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The Networker Blog is the internal publication of the Producers Guild. In it, members will find information about Guild benefits, programs and initiatives, career advice, member spotlights, and extensive coverage of major Guild events, seminars and screenings.


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The PGA walks for Laura Ziskin

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PGA Executive Director Vance Van Petten, Ms. Ziskin’s husband Alvin Sargent, PGA President Hawk Koch
Photo Credit: Vicente Williams

The PGA walks for Laura Ziskin  
By Leonard Koss 

On March 3rd, members of the PGA, along with some of their canine companions, traveled the perimeter of Rancho Park in a 5K Walk-a-Thon to honor the memory of the late producer Laura Ziskin. People and pups alike (the Guild indeed has "gone to the dogs”) enjoyed the beautiful SoCal morning, with abundant networking (and sniffing) in evidence. The successful event was created in an effort to raise money and awareness for both "Stand Up 2 Cancer” and the PGA Foundation.

March 3rd was the actual birthday of Laura Ziskin. Prior to the walk, PGA Executive Director Vance Van Petten lead the group of over 100 in a heartfelt rendition of "Happy Birthday.” Ms. Ziskin, who succumbed to cancer in June of 2011, was the co-founder of "Stand up To Cancer,” and the walk was a tribute both to her humanitarian efforts on behalf of the initiative, and to her long and distinguished producing career.

PGA members and guests are excited to hit the road.
Photo Credit: Vicente Williams
Many dedicated people made this event the success it was. We’d like to thank Events Committee chair Vicente Williams and Committee member Maureen Dooling who spearheaded the occasion. Further thanks go to committee members Leonard Koss, Daniel Mondschain, Michelle Holt, Karyn Benkendorfer and Rannveig Krokdal. Much appreciation to PGA Green committee member Norman Marcus for setting up recycling bins around the park. And we couldn’t have done it without the extraordinary efforts of the PGA's Director of member Services Kyle Katz. Also, kudos to the wonderful volunteers from Stand Up 2 Cancer, including Madeline Marotto, Rusty Robertson, Mary Pomerantz, and Alexa Konstand. Also, a big shout-out to Michael Kichaven and Doughboys Café & Bakery for donating the yummy baked goods, including their signature Red Velvet cakes and to Heather Stone from Coconut Water for their refreshing beverages.

Finally, the Producers Guild would like to thank all the PGA members and families who attended in support and made contributions to Stand Up to Cancer and the PGA foundation. 

For more pictures on our Facebook page, click here 


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Featured Member: Robert Klinger

Posted By Will Bryan, Thursday, March 8, 2012

Robert Klinger
Featured Member: Robert Klinger
From Contributing Member Elaine Spooner

Charlie Chaplin. I was always clowning around as a child and Chaplin was my idol. When I realized that he lived a life of luxury in beautiful mansions, with a string of hot wives. I thought, "The only difference between my clowning and his is that he got paid.”

I got paid $50 to perform stand-up comedy at a bar in Ft. Lauderdale. The place was filled with bitter middle-aged people lamenting their woes and they were not in the mood for levity.

I was working under other producers and often found myself wondering why they were the boss of me and not the other way around.

I tried to join at one point but didn’t have the credits. So I just kept working and a friend on one job (Chris Thomes, who was my boss on last year’s Oscars) recommended I join. By then I qualified and he even sponsored me.

The PGA International Committee’s main purpose is to serve as a window to and from our colleagues across national borders. The best way to do that is to increase the visibility of the PGA and Producers Guild Awards worldwide, to facilitate international networking and co-production opportunities for members and to help find and maximize international tax incentives and other production resources. I’ve only been to a few meetings so far, but we’re hoping to release a poll soon to determine what specific areas PGA members would like us to focus on most.

In addition to producing ABC’s and other sites, I’m putting together a slate of films with the requirement that any project must be sensibly budgeted and eminently commercial. It just seems silly to me that there’s so much cash – worldwide – that companies and individuals are sitting on. I just need to convince enough of them that making movies is a more sensible thing to do with that money than sitting on it or making investment decisions from a fear position. I’m also producing a short video for Beachwood Canyon’s Hollywood Orchard.

A Song and a Prayer, the feature film I was involved with. My big take-away from that was to spend the money to have at least one known actor in your film. You can have amazingly talented people in your project (which we did) but you need a cast that will help sell the piece. My other favorite project was Importex, a bi-lingual comedy pilot we shot in Miami. Going back to my hometown to produce a project was an exciting experience.  I call L.A. the city of false starts because seemingly perfect opportunities present themselves and then nothing happens. But by the same token, something will come your way that you think nothing of and it turns out to be a really great experience.

Tags:  Featured Member  new media  PGA West 

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Inside Jobs: Humor in Production

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 2, 2012

Inside Jobs:Humor in Production 
By Nancy Goldman, Ed.D. 

