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PGA East Shoot-Out

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, May 17
6:30pm - Reception
7:00pm - Seminar
Q&A to follow presentations
Very Limited Seats
Event Page

By Jill Kaiser

Richard Zanuck said it best: The producer is like the conductor of an orchestra. Maybe he can’t play every instrument, but he knows what every instrument should sound like.

Technology is changing all the time. When I work with DPs and creative directors on projects, they clearly have a vision. They know what they want the shots to look like and how to achieve them. They talk about cameras, lenses, chip size and camera moves. It’s in that discussion that I find myself jotting down on a piece of paper a camera to research, a data rate to be aware of, a note about editing compatibility. There’s so much information out there – it’s hard to keep track of it all. Our upcoming seminar was born out of the desire to know more about the technology choices that are available and what to consider during the decision-making process.

I am a producer -- I don’t need to know how to white balance the camera or how many inputs it has. Frankly, I don’t want to know that. What I want to know is, entirely apart from its beautiful imagery, what are the pros and cons that come with using a particular camera? I need to be aware of what they are in the field to ensure that my project runs smoothly and that I’m prepared to support this technology throughout the entire production process. I need to know how it impacts my budget, its compatibility with what we are shooting, how I should staff data transfer and how to make certain it goes through the post-production process without any issues.

This seminar is meant to facilitate the discussion between the producer and the DP – so when the DP makes the decision to shoot on a specific camera, we know what resources we need to line up and what to consider as we move into post.

The seminar will present seven different cameras and compare them across three key characteristics: light sensitivity, green screen/key and depth of field. Experienced DPs will be presenting each camera from the shoot-out, and the event will include a side-by-side comparison with stills and footage to see how each camera fared in each category. It’s sure to be an invaluable experience.

As a producer, we all want to do our job better, and better our skills in our craft. This seminar is one that we hope will sharpen the tools in our production tool box.

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The 83rd Academy Awards: A Digital Backstage Pass

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two PGA Producers Reach Across Platforms to Celebrate Everyone’s Love of the Movies

There’s something compelling about seeing the human side of Academy Award winners in triumphant moments. It’s personal. Their story is written on their face and in their gestures. The Awards this year allowed viewers to more of that than ever before, thanks to some technology, the forward-thinking leadership at the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences, ABC and a few PGA producers who worked collaboratively across their platforms to bring the Oscars into the second-screen space.

The push by ABC and the Academy to offer a multi-screen experience roped together many facets of television and digital production that have rarely had to co-exist in such an orchestrated manner. The entire production, from its inception, was dedicated to telling a story that translated fluidly from screen to screen.

You’re Invited

Don Mischer and Bruce Cohen, Producers of the 2011 Oscars
Photo by Susan B. Landau
It began when PGA member and former PGA Vice President of Motion Pictures Bruce Cohen was brought in back in July. Don Mischer and Cohen dreamt up the concept very early. As a result, all the marketing, PR and advertising was co-ordinated, including their overall campaign slogan, "You’re Invited.” As Cohen explains, "This created a point of view for the people at home and a jumping off point for everything, including digital. You have to evaluate what is most exciting for the audience. Don and I wanted to focus on the idea that everyone who has a love for the movies could discover them anew. Our ‘broad strokes’ challenge was to take an approach that the Oscars are for everybody. We weren’t trying to make extensive format changes, but the Academy was excited to let us push the boundaries, including in the digital space.”

Meanwhile, ABC geared up to do what they do every year – make a website to promote the show. But this year was different. Albert Cheng, EVP of Digital at ABC, was involved heavily with Cohen, Mischer and the Academy from the very beginning. ABC’s digital department took a fresh approach and staffed up, bringing in a dedicated group of digital producers, engineers and artists, all focused on treating the Oscars like a story. The website and related iOS apps had to weave together a holistic proscenium that changed over time, showcased different content, and keep beat with the ramp-up to and different stages of the actual broadcast.

For instance, the iPhone/iPad app allowed viewers to see 22 different streaming camera views, including the red carpet, backstage and even in the exclusive Governor’s Ball. That, along with dedicated video, online galleries, nominee details and a play-along ballot game made for quite a digital footprint for the Academy Awards.

Bridging the Digital Divide

Vice Chair of the PGA New Media Council and Cohen’s fellow National Board Member Chris Thomes was brought in to show-run and manage the experience. His goal was simple: tell the story – digitally.

A veteran of the digital space, Thomes knew how to wrangle both ABC and Academy. From daily calls with key stakeholders to incorporating changes during rounds of reviews, everyone was on edge to get things done as quickly as possible, plus there were those inevitable last minute changes and additions that had to be managed.

"I think that’s why ABC called me. My experience with Disney and managing sensitive and challenging digital projects was a good fit. I literally stepped into the Oscar production without missing a beat.”

Chris Thomes helps bridge the digital divide at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards
"There were a lot of moving parts,” Thomes continues, "between the iPhone/iPad app, the site, and the TV production. I had worked on web/TV productions before with, Disney Channel and, but nothing ever of this magnitude… It was impressive. We were even synching the backgrounds of the website to change in conjunction with on-air graphics during the show. It was important to remain consistent in telling the story that Cohen and Mischer’s team had developed, and ensure that viewers could move as seamlessly as possible from platform to platform.”

