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HBO's "Divorce" Goes Green with Help of Green Production Guide

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2018
“As producers, we have opportunities to lead by example in showcasing best practices on set,” said Sarah Jessica Parker and Alison Benson, Pretty Matches Productions. “For Season 2 of Divorce, our production embraced sustainability. PGA’s Green Production Guide gave us the guideposts we needed to identify some obvious areas where we could make a dent in business-as-usual by diverting resources from landfills, recycling and composting. With the support of HBO, we look forward to continuing to make the case that being sustainable is good for the environment and for a production’s bottom line.”

PGA East Green Chairs Claudine Marrotte and Christina Delfico produced the video below showcasing Divorce’s sustainability efforts to green their production, diverting over 350,000 pounds of waste and preventing 76,000 single-use bottles from going to the landfill.  Watch this 3 minute video to get sustainability tips from Divorce cast member Talia Balsam and executive producer Michael Stricks of the HBO hit show.  For more resources visit

Tags:  green production guide  pga green 

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Producers Guild of America Foundation Receives $2M CBS Grant For Program To Combat Sexual Harassment

Posted By Administration, Friday, December 14, 2018

LOS ANGELES (December 14, 2018) -- The Producers Guild of America (PGA) announced today that its charitable arm, the Producers Guild of America Foundation 501(c)(3), has received a grant of $2 million from CBS in support of its landmark new program, the “Independent Production Safety Initiative,” which will provide free anti-sexual harassment training and legal consultation for independent film, television, and digital productions.

“We are grateful to CBS for supporting the Producers Guild’s efforts to combat sexual harassment in our industry,” said PGA Presidents Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher. “In speaking to a broad cross-section of our membership, it became evident many independent producers felt strongly that their productions would greatly benefit from professional, in-person anti-sexual harassment training.  However, most independent productions lack sufficient financial and institutional resources to gain access to such training. The PGA Foundation’s ‘Independent Production Safety Initiative’ is a groundbreaking new program created to answer that need by providing free training to independent productions. We believe it will make an immediate impact toward improving the professional lives of thousands of workers in our industry.”

Additionally, for any qualifying independent production which participates in the PGA Foundation program, there also will be access of up to two hours of free consultation with a legal expert versed in the field of harassment law. These hours may be used at any point as needed during the production process to address any issues or circumstances that arise.

“The inclusion of legal consultation hours is a critical element of the ‘Independent Production Safety Initiative,’” said PGA President Emeritus and Chair of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force, Lori McCreary. “Unique and often complicated circumstances can arise over the course of any given production, so providing access to an attorney lets producers know they will not be left on their own if incidents of harassment occur. This expert legal counsel will reinforce producers’ knowledge and authority around workplace harassment and reporting procedures.”

The PGA Foundation’s “Independent Production Safety Initiative” will use funds from its CBS grant to pay for on set, in-person, anti-sexual harassment training as well as up to two hours of legal consultation to any qualifying independent film, television, or digital production. A qualifying production will be defined as one which includes more than 20 individuals among its cast and crew, but does not have access to a company human resources or legal department. To assist productions with 20 or fewer cast and crew members, the program will provide complimentary access to group training sessions, which will be held on a quarterly basis across a variety of production centers across the U.S.

The “Independent Production Safety Initiative” program builds on the work of the PGA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Task Force, which was established in 2017 in response to reports of widespread misconduct in the entertainment industry. In January 2018, The PGA released its Anti-Sexual Harassment Guidelines, making it the first organization in the entertainment industry to provide concrete protocols to combat sexual harassment. Additional details about the PGA Foundation’s “Independent Production Safety Initiative” and its submission procedures will be available on the Producers Guild website in early 2019.



