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The Six Degrees of 'Funny Or Die' Women - Meet The Ladies Leading The Way When It Comes To Laughs

Posted By Rona Edwards, Tuesday, March 10, 2020

How many of us remember what it was like to play in the sandbox with our friends or burst into laughter over something really silly? Often we are trapped by our own sense of adulthood and forget to tap into that creative kid in each of us, to build new worlds where none have gone before, or reboot ideas whose time has come again. Isn’t that why so many producers get into this business to begin with?

At Funny or Die, the innovative, comedic viral video machine founded 12 years ago by Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and Chris Henchy, playing in the sandbox with friends is a daily occurrence. So is finding new ways to tell stories and explore new platforms on which to tell them.

The company’s latest venture, The Last Degree of Kevin Bacon, is a podcast that is essentially a scripted sitcom. And yes, it stars Bacon as a heightened version of himself along with a whole slew of celebrities including his wife, Kyra Sedgewick. The premise revolves around an actor who 35 years ago lost out on the iconic role in Footloose, which subsequently catapulted Bacon to stardom. Years later, as the rejected actor’s life spirals out of control, he moves to Los Angeles to take back what he believes was taken from him—and so of course, he plots to murder Kevin Bacon. Funny, right? However, during the process of planning his crime, he ends up becoming Bacon’s assistant and possibly his best friend. Or does he? Cue the threatening music!

The creative team of The Last Degree of Kevin Bacon
surrounds the star of the Funny or Die podcast. 

Not afraid of diving into new formats, Funny or Die partnered with Spotify to create the podcast, which premieres in February. Making a scripted comedy into a podcast offers its own set of challenges, but some fearless producers were ready to take this on. What is so striking is that these producers are all women. PGA members Whitney Hodack, Senior Director of Physical Production; Becca Kinskey, Vice President of Development & Current Programming, Long Form; and Development Executive Elizabeth Belew, make up the female producing team bringing The Last Degree of Kevin Bacon to audible life.

Bacon originated from the mind of creator/writer Dan Abramson but it was Kinskey, a veteran producer of such shows as I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman and The Rose Parade with Cord & Tish, starring Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon, who pitched and sold it to Spotify with her FOD bosses. “At Funny or Die, we’ve had tons of opportunity and tons of experience with emerging platforms. And they come and go,” Kinskey says thoughtfully. “I think we were excited that Spotify seems to have a really clear vision for what they want to do with the podcast business.” She went on to explain that as a digital company, FOD has floated on the tide of new platforms for more than a decade. However, there are always three things the company tries to get for its content creators: One is paid. Two is a good creative experience. And three is a solid audience.

The first two items seem easily met, but it can really be hard to find an emerging platform that has the necessary eyeballs—or in this case, ears—to make  the content a success. Spotify already has a huge audience, so all the boxes were checked. It was the beginning of a perfect marriage.

However, after selling the show, Kinskey went off to have a baby. Enter veteran comedy development and network executive Belew, who began her career as a field producer on unscripted and scripted series for Comedy Central, ABC and MTV, among others. She, along with Hodack, took the ball and ran with it.

Whitney Hodack with Jonathan Van Ness, star of Funny or Die's Gay or Thrones.
-Photo courtesy Funny or Die

“Beth is newest to the team. We actually got to know Beth when she was an executive,” reveals Funny or Die CEO Mike Farah. “A big part of Funny or Die is people have to wear lots of different hats. And I think Beth’s versatility in knowing how to do unscripted storytelling actually worked very well with scripted podcasts. The pacing, the urgency—all those things that she’s honed as a producer and an executive in ‘talk’—I think parlayed very effectively into Kevin Bacon.”

Hodak is an Emmy-nominated producer for Funny or Die’s Gay of Thrones and has overseen production for shows like Brockmire on IFC, I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman on Hulu and Flipped, an upcoming comedy for Quibi. She’s also had experience with podcasting, producing The Ron Burgundy Podcast for iHeartRadio. “Whitney is next in a long line of great producers who know how to service the creatives, keep talent happy and make everything for a great price,” Farah says.

FOD is a 60-person company that’s known for generating tons and tons of content. At the forefront are these three women paving the way for more diverse content on distinctive platforms. Farah is obviously proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish. “It will be nice when a story about women producing comedy isn’t even a story. It’s just part of life. But I do think it’s important to showcase the people who are doing it really well. And Beth, Becca and Whitney are certainly right at the top of that list,” Farah proclaims.

“I can’t speak for everyone in comedy, but at least to me, and how we want to run Funny or Die, supporting people who have been historically on the margins of comedy should not be controversial,” he continues. “Comedy should absolutely be inclusive in terms of all the things we’ve talked about—gender, race, sexual orientation. We ask comedians to see the world in a slightly different way and help people understand the world through that comedic lens. And of course, since the beginning of time, good producers are needed to support that creative vision. So to me, having a diverse set of producers work with a diverse set of comedians is everything Funny or Die should be focused on.”

There’s not a lot of scripted comedy podcasting to look to for reference. It hasn’t caught up with the hour dramas yet. One of the biggest challenges is that comedy is known for a lot of visual clues, which you can’t use in a podcast. Producers have to delve into a whole new bag of tricks and learn how to tell a story without visuals. Everything has to be done with sound design, even letting the audience know when a character moves from room to room or who is coming or going. What is also exciting is that there’s no limits to what can be written. You can be anywhere, and it’s not going to tax your budget like a TV episode. In the end, The Last Degree of Kevin Bacon had 131 characters in 10 episodes recorded in six days.

“We’re really leading the way even in terms of staffing people,” Belew chuckles. “We couldn’t even find people who have done this before.” The writing room was balanced 50-50 with both women and men. They were able to get a ton of celebrity cameos, because people are happy to come in and not worry about hair and makeup. They don’t even have to memorize their lines. Hearing these producers talk their “sky’s the limit and the cost is low” mantra, makes one wonder why anyone would want to produce anything other than a podcast.

“We place the premium on people and their talent and putting folks in a position to succeed at all times,” Farah maintains. “We make sure that folks are supported in what they’re trying to do.” He confides that “Becca is way smarter” than he is. Aside from being thoughtful and methodical, Farah says she has a wonderful reputation for working well with creatives and comedians. All in all, this merry band of females is forging new paths and new ground for women in comedy.

So what is it like to have so many women at the helm, working together on the Bacon project?

 “It was a very placid experience, and I will say everything was calm,” Kinskey explains matter-of-factly. “There were things that needed to be dealt with that came up, but they were just handled. And I do think that the more I work with women, the more I feel like it’s men who are emotional.” The room erupts with laughter as she continues. “I find the people who actually run hot or run alarmist or run panicky are men, and women tend to just get it done.”

