to a film receive proper credit. In the PGA's view, the widespread practice of rewarding everyone from financiers to business managers with producer credits has diluted the meaning of the term. Those producers who actually develop projects, spend time on set and then shepherd their finished films through marketing and into distribution have been looking for a way to restore the meaning of the title of producer.
To that end, in 2004, the PGA set up a Code of Credits, which outlines the roles that a producer plays on a movie. It's that code taht the PGA refers to when it decides which producers have done enough work on a project to claim credit on a fiml nominated for one of its PGA awards. Since 2005, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also has followed the PGA's lead and used its credit determinations to decide which producers are eligible to go onstage and claim an Academy Award for best picture should they win.
The Academy decided to get stricter about producing credits after Shakespeare in Love was named best picture in 1999 and five producers, including Harvey Weinstein, whose Miramax Films produced, crowded onto the state. Ironically, Weinstein has been among the first to adopt the Producers Mark on films released through his Weinstein Co.
"Harvey has really been a fabulous supporter from the get-go," says Van Petten. "He still feels like he was unfairly accused of starting the mess with Shakespeare in Love. But he's been in the forefront of supporting honest producing credits." Weinstein and brother Bob will be recognized at the PGA's awards dinner with its Milestone Award.
Going forward, Van Petten predicts that the Producers Mark -- championed by PGA president Mark Gordon and president-on-leave Hawk Koch -- "should become a commonplace practice within the industry."