The Producers Guild of America is a non-profit trade organization which protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media. Representing more than 8,000 producers, the PGA works to safeguard the careers of its members and improve the producing community at large by encouraging the enforcement of workplace labor laws and sustainable production practices, creating fair and impartial standards for the awarding of producing credits, facilitating health benefits for its membership, and hosting educational opportunities for new and experienced producers alike. For more information and the latest updates, please visit the Producers Guild of America website and follow on social media:

Twitter / Instagram: @ProducersGuild


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Fast Break - Michael D. Ratner and OBB Pictures Look Beyond The Sports/Entertainment Model They Pioneered In The Digital Space

Posted By Spike Friedman, Thursday, November 29, 2018

When I walked into OBB Pictures and met producer Michael D. Ratner, the question that kept rattling around my brain was: How has this guy already done so much? It’s a lot to take in, frankly. In a wildly short amount of time, Ratner has been able to go from a kid making student films, to an intern thrust into producing content at Relativity, to creating his own company that produces work with the biggest athletes in the world, to now making music documentaries, horror television, and comedy specials. And all within the past five years.

Ratner is engaging and smart. This is a guy who’s thought about the business he is creating and how it can be a platform for him and his team to both be creative and profitable. He’s taken his share of gambles in a compressed timeline, and he’s been able to continuously leverage his success to grow from just being a sports content creator into something of a mini-mogul.

Ratner was a sports fan from childhood, but he didn’t set out to carve out a niche for himself in the sports world. He was making romantic comedies at NYU Film School, when a summer job at Relativity led to an opportunity to produce run-and-gun material for athletes. “At the time, there was no other studio-slash-sports agency that could create content in-house. There are union rules, but since [Relativity] didn’t rep directors and actors they could create the stuff there, for their athletes. It was supposed to draw athletes in by creating content in-house. But they didn’t have a practical mechanism to make that happen.” 

Producer Michael Ratner consults with comedian/host Kevin Hart
on the set of interview series
Cold As Balls

That’s where Ratner came in. While still in grad school, he was put in a position where as an intern at Relativity, he could write, direct, edit and produce content with top name athletes and release it quickly, sometimes in as little as 24 hours. This model has become ubiquitous with the proliferation of professional digital content studios, but at the time it was unique, and with the sports angle even more so. “I was tasked with working with Amare Stoudamire or Miguel Cabrera,” he recalls. “They’re coming in, so come up with three ideas, and then create it.” 

This was successful enough that Ratner was offered a chance to stay at Relativity, perhaps turning this work into a profit center for the company. But Ratner took a gamble: He went back to school to finish out his degree. “I was asking myself, ‘Don’t you go to film school to get this opportunity?’ But at the same point, I wanted to go to New York and finish. My whole life was in New York, and I felt like just going and working at Relativity might not be as entrepreneurial as I thought I needed.”

That early phase was not only a practical crash course for Ratner, it set the tone for what OBB would eventually become. “I love sports. I love telling stories,” he says. “I got an opportunity where I could bring them together and do it in a really unique way. And I had this epiphany: I just spent 24 hours producing a piece with say, Iman Shumpert. And it got 300,000 views. And people saw it and loved it. At Tisch I spent a bunch of money just hustling around—six months—and made a romantic comedy that was seen by 50 people in a basement. And I thought to myself, there’s gotta be a way to bridge these things—storytelling, doing things the right way, and the ability to find a star and make things quickly on a digital scale.”

Passing on a job could have been a major missed opportunity. That’s not how things played out. Instead, Relativity kept his seat warm, and he was invited back after graduating. He chose to do so, but on his own terms. “They offered me a sort of undefined executive role in Los Angeles, but I had this idea for a company in my head. I had the name OBB (Original. Big. Bold.), which was just an idea. I had the little logo. I just really wanted to build something. So I said I want to come, but I wanted a first-look deal.” This was a ballsy ask, by any standard; Ratner barely knew what a first-look deal was at the time. He got the reaction you might expect: “Whaaaat?”

Ratner was looking for a measure of credibility, but was told his scheme was a tough sell. So he passed on the gig and committed to starting his own thing. Three months later? The deal was struck, with one condition. Ratner would have to uproot himself and his work and come out to LA.