Belew jumps in, saying that because both she and Becca are moms, “Everything is fixable! Always!”


When a window to a new part of the industry opens, it allows young producers or those wanting to change direction to get in and rise fast. “I would tell young women, young people, trying to get into comedy right now, that podcasting is a space that you can really make a mark quickly,” Kinskey says. “And I would challenge any young woman starting today to only apply for jobs that you’re not quite qualified for. Put yourself in the position that you want to be in. Start calling yourself the thing you want to be.

“Look at what you like to watch or listen to, what you like to consume,” she continues. “And if you’re consuming it, then you have expertise in what people want out of it. Don’t waste time in the shadow of Steven Spielberg. Just go figure out what you’re already enjoying, and then go find those jobs. Because the industry reinvents itself every 10 years. Don’t chase old business models.”

“And don’t be afraid to just make stuff,” Belew chimes in. “I think men are more inclined to  write the thing they want to write, make the thing they want to make, pitch the show they want to pitch. They have maybe more confidence or whatever it is that drives them. And I think that women have a tendency to wait for someone to ask them to make something. They don’t want to do it until they’re 100% qualified. Don’t wait until you’re 100% competent! Because the guys at your same level aren’t waiting. That’s how they keep moving ahead.”

The first show Belew ever sold as a producer was to TruTV. “Some friends of mine at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) were doing this weight-loss competition and I thought, ‘We should shoot this. Why is no one shooting this?’ And they said OK. So I paid some guys beer money to shoot a pilot, essentially, and we cut it into a 10-minute sizzle reel. I sold it in the room. Nobody asked me to do that. And if I hadn’t done that, I never would have gotten into development. Nobody needs to give you permission to do it.”

“The cool thing about doing the podcast is that it is a great way to stay in touch with the very principles and origins that Funny or Die was based on,” Kinskey says. “Which is just getting people to come down in the afternoon and make something that would later be up on the internet. What’s so great about working in comedy is that people want to do a day of work because they want to play with their friends and laugh. The podcasts really keep you in touch with those roots. Because people can just come in for four hours, have fun together in a recording booth and go home.”

Sounds like the perfect way to start playing in our sandboxes again.

 

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A New Day Dawns - 'The Morning Show' Celebrates Gender Equality On Screen And Behind The Scenes

Posted By Kevin Perry, Thursday, March 5, 2020

The brightest spotlights cast the longest shadows. Since its inception, the entertainment industry has harbored menace in the darkness, sometimes allowing harassment and abuse to fester in hidden corners. The Morning Show excavates these shadows to expose the sordid underbelly of mainstream media at its most volatile.

“We’re dealing with really sensitive subject matter,” explains Executive Producer Reese Witherspoon. “We wanted to take a 360-degree look at what the impact of the MeToo movement has done to the workplace, to personal lives, to the gender pay disparity conversation, to the lack of inclusion in corporate environments and representation in media.

“The news can be very binary and sometimes editorialized and pejorative,” Witherspoon continues. “By fictionalizing these stories, we didn’t have to play within boundaries.”

To unleash the spectacle appeal of The Morning Show, the creative team drew upon its nonfiction roots: namely, Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning. “Brian really told you all about what was happening inside the broadcast media world. Fascinating!” Witherspoon exclaims. “He did a great job of explaining why broadcast television really matters. It’s a very high-stakes world. They’re making about half a billion dollars a year in ad sales. If there’s a dip in the ratings, all those ad sales will go to another channel. It’s really cutthroat because there’s a lot of money on the line.”

Fellow Executive Producer Michael Ellenberg echoes this sentiment regarding real-life morning media. “They’re an amazing platform. They’re one of the last media in America that still tries to appeal to New York and Los Angeles and Des Moines and Mississippi. They have equal viewership, Democrats and Republicans. They’re really still trying to represent what America is, in an era when America seems to want to rip itself apart.”

In a blistering example of art imitating life, The Today Show delivered a bruising inspiration to Ellenberg when he was still a child. “When Jane Pauley was fired, there was no real public explanation offered, particularly if you were a kid. The only thing we heard was ‘She was old.’ Right? And the show went from so good to so bad. At the time, she was 39 years old. It lodged in my mind, like, what a strange world. This show was so brilliant, these people were so capable, and what could Jane Pauley have done wrong that they would willfully make the show terrible rather than keep her?”

The question lingered in Ellenberg’s mind well into his adulthood. “Every few years, a high-profile woman on these shows is put through the wringer. That’s an interesting disconnect. Are these two things related: the pressure of representing America and the way that women are treated?”


Executive Producer/Director Mimi Leder discusses a scene with
Executive Producer/star Jennifer Aniston.

After achieving phenomenal success in the film world and as a development guru at HBO, Ellenberg was able to dredge up his morbid curiosity for infotainment scandal. “I optioned Brian Stelter’s book, which I thought was an amazing introduction to the world, and then approached Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. We were all talking, and I was fortunate that they committed not only to star, but to produce with me as well, which was amazing, to be honest. I couldn’t imagine two better actresses and partners to have in this world because they’ve lived many of the ideas the show explores. It was personal for them, they saw it very clearly from the beginning, and we were really able to build it and form it together.”

The growing dream team eventually lured Executive Producer Kristin Hahn into its ranks. As Aniston’s creative partner, Hahn gravitated to the series’ myriad themes. “The show really deals with celebrity and fame, which Jen and I feel is another interesting layer. It also deals with ageism. We will get into that even deeper next season. These are all things that culturally, and in the workplace, are so relevant.”

Hahn elaborates, “It gets into the subtle dynamics between not just women and men in the workplace, which is important, but women and women in the workplace … and the abuse of power that can happen, even with pretty decent intentions.”

The weighty subject matter allows Aniston to flex her dramatic chops as Alex, the charismatic TV host teetering on the top of a crumbling empire. “She has lost herself and wants to reclaim who she is,” says Hahn. “That’s profound, and you can’t help but feel empathy for her. It humanizes the celebrity in that character. It’s a role that Jen, as an icon, can bring a lot to.”

Apple TV+ agreed, betting big on its flagship show and its superstar producing talent. “We were free,” declares Witherspoon. “The whole world was our playing field. We could discuss anything, say whatever we want and push boundaries. It really gave us an ability to define the edges of these social conversations and cultural shifts.”