Producing entertainment is not always entertaining. The hours are long, personalities can be difficult, and time or money (often both) is limited. But help is available! And it costs nothing, is easy to carry and if used properly, can yield great rewards. I’m talking about humor. Humor is a tool that can be used to many ends: it diffuses stress, helps us adapt to change, reframes problems, smoothes conflicts and brings people together. Because of its many uses, humor is the Swiss army knife of production. 

Producer Michael Bridenstine has found that humor is a shortcut to creating community on set. He noted, "When you’re laughing with someone, you have something in common with them.” John Morreall, author of Humor Works, describes laughter as a social lubricant, noting, "Sharing humor builds morale, camaraderie, and team-spirit.” Teamwork is crucial to producing. As Bridenstine observes, "If you don’t have people together, you can’t move forward.” 

Creating commonalities can be especially useful when considering the diversity often found among crew members. Producer Jill Demby recalls an occasion when members of her production team were Vietnamese, Chinese and Persian. "The Persian [colleague] came from a big Persian family and she joked about being Persian. This gave me a window into her life.” Humor can spotlight our similarities and minimize our differences. If used effectively, it can make others feel included. One way to do this is to rely more on the utility of self-deprecation rather than outwardly-directed jokes. Allen Klein, author of The Healing Power of Humor suggests a good rule of thumb is to make sure humor is appropriate, timely and tasteful. 

Producer Jill Demby
Humor can also be used to keep spirits up on set. Production can demand of lot of rushing around followed by a lot of waiting around. Producer Carrie Certa believes that part of her job is to keep morale high. So she created her "happy dance.” "When I was producing shorts I had 175 people working for free,” she recalls. "I felt I had to give something back. I did that by keeping them entertained. When the energy on set dropped, I did my happy dance and it would help them get happy.” Humor is, after all, a form of play. As Demby says, "You may think it’s not a fun situation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it.” 

 However, Certa warns, producers must tread a fine line to ensure humor does not get out of control or send the production off-course. For instance, through trial and error she has learned that it’s better to start out being strict on set and then get lighthearted rather than the other way around. This establishes the tone that business comes before play. 

 Also, since most sets and small production companies don’t have human resource departments, it’s critical that communication, especially humor, is self-managed. Telling jokes that are off-color or offensive is one way in which humor can backfire. Certa recounted, "When people tell dirty jokes, I playfully say ‘All right, you gotta pull it back.’ Then they move on. Or I talk to people one on one. " There are other ways that humor can backfire. Bridenstine confesses that he may have lost gigs or had jobs shortened because he attempted humor that was ill-received or misinterpreted. "I have had a lot of misunderstandings and gotten looks,” he concedes. "[Humor] can get out of people’s hands easily. It can hurt people.” The key, he offers, is to understand your audience, which is a good rule to apply for just about every aspect of producing.

Tags:  Inside Jobs 

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Featured Member: Sophia Kim

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sophia Kim
Featured Member: Sophia Kim
From Contributing Member: Elaine Spooner


I've always been an avid fan of entertainment.  While growing up in Chicago, I watched tons of television and loved going to the movies.  My philosophy has always been ‘love what you do’ and ‘work at what you enjoy.”  Therefore, I always knew I would somehow be involved in media and entertainment as a career.  


My first job in digital media was working as an AP on multimedia titles for clients like McDonald’s. Even before the Internet became mainstream, we produced on multiple platforms. Now that’s become the norm.


I was fortunate and got a little lucky when I was asked to join a local production team as an AP in Chicago where I happened to be based at the time.  It turned out to be part of a broader multimedia project which started my career in digital media. 


Over the years, I’ve become more involved in the PGA and now I’m currently on the board of PGA’s New Media Council, Vice-Chair of PGA Northwest and Chair of NW’s Screening Committee.  We’re a small but growing group of producers in Northwest.  In the Bay Area in particular, we have a lot of great talent in new media especially broadband, mobile and gaming.  It’s a very diverse group.


I’m currently CEO of Xtranormal (, a digital storytelling company, that allows anyone to create a 3D movie in a few minutes.  With Xtranormal, you can pick a set, pick actors, type a story and instantly create a 3D animated movie.  You can use voiceovers to customize your story or use our text to speech technology to automate the voices. Over 10 million stories have already been created using Xtranormal by amateurs and professionals including Universal, MTV, The New York Times and Microsoft. It’s exciting to be  part of a revolution in which people are using technology to create, watch and share their stories across platforms.  

I’m also involved with ‘The Secret Society of Women’ which I started with TV journalist Lisa Ling.  It’s an anonymous social media community for women that’s free to join and participate.  We’re currently in a development deal with a major cable network to explore turning the site into a TV show.  It’s a great integration of traditional and new media.  