Things started moving quickly at that point. He sold a 30 for 30 to ESPN, and as he produced the piece he leveraged from Relativity the connections it afforded. “When I talked to a vendor? I was OBB. When I called up Sean Penn’s people to have him narrate the piece? I was with Relativity. I was able to really get stuff done.” This was all happening just before Relativity would go through its errors of stability, so there was an unusual autonomy afforded to the young producer. But he used it to make work happen, to hustle and to push his company forward.

Interestingly, Ratner’s moment is one that could not be recreated now, mere years later. As Relativity was crumbling, there were myriad opportunities for a producer with Ratner’s skillset to get content out there. With the proliferation of platforms, Ratner says, “There had never been a bigger need for content, and the barrier to entry had never been lower. Maybe I wasn’t able to compete with the top showrunners in Hollywood at HBO, but you could be able to go and have someone take a bet on you if you were making pretty good stuff.” Ratner amicably parted ways from Relativity and was able to strike out on his own to launch OBB, maintaining the formula that he had developed. This was another roll of the dice: Would he be able to get deals done without the backing of a larger company? In this particularly fertile moment, that answer was yes. Among other projects, Ratner created the comedy anthology series The 5th Quarter, which connected him with a massive slew of the nation’s best athletes, streamed on the now defunct go90 platform.

But it still wasn’t simple. Before he could proceed to making his own work, Ratner had to put a company together. This meant bringing in his brother Scott to help figure out all those details: employment contracts, workman’s comp, real estate ... all the things that make an independent production outfit a real company as opposed to a vanity shingle. They signed contracts with UTA and 3Arts and started working broadly, with everyone they could. 

Early in the process, Ratner made a savvy choice to do more than just project development. “I think I got very fearful of people calling bullshit on me,” he admits. “So what I saw was an opening for ‘concept-to-screen’ in this digital era, to make content from ideation to the moment someone is viewing it, whether it’s on a laptop or a phone. And with that, you could get something very cool done in a year, whereas with a film it could be four to as many as 10 years.” Ratner pinpointed opportunities that would be able to go from concept to screen on his one-year-or-less timeline.

That confluence of factors set OBB up to own the block on sports content. “Athletes liked us,” Ratner says by way of explanation. “People started looking good in the go90 show. People started saying ‘These are the new guys in sports content.’” But sports content was only the way in for Ratner. The man loves sports and the work he does with athletes, but OBB has become much more than just a sports content mill. 

Ratner preps for a segment with NBA star Joel Embiid

Aside from the type of content they produce, what defines OBB is its people. Putting it bluntly, the place is filled with people who are very, very smart. He brought his brother Scott on board early as a co-founder, taking him away from the white shoe law firm Sullivan & Cromwell to run business development at OBB. Head of Production, Eric Cohen, is a Princeton grad who worked as an engineer at Microsoft before getting his MBA/MFA at NYU. “The infrastructure to me is everything,” Ratner says of the base he’s built at OBB. His definition of infrastructure is a broad one. It’s the ability to make work from idea to product. It’s having a space that can house a full company and also keep post-production close to the creators. It’s about being rigorous and forward-thinking in the use of analytics and how they can drive the OBB business. And it’s about having a team of really smart people that Ratner trusts to his core.

A little bit about the OBB space: It’s nontraditional for a production company. When OBB outgrew its initial office space on Beverly, they decided to go big with their new home. Hence OBB Pictures now inhabits what was once Scooter Braun’s recording space in West Hollywood. What used to be Justin Bieber’s recording studio is now a pair of edit bays, where content like Kevin Hart’s Cold As Balls gets cut. They have a deck, which was blazingly hot on the summer afternoon when I visited, but felt like an ideal space to work outside or generally hang almost all year round. They sublease a few offices to Blake Griffin and Ryan Kalil’s production company, Mortal Media, keeping OBB close to two of the smartest and funniest athletes around. “I think we’ve got a farm system here,” Ratner says, “that can make products in-house that are platform-and duration-agnostic.”