But with great freedom comes creeping trepidation. “Every project that we begin on a streaming service has its own feeling of entering the wild, wild west,” Witherspoon admits. “We don’t know what the audience is gonna be, we don’t know what country they’re watching it in, we don’t know if people are gonna subscribe, we don’t know what audience we’re playing for.”

To help eradicate those unknowns, Witherspoon collaborated with her Big Little Lies cohort Ellenberg, who saw opportunity amid the chaos. “What people in my line of work hate is when you ask them, ‘Why is it done this way?’ and the answer is, ‘Because we’ve always done it.’ Everyone in Hollywood hates that answer. So when there’s a new network, they can’t say that!”

Ellenberg relished the chance to tango with a fledgling juggernaut. “Part of the reason why we went with Apple is they make cultural moments. They wanted us to be their signature show that they launched with— and the opportunity to partner with an amazing company at the beginning—that just seemed for all of us like a once-in-a-career opportunity.”

Ellenberg praises the breakneck brilliance of fellow Executive Producers Kerry Ehrin and Mimi Leder, who wrote and directed the pilot episode, respectively. “Everyone’s building the plane while they’re flying it. They’re building a network, I’m launching a new studio, we’re building my company—everything’s getting built as we’re doing it,” he says.

To extend the airline metaphor, Ellenberg marvels at Witherspoon’s multitasking prowess. “Her ability to go up to 30,000 feet and see everything from a holistic producer’s sensibility, and then when she needs to, shift down to the ground and be completely laser-focused to see it from an actor’s perspective, is unique. Like really unique in our industry. It’s exciting!”

“She’s a powerhouse and a visionary,” Ellenberg continues. “She’s a risk taker, she’s innovative, and she gravitates toward the unfamiliar. That’s inspiring! You’re desperate to work with people like that. You want to be on her side. When you’re taking on big challenges, you want to be on Reese’s team.”

Executive Producer Michael Ellenberg with Executive Producer Kristin Hahn.

Diane Sawyer enjoys a behind-the-scenes laugh with
the cast and crew of
The Morning Show.

Deflecting the kudos humbly, Witherspoon passes the praise on to Aniston. “Jen has a very discerning, detail-oriented eye. She watches cuts in a way that I don’t watch them. She combs over the set and finds details that are important to character that I would have never seen. She’s great with humor and language and building sympathy for character. Jen really sees the audience perspective.”

Ellenberg emphatically concurs. “Jen’s an experienced and formidable producer. When I was looking for inspiration for my business, I thought of Jen, who co-founded Plan B.” Extrapolating to include both of his A-list partners, Ellenberg beams, “I admire them as artists and as actors, but their producorial career had—and has—a huge influence on me. So there’s also just the opportunity to learn from them. That’s the truth.”

The Morning Show shimmers and blinds with its cavalcade of star wattage, and that was all part of Ellenberg’s plan. “We wanted the audience to engage with this world in the way they would engage with actual morning shows themselves, with stars and actors they think they already know intimately, and they feel a level of comfort with. That’s how you engage with a morning host. You’re letting family into your home every morning. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell—these are all household names. They’re not just admired artists, but they’re really beloved people. An audience feels a level of comfort and trust.”

This trust is soon perverted by the show’s narrative. “The casting of Carell was very deliberate,” Ellenberg confides. “You admire and love and respect him—he’s funny and warm and compelling. But then, slowly but surely, you come to understand that even someone you adore so much could do something appalling. We wanted an audience to go on that journey to hopefully have a deeper, meaningful experience of this subject. By the end of the season, you will see this world in its totality.”

Witherspoon was eager to infuse an epic dose of class awareness into the brew. “One of the things we felt very strongly about was the Upstairs, Downstairs/Downton Abbey aspect of broadcast and how there is definitely a hierarchy within that world. The people who are technicians doing really intense work every single day versus on-air paid talent and executive talent that feel worlds away. We wanted to play with those two worlds colliding.”

The Oscar-winning icon holds a dark mirror up to her industry, deconstructing the pitfalls of celebrity through The Morning Shows lens. “It shows you the seduction of fame and power and influence,” says Witherspoon. “You see where you lose touch with people, with everyday life, when the draw of this big, bright world pulls you in. Your morals do get compromised in the process. You’re willing to do more just to maintain your status and your relevance,” says Witherspoon.

It was essential for the series leads to wield creative control over their own fates, argues Hahn. “If we had these two actresses, who are basically the heart and soul of this show, not have a voice in the creation of the show, that would be a travesty. It would be a paradox. That is not the world we’re living in. Right now, thankfully, we are dealing with a business that is changing, and women are not just puppets who are being controlled by their male counterparts. Jen and Reese are definitely in a unique position because of who they are and the careers they have built, to really be examples of how women as artists can have a very strong hand in the creation of their art behind the scenes, not just in front of the camera.”

With an endearing flourish, Hahn proclaims, “Jen and Reese are beautiful storytellers. They now get to tell their stories alongside wonderful producers and showrunners and the rest of the team. They bring something to this particular story that the rest of us cannot bring: understanding from the inside out what celebrity culture can do to your life, the challenges it brings when you live under a microscope, and the subtle sacrifices and struggles you go through when everyone treats you differently. Everyone.”

Those sacrifices are paying off. The Morning Show isn’t just shifting the gender paradigm; it’s detonating it. Ellenberg, for one, is happy to help light the fuse. “To be a producer in this moment in Hollywood, I think it’s the greatest time since the heyday of the studio system. This is a moment in which the newer idea, the more exotic idea, gains traction. There are more opportunities to work with new voices and previously overlooked voices.”

One of those overlooked voices, surprisingly enough, was Witherspoon’s. “I tried to be a producer 10 years ago, and it just was a different time for women,” she recalls. “I certainly felt, personally, that I wasn’t taken as seriously as I wanted to be.”

It’s a shocking admission, considering how Witherspoon has since galvanized her status as a bona fide mogul, with projects in development on almost every conceivable platform. “I’ve been really fortunate to have great partners in HBO and Apple and now Netflix and Amazon to create these worlds,” she says.

“It’s an incredible time to have women at the center of the story, but also behind the scenes in real leadership positions. It’s been really encouraging to see female showrunners coming forward and telling very dynamic stories about women. It’s important that people see women represented onscreen in the way that they really live, and it’s so gratifying to be a small part of that change.”

This change has rippled into a revolution that echoes through every compelling plot point of The Morning Show. It isn’t merely must-see TV; it’s must-heed social commentary.