Most digital media projects are challenging but for different reasons. I learned early on that creating content online was totally different from traditional film and television.  The audiences are also often different and how they consume and interact with content is different online.  When it comes to digital content creation, there is a small set of people who create, but a large number of participants who watch.  These ‘voyeurs’ encourage the creation of other content and help make content viral.  The challenge is to figure out how to get more people to create and watch and ultimately come back and participate again.” The key is to make it easy for people to create and participate.  We’re constantly experimenting with different formats, innovative techniques and dynamic participation methods to see what works and what doesn’t.

I also worked on some memorable non-digital projects.  Early in my career, we had to film a summer car drive through scene in the middle of winter in Chicago.  We wanted to get the scene shot quickly and under budget so opted not to have it shot in another city (warmer weather) thinking it would save on time and budget.  It turned out to be one of the coldest winters in Chicago history so every time an actor said a line, the cold air would create a frost effect not to mention we could hear the actors teeth chattering in every take.  We ended up having to set up a tent around the entire drive thru and bring in portable heating lamps, extra lighting and heating pads for the cast & crew.  What did I learn?  It would have cost us less to fly the entire team to LA and warmer weather than try to create a fake summer in the middle of a Chicago winter.  Always have a backup plan and never anticipate things will go smoothly.  Something unexpected will always happen.

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PGA Employment Committee presents CARD SWAP

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 9, 2012

Frenzied card swapping at Technicolor
PGA Employment Committee presents CARD SWAP
By Beverley Ward & Richie MacDonald

Dear Members, 

We’re happy to report that we’ve had a very successful end of 2011 and beginning of 2012.

November saw the launch of the Employment Committee’s latest venture: CARD SWAP. It’s a networking event targeted to specific parts of the PGA membership and held at unusual and thought-provoking locations to help get the conversation started.

The first Card Swap brought together our logistical PGA members (line producers, associate producers, production managers, coordinators and supervisors.) It was held at the Roberts & Tilton Art Gallery in Culver City – at the time featuring the works of influential LA artist Bettye Saar. A special thanks to gallery owners Julie and Bennett Roberts and gallery director Lindsay Charlwood, who gave us an informative tour of the exhibit.

Card swap at Roberts & Tilton Art Gallery
The next Card Swap was held in January at the new Technicolor Sound facility at Paramount Studios. This event invited the PGA’s post-production members. Special thanks go to Technicolor’s Mark Kaplan and Tricia Linklater for welcoming us with a tour of the state-of-the-art facility.

Everyone stayed long after the tour to network with fellow PGA members.  PGA Board member Megan Mascena-Gaspar reported, "Everyone I spoke with felt it was a good balance between facility tour and networking opportunity.  AND everything ran smoothly. A stellar event!” 

The Employment Committee is committed to finding new ways to help our membership find work, but we are still best known for our Job Forums.

The latest – the Episodic Job Forum – held January 14th – brought more than 90 PGA members together with ten top employers.

We’d like to thank Sunset Bronson Studios for once again providing the location – and we’d also like to extend a very special thanks to all the employers below who gave up their Saturday morning to come and support the PGA and its members.

  • Johnna Bond, Executive Asst. (ABC Family series) - Disney ABC Networks Group
  • Mark Grossan, Producer - Independent
  • Brian Harvey, Senior Vice President of Television Drama - The Mark Gordon Company
  • Joel Hornstock, Sr. VP Television Production – 20th Century Fox Television
  • Chris Lindsay, Director of Post Production - Warner Bros. Television
  • Phil Neel, Post Producer/Film Editor -  David E. Kelley Productions
  • Ken Ornstein, Producer/UPM - Independent
  • Ben Roberts, Vice President, Development - Valhalla Motion Pictures
  • Jimmy Sprague, Producer - Science 2 Fiction Productions
  • Beatrice Springborn, Executive Vice President, Production and Development - Valhalla Motion Pictures 

 Episodic Job Forum at Sunset Bronson Studios
We think these emails from the attendees say it all:

As a recently joined member, I have been able to take part in a few of the great events that the PGA has put together.

Today was fabulous and a great networking opportunity with not only the employers but the other PGA members that were in attendance as well.  I have already been embraced by my new PGA family and just wanted to say THANK YOU.

Joanie Michele – Production Coordinator/Production Manager 

Thanks for hosting such a great PGA event today.  The producers who came to speak represented a wide variety of shows and were all so open and accessible.  And as always, it was a spectacularly well-run event!

Lisa Kors - Producer - New Media. 

I want to thank you and every one who made the Episodic Job Forum a success on Saturday.

Chris Lenge - Producer/Editor 

None of these events would be possible without the tireless efforts of the Employment Committee members and the PGA office staff – who all worked very hard to pull off these events during the busy award season.

At 5000 members and growing, the PGA is stronger than ever. You can make it even stronger by encouraging your qualified colleagues to join – and by hiring a PGA member for your next production.

Be on the lookout for our next events: a new Card Swap in March and the Non-Fiction Job Forum in April.

Here's to a very healthy, productive year for all of us! 

Beverley Ward & Richard MacDonald
Employment Committee Chairs

Tags:  events  PGA West 

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