Having a team like this surrounding Ratner has allowed him to push the organization beyond its roots. And in fact he forced the company to take six months to develop exclusively non-sports related content. Were I in Ratner’s position, I would have been terrified to try to expand beyond what was obviously working for me. Instead he defined himself by expansion, and it’s paid off in numerous ways. “We’ve landed comedies. We have a horror show. We’re in production on a documentary about Jeezy. And it’s exciting as we’re now fully announced and market-facing in all these pillars.” Ratner could have simply owned the sports content block. But now OBB is more than that, and it’s growing all the time.

What this does, ultimately, is free Ratner up to tell stories again. He still showruns and directs Cold As Balls, and he's currently producing and directing OBB's Netflix Original comedy series Historical Roasts, starring Jeff Ross. And as OBB becomes more self-sufficient as a company, he sees a longer-term possibility to get back to his feature filmmaking roots. “I want to be able to focus on projects that really, really inspire me. Where I need to use my specific voice.” Getting OBB off the ground made that tricky for Ratner. But with his youth, his fire and his business acumen, I wouldn’t put it past him to keep this company surging, while coming into his own as a full-fledged feature storyteller.

So how has Ratner gotten all this done by his 30th birthday? (Yeah, he was only 29 when I spoke to him.) It’s hard work and it’s luck, and it’s timing, and it’s smarts, and it’s skill. It’s a really good team with a really savvy vision for the company. It’s all of these factors coming together in an organization that makes it work. Ratner and OBB’s story is already deep and complex. End act one.



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Better Late Than Ever - Veteran News Producer Chris Licht Finds A Home At Helm of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Posted By Sarah P. Sanders, Tuesday, November 27, 2018

"You're more of a sandblaster," Chris Licht says of his work as a producer. “If theres something thats getting in the way of talented people, get rid of it.” A quick glance at Licht’s resume could make you think of a guy used to running things: In addition to his work with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he has been the showrunner and executive producer since April 2016, Licht’s career highlights include five years at CBS, most recently as vice president of programming for CBS News and executive producer of CBS This Morning, and co-creating NBC’s Morning Joe, where he served as the original executive producer. In person, though, Licht is insistent that being a producer is all about collaboration.

Producing, he says, is “getting the best people you can in the tent and then removing anything that gets in the way of them doing their job.” Sometimes that means taking over more of the running of a show so the host (one Stephen Colbert) can focus on the comedy; sometimes it means getting rid of unnecessary paperwork for PAs; and sometimes it means providing maternity leave for employees—all of which he has done.

You cant underscore enough that the success of [The Late Show],” he says, pausing to knock on the wood of his desk, “is really that the team that works on it has been allowed to flourish.”

Licht’s regard for the whole team at the Ed Sullivan Theater is apparent. Coming to The Late Show from a news background, the transition to late-night comedy represented a big learning curve for Licht, who says he’s learned everything he knows about the art of comedy, the rhythm of a monologue and the intricacies of working with a live audience, from the people in the building. Those people include not only, of course, Stephen Colbert, but also the creative executives, the field producers, the PAs, the writers, the digital team, the research team, etc. “You have, at every level of this organization, people at the top of their game.”

Licht views a key part of his work as creating a culture in which each one of those people feels comfortable bringing their full voice and experience to the show. He is equally committed to making sure that those voices and experiences are coming from a genuinely diverse group of people.

“Its historically white dudes doing these shows,” he says drily—and he and The Late Show are trying to change that, though he acknowledges there is a long way to go. “When part of your job is to be inclusive—and you realize you have a position where you can effect change because you’re the boss—for me, it’s even more important,” he insists. “It’s part of the gig. It’s part of what you do. It really is. You can’t separate it.”