 


-Photos courtesy of Apple TV


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STEPHANIE ALLAIN - She Is A Powerhouse Producer And Guiding Force In The PGA

Posted By Peggy Jo Abraham, Wednesday, February 12, 2020

When your first movie is the incredibly well-received Boyz n the Hood and now you’re producing the Academy Awards, it’s absolutely clear you are doing something right. Producer Stephanie Allain and her Homegrown Pictures are in this enviable position, after much hard work and dedication to a vision. Her award-winning films have repeatedly pushed the envelope in terms of social issues, race relations and politics.

Diversity is not just a buzzword for Allain—it’s a commitment to inclusivity. She is drawn to stories (Dear White People, Hustle & Flow) about those who are underrepresented—women, people of color, LGBTQ, people with disabilities. The filmmaker pursues this goal, not only through her work on screen but within the organizations she supports, the positions she volunteers for and the people she champions. Allain lives in a world where “art meets idealism, activism and purpose.” It’s a rich, creative environment, one that keeps her busy and always pushing forward.

We have another great reason for celebrating this talented lady. Allain is an active, devoted member of the PGA, who serves on our National Board of Directors. She sets a wonderful example for both veterans and new members of the Guild. Her energy, passion and expertise are always a welcome addition to any project, meeting or event.

If that’s not enough talent wrapped in one package, consider this: The New Orleans native, who comes from a long line of strong Creole women, can cook up a mean batch of gumbo or red beans and rice. Add to the mix two children who are in the movie business and working with her on projects, a stepdaughter who is a photographer and a first grandchild on the way. Yes, life is sweet for this hardworking producer who is more than ready to meet the next decade with an abundance of ideas and energy. Allain’s enthusiasm is apparent in the lively images we captured at one of her favorite haunts—The Underground Museum in the LA neighborhood of Arlington Heights.


You began your career as a script reader. What was the most valuable part of that in preparing you to be a producer?

It was an incredibly valuable experience. I started as a book reader at CAA. After reading the latest manuscript in galley form, I’d bang out a synopsis, then write a paragraph of comments. I must have covered hundreds of books and scripts. By mastering coverage, I taught myself to succinctly pitch the movie, recap the major bones of the story, think about character development and make a decision in terms of “Can this translate to the screen?” These are the tools I use every day as a producer—evaluating material and articulating what works and what doesn’t. And that’s what my reading work taught me.

                 

What a great way to start. Then you rose through the ranks to become a studio executive. Does that kind of path actually exist anymore for people starting out in the business?

Absolutely. There will always be readers because almost every project starts with a written document. But today I think there are even more opportunities, because the tools of filmmaking are more readily available. To be a director back in the day you had to be able to afford a camera, you had to be able to afford film, and you had to be able to process that film. You also had to rent a flatbed editing system that you could run that film through. That’s all changed. You can make a film on your iPhone. The path I took was focused on story. When I realized that was a pathway to having more say in what was getting made, I thought, “Okay, I want that job.” And luckily I was working for two women—Amy Pascal and Dawn Steel. Their recognition of my talent and their literally promoting me from the trailer—where all the readers worked—to the big house, was invaluable in my being able to ascend.

 

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing female producers today?

I don’t think of a producer as gender specific. Definition of a producer is someone who makes sh*t happen. It’s more about your passion, your ability to convince everybody to come onboard this thing that isn’t quite real yet and guide that process. A lot of people say that women tend to be more nurturing in the job. Sure, that could be true. But there’s many who approach it from a different point of view. The job is so difficult and so all-encompassing, because it touches every aspect of the film, that whoever is producing, she/he/they/whoever, takes on the mantle of the leader and that has no gender.

 

You’ve been credited with launching the careers of some major talents. John Singleton and Robert Rodriguez come to mind. What difficulties did you face when you began championing them, or did you not face difficulties?

When I was trying to replace myself in the story department with a person of color, I heard John Singleton was looking for a job and that he was a writer, so I read his script. There was no difficulty. In fact, quite the opposite. It was like “Aha! This is what I’m supposed to be doing!” I’m uniquely positioned to champion this film and this filmmaker. I went to high school in Inglewood. I knew these kids growing up. I just felt passionately that I could, with a first-person point of view, get it right. So for me, it wasn’t hard. It was just exciting that I found this gem, and I wanted to share it with the world and what are the steps to get it there. It was so satisfying for my first movie to be Boyz n the Hood, and then we’re on the carpet at Cannes and there’s a 20-minute standing ovation. And beyond all of that, kids are not killing each other in drive-by shootings as much because they’ve seen their own reflection.

 

It sounds like it reaffirmed your career path, proved you were on the right track.

Absolutely. The only thing that matters is, “Do you believe in it?” If so, then you just know what to do. Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) and I used to say we’re in “the flow of grace” because we’ve chosen to make this happen. And that creates all this other energy and draws other people in. So it’s a joy when you find something you’re passionate about. And it takes a long time because those quickened-heartbeat reads don’t happen very often. When they do, you know you’ve got to jump on it.    

 

Selfie on the set of the TV movie Crushed with Stephanie Allain,
Regina Hall, Tina Gordon (taking picture), Rachel Polan, Bashir Salahuddin

You’ve had such a broad career path, everything from Boyz n the Hood to The Muppets. Do you have a favorite genre or type of story that usually grabs you first?

I do. It’s anything that reaffirms our higher nature. That can come in different forms. In Hustle & Flow, I had to explain to a lot of people the reason I wanted to make a movie about pimps and hos was that this pimp wanted to be a better person. Even he had the need to aspire to do something special with his life, to contribute a verse. I found that profound because no matter who you are, there’s this innate human desire to create something beautiful and if you step into that power, anything can happen.

 

So there is a common thread running through your work?

Yes, I would call it “humanism.” It’s stories about us; stories about women because we’re underrepresented, stories about people of color because we’re underrepresented, LGBTQ, less-abled people. Everybody needs to have that feeling of seeing themselves on screen and being validated by that representation. Until we get to that point, we’ll always be “othered.” When you see a story like Boyz n the Hood on the big screen and you realize these are just kids trying to negotiate their teen years, given the circumstances that they have, you realize, it’s a global human experience. And I think that’s exactly where art meets idealism and activism and purpose. That gives the work meaning. It’s not just a job.

 

And that’s a road you want to be on.

That’s the road I’ve walked. And, by the way, it’s not the easiest road to walk. It’s only easy because the joy is there. But the money is not always there. The hustle is real. At times I wish I cared more about money, but ultimately it’s how you spend your time doing what you love to do and if you can make that float you financially. So I’ve always really just believed in living within my means, because it gives you the freedom to take chances.  Famously, I sold my house to make Hustle & Flow.

 

What’s the biggest change you’d like to see in Hollywood?

Gatekeepers at the studios need to be inclusive and representative. It’s rare you see more than one or two people of color in those rooms. That has to change because you connect with what you know. So if you don’t have enough people at the table that have a wide variety of experiences, you’re going to keep getting the same story. This also applies to critics. If you’re in a position to judge or ratify something for inclusion in mainstream culture, that’s a huge responsibility. So we need more eyes on the prize.

 

You were the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival for five years. What enticed you to take that on, and what were some of the rewards?

I was on the board of Film Independent at the time. We lost our director and because I’m always talking about gatekeepers and making sure there’s people of color at the table, I raised my hand. Live event producing was not what I was accustomed to. There is no “take two,” so the stakes are very high, but it’s very exciting. Once I took the job, I realized that the festival should represent the mission of Film Independent—to diversify the industry and to amplify voices that had been underrepresented.

 

How did you do that?

By hiring staff who believed in the mission. We systematically redid the festival in a way that allowed for those voices to be heard. We were the first festival to ask, “How many of the films are directed by women?” What we said is, “Let’s create a basket of all the films we think are amazing, that are all directed by women, and let’s choose 10 from that basket. Then let’s make a basket of filmmakers of color and let’s choose 10.” That’s how you can get the best of this, the best of that. Not just the best, because that has no real meaning. Inclusion doesn’t just happen. Up until a few years ago, that was sort of the thing—just let it happen naturally. It doesn’t. You have to make an effort. You have to have a plan.

 

Now you’re producing the Academy Awards. So first of all, congratulations.

Thank you!

 

How does one start that process? 

It’s a collaboration with Lynette Howell Taylor, whose career I’ve long admired. We didn’t know each other before this, but we’ve had so many similar instincts, which is great. I’m looking forward to marshaling everything I’ve ever learned as a producer and bringing my A-game to the show. It’s a privilege to celebrate the year in film by producing the biggest night in television! So it’s thrilling. And very secretive!

 

This is the fourth and final season of Dear White People. What’s been the most significant feedback from that series?

I think the most important thing is that Justin Simien’s voice has been amplified. He is a singular talent. He embraces his point of view, which is both intellectual and soapy, gay and straight, male and female. I can’t think of anybody else who can present multiple points of view with integrity. When we made the movie, we knew the ensemble nature would lend itself to television, and we’re all so thrilled that Netflix stepped up and really supported the show. During this turbulent political time, DWP has been a touchstone for young people sorting through the anxiety, the tension and the racial animosity—things we really didn’t think were going to be on our plate.

 

What projects do you have coming up?

After producing independent films over the past few years (French Dirty, Burning Sands, Juanita, The Weekend), I’m focusing on larger studio films. Adam Countee wrote an incredible script about Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 run for the Presidency called The Fighting Shirley Chisholm. Justin Simien is directing Rapper’s Delight. It’s the story of Sylvia Robinson, who recorded the first rap record and changed the game forever. She had the foresight to say, “This sound, which we’ve never heard before, the scratching and the rapping, needs to go on vinyl.” I’m partnered with the legendary Paula Wagner and Robert Kraft on that one. My TV business is also picking up. So the year 2020  promises to be a great one.

Allain with sons Wade Allain-Marcus and Jesse Allain-Marcus at the world premiere of their film French Dirty


It’s such an amazing time to be creating content.

Yes. We’re in a renaissance. Everyone I know is working. You can’t even find a black female director who’s not working now. That’s real progress. Now what we have to do is make sure that we’re not the only ones progressing, but our Latinx brothers and sisters, who outpopulate us, especially in California, have these same opportunities. And, of course, we need more gender parity. Across the board.

 

One last thing. You are so active in the Producers Guild. You’re on the National Board of Directors and have participated as a speaker at our Produced By LA Conference. Why is that important to you?

I’m active in the Producers Guild because I’m a producer who cares about the value of producers in films and television. Also, unlike the Writers Guild or the Directors Guild, we’re not a union, so there’s a long way to go. But in the meantime, I want to be part of the energy moving toward producers getting the respect we deserve. I divide my pro bono work between the PGA, the Academy, Women In Film and ReFrame. The truth of the matter is, service is so rewarding. Giving and serving in whatever capacity rewards you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine: the satisfaction of seeing incremental change, the satisfaction of seeing young people get to the next level, the satisfaction of seeing the Academy become more inclusive. That’s the good work. And the upside is, you’re among the high end of your peers and other like-minded individuals who believe in service, and then other good things happen. So yes, I will definitely be a part of giving back for as long as I can.


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Beating The Odds - A Leading Actor With Down Syndrome And First-Time Directors Guide 'The Peanut Butter Falcon' To Success

Posted By Tom Hymes, Thursday, February 6, 2020

The independently produced film The Peanut Butter Falcon was released last August and became a sleeper hit by the end of the year. It amassed box office receipts in excess of $20 million to become one of the most successful independent films of 2019. To say the movie’s journey from concept to screen was fraught with challenges is to define the state of most indie movies, if not all movies. But in this case the challenges—first-time writer-directors, a tight budget and shooting schedule, and a lead with Down syndrome—were so baked into the making of the film that they eventually came to explain, if not define, its success.

Making the movie was a transformative experience for Tim Zajaros of Armory Films and Albert Berger of Bona Fide Productions, two of six producers attached to the project, along with directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. Starring Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, the movie’s titular character is played by Zack Gottsagen, a 30-something actor with Down syndrome, who is making his feature film debut. The screenplay was written specifically for Gottsagen.

“It all started with Zack,” recalls Zajaros. “The story of this film is that Tyler and Mike met Zack at an arts camp, while helping disabled actors and other people wanting to make films or art achieve their dreams. They learned he’d wanted to be an actor all his life, and they wrote this movie for him to star in.” That is the short version. The longer version tells the story of the special sauce that went into making The Peanut Butter Falcon.

“When Zack told the directors how he wanted to be a movie star, Mike and Tyler were honest with him at first,” explains Zajaros, who also has a cameo in the film. ‘We don't really have any connections,’ they told him, ‘and the reality is that it’s a tough business as it is, and the chances of somebody with Down syndrome ever getting the opportunity to be a lead in a movie is slim to none.’ Zack just sat for a second, thought about it and finally said, ‘Well, why don't you guys write it and direct it, and I’ll star in it?’ And being the great guys that they are, they just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘You know what, let’s do that.’”

That decision—as well as the decision to make a proof-of-concept short with Gottsagen in character—set the stage for everything to come, including cementing the directors to the project, along with their script and their star. It led to a production dynamic in which life and art would intertwine inextricably by creating a sense of community inseparable from the story itself.