In order to cultivate a work environment in which everyone feels free to speak, Licht has incorporated several structural practices into The Late Show. These include creating a comment section on their website where anyone involved can anonymously write to him and meeting with everyone across the organization in small groups once a season. But even beyond that, Licht recognizes that a lot of making sure people know their opinions are valued is a matter of behavior; it’s “how you treat people in meetings — how you listen to people when people have a concern, when they come talk to you,” he says. “People feel comfortable based on what the reaction is when they say something.”

Executive producer Chris Licht (center) consults onstage at the Ed Sullivan Theater with stage manager Mark McKenna (left) and host Stephen Colbert.

Licht puts such an emphasis on hearing and connecting with individuals, not only because he believes in the importance of inclusivity and equity, but also because he knows that listening to new voices and ideas is an essential part of how the business works. “Every step of my career, Ive had somebody who’s taken a chance on me,” he says. “And anybody whos had any success has had somebody who took a chance on them.” Also he adds, it’s just practical. “The culture at this show is as important as what you do on the screen, because it affects what you do on the screen … If people are happy, then the show’s happy. We are a show of joy, so if you have people that are walking around miserable, then it’s not good for business!”

Licht is adamant that, while he may be the EP, his opinions are not more important than anyone else’s. For the most part, he readily defers to the expertise of the show’s creatives and writers. “I don’t ever want someone to feel like they can bring a point of view or not based on, ‘Well, what’s the showrunner going to think?’ Doesn’t matter. Is it funny? Okay,” he explains.

In keeping with that ethos, a typical day at The Late Show begins with a 9:30 a.m. editorial meeting that is intentionally large and includes people from numerous different teams. The meeting is made up of “people who read different things in the morning and have different kinds of friends,” he says, bringing an experimental diversity to the table in terms of what stories are considered and covered. The deciding factor for what topics make it onto the air, in a show responding to an astonishing amount of daily news, is simple: “Are there jokes there?”

“If the jokes are there, Stephen will talk about anything,” he says. “Its been very helpful to have that guiding light.” In the two and half years since Licht came to the show, that formula has clearly worked: The Late Show is now the highest-rated late-night talk show in America and has been nominated for multiple Emmy awards for writing, direction and Outstanding Variety Series, while the team received a raft of separate nominations for Colbert’s November 2016 live election night special. Licht is especially proud of how the show has stayed relevant and instantly responsive to a news cycle that never seems to stop spinning. The day before I came in to speak with Licht, for example, Colbert had thrown out his planned opening monologue right before taping in order to address a certain anonymous Op-Ed that The New York Times had just published that afternoon. “If youre seeing it in the news that night, were talking about it that night,” Licht says with pride.

Coming from a news background, Licht is well-equipped for this kind of immediacy—he loves being involved in news as it’s happening. “All of my experiences that I think fondly on are when I’ve been in the mix, when I’ve been in the middle of something,” he says, highlighting Morning Joe’s coverage of the 2008 presidential election and Norah O’Donnell’s interview for CBS with President Obama right after the San Bernardino shootings as particularly memorable moments. “To be speaking to the President as that was happening, and then to leave the White House literally without a suitcase and fly to San Bernardino with her—that was an incredible experience, to see it from both sides, to cover the actual source of the news,” he says.

Part of what Licht has brought to The Late Show through his experience as a news producer is his ability to keep some emotional distance from the material they cover. When you produce news, he explains, “You do your best to not be emotionally invested in the mix because you have to be impartial, and you have to look at things from both sides. And so I’ve brought a little of that here.” Licht believes that distance provides a balance to the writers and performers on the show, whom he encourages to “bring whatever emotion and thoughts they have to the table … When you’re writing comedy or performing, it’s good to have an emotional investment in it, as opposed to news, where you’re not supposed to have an emotional investment.” But when it comes to making those tough editorial decisions on creative content, “I think it’s helpful if there’s someone like me,” he suggests, “who’s a little bit detached from the emotions.”

The range of material The Late Show has covered since April 2016 has been vast and often emotional. The show provides a kind of catharsis for viewers and for Colbert himself, as the jokes offer a “more palatable” way to take in the news of the day. “We are not trying to change the world,” Licht says. “We’re trying to change how people feel about the world.”