“The sense of family on the set was on another level,” says Zajaros. “I mean, everybody. I don't even know where you start with the credit. With the script, I suppose, because that’s what brought us all together … and Zack. Every shooting day we would all go to dinner, cast included. There would be 10 or 12 of us, and that just doesn’t happen.”

Directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz confer on a shot on the set of The Peanut Butter Falcon
-photograph by Seth F. Johnson

The script itself incorporated elements from Gottsagen’s life, including his interest in wrestling, his passionate desire to do what he wants to do and his frustrations at any limitations imposed on him because of his disability. The movie is an adventure story featuring a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from the nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. A small-town outlaw, played by LaBeouf, becomes his unlikely coach and ally. Johnson’s character, a kind nursing home employee with a story of her own, joins them on their journey. Their Huckleberry Finn-like adventure involves a raft with a pole and achingly gorgeous vistas representing the Outer Banks of Northern Carolina, although the movie was actually shot around Savannah, Georgia. A bevy of veteran character actors, including Bruce Dern, Thomas Haden Church and John Hawkes, anchor the film.

According to Berger, it was a spirit of generosity unique to this project that allowed the producers to stretch their modest $6 million budget to include such a stellar cast and uber-competent crew. In fact, it was the commitment of one cast member in particular that really made the difference. “Shia was a producer’s best friend on this movie because he did it for love. He did not do it for money,” explains Berger. “It allowed us to make deals with everybody else. That’s why you have the cast you have, because normally a guy like Shia would eat up all the money for the movie. But he didn’t. He did it for love, and then he had such a commitment throughout the whole movie.” Zajaros adds, “It was also because his commitment to Zack is real.”

Indeed, as explained by the producers, Gottsagen’s enthusiasm and honesty were in many ways the glue that bound everyone to the project and made the working atmosphere unlike any they had experienced before. For LaBeouf, his relationship with Gottsagen is there on the screen for all to see and appreciate. Without that bond, the movie would simply not work, and out of it came screen moments of unusual and quiet intensity.

“Shia is like an on-the-field coach in a way,” says Berger. “So you had Mike and Tyler, who knew Zack inside out and wrote this for him and had a real rapport with him, and then you had Shia right there, kind of reacting to whatever Zack would do and helping that process. Dakota also had a very strong relationship with Zack, so it formed a strong core.” Working with the actors required special patience, he adds. “Zack does not say the same thing the same way twice exactly, and neither does Shia, in a very different way. You have an actor like Shia who is all about honesty and finding it in the moment, and you have Zack.” Zajaros points out the combination is powerful, explaining, “Shia had a great partner in Zack because Zack isn’t anything but truth.”

The connection extended off the set as well. “Shia had an episode where he had something that kind of turned his whole life around on this movie,” says Berger. “There was a scene where he was supposed to drink, and he drank, and it carried on into the evening, and he ended up in jail. Out of that—and it’s been very well reported—came his whole dynamic with Zack and the disappointment Zack felt and how much he was depending on Shia. I think that not only turned Shia’s life around but resulted in Honey Boy. “It’s brilliant,” Berger says of LeBeouf’s performance in Honey Boy, “and I would say the only other thing that rivals it is his performance in our movie. I mean, these are monumental back-to-back performances.” 

Producer Tim Zajaros (pointing) of Armory Films on set.
-Photo by Seth F. Johnson

Producer Albert Berger of Bona Fide Productions with Zack Gottsagen,
star of
The Peanut Butter Falcon
-Photo by David Thies

Overcoming challenges was the story of this movie’s journey, because nothing about getting it from A to Z was easy. “We thought the movie was great and we believed in it, but we could not find a festival to take it,” says Berger. “We could not find a distributor to distribute it. And finally, after getting turned down by all the major festivals, we got into South by Southwest, where we won the Audience Award. Out of that festival, we were able to engage with a great distributor, Roadside Entertainment, but still Chris [Lemole] and Tim [Zajaros] and their company, Armory Films, supplied a lot of the money to release the film. Because of them, this movie could be everything it needed to be.” It was, adds Zajaros, an “extraordinarily hard shoot.”         

“I worked harder on this than I have on maybe any other movie, and everybody says the same,” concurs Berger. “It’s important for the PGA audience to understand this because the PGA does a great job in determining who should get credit and who actually did the work as producers. But it’s very important to also understand that sometimes it takes a group and sometimes that entire group contributes. And when that happens, everybody needs to be recognized.”

Continuing an industry trend, several production companies were attached to the Peanut Butter project, raising the question of how so many people with different ideas about what a film should be can come together to agree on a strong singular vision.

“This [subject] is very important to me, because sometimes Ron [Yerxa] and I are the only producers on a movie,” says Berger, whose credits number around 30 and include Cold Mountain, Little Miss Sunshine and Nebraska. “And sometimes you’re brought together with this new group, and you’ve got to figure it out as you go. Somebody at the PGA screening said, ‘How is it possible that six people all have the PGA mark?’ The simple fact is that if everybody is there for the right reason, and you put your ego aside, you figure out a way to work together where everybody functions to the best of their capability. They don’t jump out of their lane, and they figure out what’s best for the movie. That happened on Little Miss Sunshine and it happened on this one. I think it’s very important that people figure out how to work together in the best interests of the movie, and I’m very proud that our group was able to figure that out.”

“I agree,” responds Zajaros, whose 16 producing credits include Mudbound and Arctic. “It was film first for everybody. Egos were thrown out the door. Sure, I’ve been on movies where people have producer credits, but really didn’t do much and maybe shouldn’t have gotten that credit. But literally every producer on this movie brought something very important to the shoot.”

In the end, the filmmakers expressed a deep satisfaction with the experience of making this movie, combined with a slightly bittersweet sense of what could have been. “It’s run its course,” Berger says of the film’s theatrical run, which topped out at about 1,600 screens. “Now the DVD is on iTunes, and it’s really got a great life. Of course, the difference between now and when Little Miss Sunshine was made [in 2006] is that it’s much harder to get people into the theater, particularly for an independent film. People will go to the theater to see Batman, they’ll go to see Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, they’ll go to see the Marvel movie, but now streaming has taken over the whole province of film.

You know,” he adds after a moment’s thought, “Roadside did a magnificent job with this movie, but you have to wonder, if a big studio had really gotten behind it, the opportunities would have been limitless. This movie connects with people, and when a movie connects with people it doesn’t matter if it’s a $100 million Marvel movie or a $4 or $5 million movie.”

For Zajaros, producing the film brought many exhilarating moments that he savors. “The feeling I got from this movie—and I don’t want this to sound arrogant because it was our movie—but it’s why I got in the business. There are not that many movies that make me feel like that anymore.”

The word-of-mouth hit continues to soar. Gottsagen received the Rising Star Award at the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival. He was also the subject of a December Los Angeles Times profile with the headline, “Zack Gottsagen has Down syndrome. And a movie role. And a best bud named Shia LaBeouf.” This momentum is not lost on the producers, whose hope is that the buoyant flight of The Peanut Butter Falcon is a sign that Hollywood is serious about embracing diversity in front of and behind the camera.

“Storytelling is coming back, and what is changing now is new voices and diversity and people being able to finally tell their own story,” says Berger. “I think we are to some degree participating in that because of Zack and because Mike and Tyler saw this opportunity to work with him to tell a story that he would be comfortable with and would be able to deliver on, and I think the next frontier is Zack telling his own stories. That’s where it really starts to get exciting.”


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Producers Guild Awards Winners and First-Ever Red Carpet Live Stream

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 17, 2020

The 31st annual Producers Guild Awards take place January 18, 2020 at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, CA.  One of the awards season's marquee events, the Producers Guild Awards celebrates the fine producing work of the year, and gives the Guild an opportunity to honor some of the living legends who have shaped our profession.  In addition to the competitive categories the Guild will present special honors to powerhouse producers and leaders who have left their indelible mark on the entertainment industry. The 2020 honorees include Ted Sarandos (Milestone Award); Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner of Plan B (David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures); Marta Kauffman (Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television); Octavia Spencer (Visionary Award); and the Lionsgate film Bombshell (The Stanley Kramer Award).

Throughout the night, the winners will be updated below in bold.  You can also follow the action on social media with #PGAAwards.  

The 2020 Producers Guild Awards also marks the first-ever live stream of the red carpet.  You can watch the live stream starting at 6:30pm exclusively on Entertainment Tonight's youtube channel:



 

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures

      1917

      Producers: Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne‐Ann Tenggren, Callum McDougall

      Ford v Ferrari

      Producers: Peter Chernin & Jenno Topping, James Mangold

      The Irishman

      Producers: Jane Rosenthal & Robert De Niro, Emma Tillinger Koskoff & Martin Scorsese

      Jojo Rabbit

      Producers: Carthew Neal, Taika Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley

      Joker

      Producers: Todd Phillips & Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff

      Knives Out

      Producers: Rian Johnson, Ram Bergman

      Little Women

      Producer: Amy Pascal

      Marriage Story

      Producers: Noah Baumbach, David Heyman

      Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

      Producers: David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, Quentin Tarantino

      Parasite

      Producers: Kwak Sin Ae, Bong Joon Ho

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures

      Abominable

      Producer: Suzanne Buirgy

      Frozen II

      Producer: Peter Del Vecho

      How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

      Producers: Bradford Lewis, Bonnie Arnold

      Missing Link

      Producers: Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight

      Toy Story 4

      Producers: Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera

 

The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television - Drama

      Big Little Lies (Season 2)

      Producers: David E. Kelley, Jean‐Marc Vallée, Andrea Arnold, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea, Nicole Kidman, Per Saari, Gregg Fienberg, Nathan Ross, David Auge, Lauren Neustadter, Liane Moriarty

      The Crown (Season 3)

      Producers: Peter Morgan, Suzanne Mackie, Stephen Daldry, Andy Harries, Benjamin Caron, Matthew Byam Shaw, Robert Fox, Michael Casey, Andy Stebbing, Martin Harrison, Oona O Beirn

      Game of Thrones (Season 8)

      Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, David Nutter, Miguel Sapochnik, Bryan Cogman, Chris Newman, Greg Spence, Lisa McAtackney, Duncan Muggoch

      Succession (Season 2)

      Producers: Jesse Armstrong, Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, Frank Rich, Kevin Messick, Mark Mylod, Jane Tranter, Tony Roche, Scott Ferguson, Jon Brown, Georgia Pritchett, Will Tracy, Jonathan Glatzer, Dara Schnapper, Gabrielle Mahon, Lucy Prebble

      Watchmen (Season 1)

      Producers:Damon Lindelof, Tom Spezialy, Nicole Kassell, Stephen Williams, Joseph E. Iberti, Ron Schmidt, Lila Byock, Nick Cuse, Christal Henry, Karen Wacker, John Blair, Carly Wray

 

The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television - Comedy

      Barry (Season 2)

      Producers: Alec Berg, Bill Hader, Aida Rodgers, Liz Sarnoff, Emily Heller, Julie Camino, Jason Kim

      Fleabag (Season 2)

      Producers: Phoebe Waller‐Bridge, Harry Bradbeer, Lydia Hampson, Harry Williams, Jack Williams, Joe Lewis, Sarah Hammond

      The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 3)

      Producers: Amy Sherman‐Palladino, Daniel Palladino, Dhana Gilbert, Matthew Shapiro, Daniel Goldfarb, Kate Fodor, Sono Patel

      Schitt’s Creek (Season 5)

      Producers: Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy, Andrew Barnsley, Fred Levy, David West Read, Ben Feigin, Michael Short, Rupinder Gill, Colin Brunton

      Veep (Season 7)

      Producers: David Mandel, Frank Rich, Julia Louis‐Dreyfus, Lew Morton, Morgan Sackett, Peter Huyck, Alex Gregory, Jennifer Crittenden, Gabrielle Allan, Billy Kimball, Rachel Axler, Ted Cohen, Ian Maxtone‐Graham, Dan O'Keefe, Steve Hely, David Hyman, Georgia Pritchett, Erik Kenward, Dan Mintz, Doug Smith

 

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Limited Series Television

      Chernobyl

      Producers: Craig Mazin, Carolyn Strauss, Jane Featherstone, Johan Renck, Chris Fry, Sanne Wohlenberg

      Fosse/Verdon

      Producers: Thomas Kail, Steven Levenson, Lin‐Manuel Miranda, Joel Fields, George Stelzner, Sam Rockwell, Michelle Williams, Tracey Scott Wilson, Charlotte Stoudt, Nicole Fosse, Erica Kay, Kate Sullivan, Brad Carpenter

      True Detective

      Producers:  Nic Pizzolatto, Scott Stephens, Daniel Sackheim, Peter Feldman, Steve Golin, Bard Dorros

      Unbelievable

      Producers:  Susannah Grant, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Lisa Cholodenko, Ayelet Waldman, Michael Chabon, Katie Couric, Jennifer Schuur, Becky Mode, John Vohlers, Kate DiMento, Chris Leanza