Though covering daily news in a nation abuzz with political intrigue means a lot of talk about politics, Licht maintains that the show’s structure actually revolves around cultural relevance. “We’re talking about what people are talking about,” he says. “Right now politics is a huge part of what we do, but we’re not built to be a political show. We’re built to be a topical show.”

However when the show is political, it is overtly so, unafraid of taking a stance on issues and, through its anchor in humor, critiquing the current administration. “I believe in taking a short-term hit on something controversial and doing the right thing, as opposed to kind of waffling and people not really knowing where you stand,” Licht says. “And luckily, you know, I work for a network that believes that and I work with a talent who believes that as well.”

No moment was more pivotal for their decision to “have a point of view” than Colbert’s live coverage of election night 2016, which Licht describes as a defining moment for his relationship with Colbert. “Stephen and I agreed: no scripts, no nothing here. Just go be you. Be raw,” he says. Knowing that Colbert felt comfortable doing so, from a production standpoint, was essential for him. “When you get that relationship, it’s incredibly helpful to producing down the road from there. You have to trust each other.”

Two years later, that relationship is key to informing how many of the show’s decisions are made and values are shaped, including taking time away from the show. Licht is very grateful for his ability to go home and spend uninterrupted time with his wife and two children (smiling in framed pictures in his office), something he admits did not happen while he was on the “hamster wheel of news” and credits that to Colbert’s focus on his own family. “I remember the first weekend that I had this job, I said, ‘Well, you and I should do a phone call before Monday just so we can get on the same page.’ And he said, ‘Well, Im helping John with his homework. Sunday nights kinda homework time, so let’s do it at this other time.’ And I was like, isnt that interesting, how his priorities work. And you feed off of that.” Licht knows that this work-life balance is not easily maintained in the production world but advocates for taking time away from work if and when it’s possible. “If you have that ability to turn it on and turn it off, take full advantage of it,” he advises.

That said, Licht is the last guy to be sitting back on his heels. In June he was elected to serve on the board of representatives for the PGA East, an experience he already describes as very fruitful. “It’s just been a great way to meet other producers who you can learn from,” he says. His admiration for the Producers Guild makes sense given the value he places on relationships and the open exchange of jobs. “The fact that there’s an organization that cultivates that is phenomenal.” Just think how much sand could be blasted away.

- Photography by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

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Make Your Mark Weekend Shorts Competition - Winners Honored

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The 2018 iteration of the PGA Make Your Mark Weekend Shorts Competition, honoring the film legacy of Sydney Pollack, wrapped up with a rousing awards show celebration held on Saturday, November 10, 2018 in association with New Filmmakers LA. 

Held at the South Park Center in downtown Los Angeles, the short films of the final top 10 entrants were screened, followed by the announcement of the seven-honorable mention winners, then the top three prize winners.  PGA National Board member Charles Howard served as the MC for the show.

First Place winner was End of the Line produced by Matt Angel & Suzanne Coote; Second Place winner was Loose Ends produced by Carlos M. Jimenez & Auriel Jimenez; and Third Place winner was Edge of Internment produced by Tricia Lee & Ally Iseman.

The top three prize winners received “Producers Packages” of gift certificates valued at over $103,000 from our sponsors: Cinelease, Sim International (Cameras & Post Production), Alternative Digital Camera Rentals, CFG Rentals and On Location Rentals, Pathbender Media Holdings, Smart Post Sound, EVS, Quixote Studios and Jon Brence Distribution Consultant.  Additionally, mentorships from PGA Members/Producers Chris Moore, Ian Bryce and Steven Wolfe will be provided to the top three finalists.

The entries were evaluated by an all-star group of judges, including producers and PGA National Board members William Horberg, Hawk Koch, Gary Lucchesi, Lori McCreary, and Bruna Papandrea, as well as actress Jeanne Tripplehorn.

View the winning shorts below and learn more about the Make Your Mark Weekend Shorts Competition at


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