      When They See Us

      Producers: Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, Berry Welsh, Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay, Amy Kaufman, Robin Swicord

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Televised or Streamed Motion Pictures

      American Son

      Producers: Kenny Leon, Kerry Washington, Pilar Savone, Kristin Bernstein

      Apollo: Missions to the Moon

      Producers:  Tom Jennings, David Tillman, Abe Scheuermann, Chris Morcom, Rob Kirk

      Black Mirror: Striking Vipers

      Producers:  Annabel Jones, Charlie Brooker, Kate Glover

      Deadwood: The Movie

      Producers: David Milch, Carolyn Strauss, Gregg Fienberg, Scott Stephens, Daniel Minahan, Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Regina Corrado, Nichole Beattie, Mark Tobey

      El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

      Producers:  Mark Johnson, Melissa Bernstein, Charles Newirth, Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, Diane Mercer

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television

      30 for 30 (Season 10)

      Producers: Libby Geist, Connor Schell, John Dahl, Rob King, Erin Leyden, Gentry Kirby, Deidre Fenton, Marquis Daisy, Jenna Anthony, Adam Neuhaus

      60 Minutes (Season 51, Season 52)

      Producer: Bill Owens

      Leaving Neverland

      Producer: Dan Reed

      Queer Eye (Season 3, Season 4)

      Producers: David Collins, Michael Williams, Rob Eric, Jennifer Lane, Jordana Hochman, Rachelle Mendez, Mark Bracero

      Surviving R. Kelly (Season 1)

      Producers:  Joel Karsberg, dream hampton, Jesse Daniels, Tamra Simmons, Brie Miranda Bryant, Jessica Everleth, Mary Bissell, Maria Pepin, Charlotte Glover, Allison Brandin, Laura Hoeppner

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television

      The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Season 25)

      Producers:  Trevor Noah, Jennifer Flanz, Jill Katz, Justin Melkmann, Zhubin Parang, Jocelyn Conn, Max Browning, Eric Davies, Pamela DePace, Ramin Hedayati, David Kibuuka, Elise Terrell, Dave Blog, Adam Chodikoff, Jimmy Donn, Jeff Gussow, Kira Klang Hopf, Allison MacDonald, Ryan Middleton

      Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones

      Producers:  Dave Chappelle, Stan Lathan, Rikki Hughes, Sina Sadighi

      Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Season 6)

      Producers:  John Oliver, Tim Carvell, Liz Stanton, Jeremy Tchaban, Christopher Werner, Laura L. Griffin, Kate Mullaney, Matt Passet, Marian Wang, Charles Wilson

      The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Season 5)

      Producers:  Stephen Colbert, Chris Licht, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart, Barry Julien, Denise Rehrig, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Paul Dinello, Matt Lappin, Opus Moreschi, Emily Gertler, Michael Brumm, Bjoern Stejskal, Paige Kendig, Jake Plunkett, Aaron Cohen, Sara Vilkomerson, Adam Wager

      Saturday Night Live (Season 45)

      Producers:  Lorne Michaels, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lindsay Shookus, Erin Doyle, Tom Broecker, Ken Aymong

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Game & Competition Television

      The Amazing Race (Season 31)

      Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Bertram van Munster, Jonathan Littman, Elise Doganieri, Mark Vertullo, Phil Keoghan

      The Masked Singer (Season 1)

      Producers: Craig Plestis, Izzie Pick Ibarra, Nikki Varhely-Gillingham, Rosie Seitchik, Stacey Thomas-Muir, Nick Cannon, Ashley Sylvester, Lindsay Tuggle, Pete Cooksley, Chelsea Candelaria, Anne Chanthavong, Zoë Ritchken, Deena Katz, Erin Brady, Jeff Kmiotek, Lexi Shoemaker

      RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 11)

      Producers: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Tom Campbell, Mandy Salangsang, RuPaul Charles, Steven Corfe, Bruce McCoy, Michele Mills, Jacqueline Wilson, Thairin Smothers, John Polly, Michelle Visage, Jen Passovoy

      Top Chef (Season 16)

      Producers: Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, Doneen Arquines, Casey Kriley, Tara Siener, Justin Rae Barnes, Blake Davis, Patrick Schmedeman, Wade Sheeler, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Elida Carbajal Araiza, Brian Fowler, Caitlin Rademaekers, Steve Lichtenstein, Emily Van Bergen

      The Voice (Season 16, Season 17)

      Producers: John de Mol, Mark Burnett, Audrey Morrissey, Stijn Bakkers, Amanda Zucker, Kyra Thompson, Teddy Valenti, Kyley Tucker, Carson Daly

 

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Picture

●      Advocate

○      Producers: Philippe Bellaiche, Rachel Leah Jones

●      American Factory

○      Producers: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert

●      Apollo 11

○      Producers: Todd Douglas Miller, Thomas Petersen

●      The Cave

○      Producers: Kirstine Barfod, Sigrid Dyekjaer

●      For Sama

○      Producers: Waas al-Kateab

●      Honeyland

○      Producers: Atanas Georgiev, Ljubomir Stefanov

●     One Child Nation

○      Producers: Christoph Jörg, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhan

 

 The following winners were awarded in the previous weeks:

 

The Award for Outstanding Short-Form Program

      Billy on the Street with Billy Eichner

      Born This Way (S5)

      Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (S11)

      Creating Saturday Night Live (S3)

      Under a Rock with Tig Notaro (S1)

 

The Award for Outstanding Sports Program

      Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders (S14)

      Lindsey Vonn: The Final Season

      Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (S25)

      SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt (S5)

      What's My Name | Muhammad Ali

 

The Award for Outstanding Children's Program

      Carmen Sandiego (S1, S2)

      Green Eggs and Ham (S1)

      Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (S1)

      A Series of Unfortunate Events (S3)

      Sesame Street (S49)


The PGA Innovation Award

      20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: An Interactive Adventure

      Artificial

      Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

      Bonfire

      Cosmos Within Us

      Eleven Eleven

      First Man VR

      How to Train Your Dragon: Fly with Toothless VR

      How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Virtual Tour

      Interactive Play at Sesame Street Land, SeaWorld, Orlando

      Mesmerica

      Tree VR

      Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series - Episode I

      You vs. Wild

 

Suzanne Todd is the Executive Producer of the 2020 Producers Guild Awards. Sponsors include: Chevrolet, Official Automotive Partner; Delta, Official Airline Partner and sponsor of the Visionary Award; GreenSlate, PGA annual partner and Cocktail Reception sponsor; and William Grant & Sons spirits.


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