Thomes admits that even with a well-planned operation, technology often throws unexpected hurdles. "We had Internet latency issues to contend with, technology limitations, and server capacity challenges. None of this was insurmountable, but it gets your heart beating pretty fast when you have to bring people together and motivate them to solve these bumps in the road and stay on schedule.”

But is this same approach going to work again next year? Thomes has his doubts. "I can see ABC continuing to need a dedicated team for Oscars. They can’t stop production on other shows and sites to support the Oscars. is too big now and expectations have been set. I think they will need to bring the team on much earlier. Cohen was working on the show since July. The Oscar digital crew has to be in place around the same time because the digital experience is no longer just a brochure marketing the show. It’s part of the entire experience – an integral part of it.”

Social Media Maven

Enter the third axis—Bedonna Smith, Cohen and Mischer’s digital media producer, who worked on the social media aspect of the show. Smith leveraged social tools like Twitter to reach beyond the official digital spaces of the Oscars into the personal realm of movie fans. Explains Smith, "The Academy is prestigious and catered to its audience in a specific way. They have just recently joined the social media world. It’s new for them. But as of October 2010, they had over 48,000 followers."

Indeed, reaching out in this area has been a benefit. AMAPAS has generated a huge appetite for content around the show and really stretched how to connect with their audience. Smith elaborates on her approach, "This year, we invited the moms of the award nominees (who someone dubbed The Mominees) to join in the celebration by Tweeting about the Oscar experience. We invited all the moms, then quickly vetted which were able and available to tweet and/or learn to tweet. Lee Unkrich’s mom was the only one of our Mominees who was already on Twitter, but those who joined in, quickly got the hang of tweeting and met one another on Twitter.”

No stranger to the power of social media, Smith leveraged the personal and emotional power it can muster. "We thought it would be great to get at the human questions – How did you encourage your child to pursue a creative path and career? How does it feel, knowing that they have reached this stage, recognized by their peers for excellence? We thought it was an especially interesting insight because the ‘parents’ of nominees have more historical awareness of the Oscars. They grew up watching the Oscars. We thought it might be just as exciting for the moms of nominees go through the experience themselves.”

Smith looks back at the experience and takes note of the magnitude and impact of digital on the Awards this year. "It’s exciting to know that, because of the proliferation of digital platforms, information about the technical arts and achievements will be increasingly accessible to interested audiences. For such a collaborative craft, it’s great that The Academy will have even more outlets to educate interested young people about the ‘pinnacle’ of these professions, and will hopefully help to be another avenue for folks to find their way to these professions. In other words, every one involved in filmmaking knows that ‘glamour’, if you will, is a small part of the whole. Without technically proficient leaders in specialized areas, the craft does not move forward. So it’s great that digital platforms help the Motion Picture Academy continue to have a voice in that.”

The Second Screen Story

So now we might just always expect to follow am Academy Award winner as they leave the stage and hear their more candid "thank you’s” at the thank you cam, or see unexpected moments on the red carpet or at the Governor’s Ball. But at the end of the day, is it making the Awards better?

Cohen suggests, "We were talking to all generations. The show included bits of Oscar history, including the first televised Oscars. Digital was another way to share these moments and bridge into a contemporary audience. It helped promote the Oscars, allowed us to connect people with their love of the movies, and gave us touch points to engage viewers in all demographics… Programming for the second screen is a response to the second screen existing. The Oscars’ second screen content augmented the entire experience. The streaming trivia content made it a great place for people’s attention to be.”

Thomes agrees and suggests we may just be seeing the tip of the iceberg. "As long as technology doesn’t get in the way and allows the viewers to connect emotionally with the Awards, or any entertainment, it can augment the story. Sometimes, how it does this can be completely unexpected and you shouldn’t assume what viewers will do when given choices of how to consume content. Once you make an experience non-linear, you may be making it digital, but how it’s consumed is still very analog, very human. People can surprise you with technology.”

Smith notes that as platforms come together in unexpected ways, orchestrating everything will be critical. "The Oscars delivered a ‘live voice,” she observes. As we move forward, all the digital pieces will require fine-tuning next year so that everything is in tighter concert with one another. We have to look at all the platforms and make choices that deliver to people where they are."

"We haven’t seen anything yet,” suggests Thomes. "If Twitter can be used to rally massive rebellion in countries around the world, it can certainly be used to relate pathos… This year, using technology, the Awards reached across age groups and demographics. It celebrated what we all love about the movies. If technology can bring people together to that end, I think it is serving its purpose. It’s making the passion of cinema become part of the story of everyone’s lives. And that can transcend time and become part of the zeitgeist that is our collective passion for a good story.”

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A Message from the Executive Director

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Conference Call
By Vance Van Petten

After working for producers for more than 10 years, I’ve learned a few things: 1) Don’t count on back-end points; 2) Make sure you’ve got decent craft service; and 3) You’ve got to top what you did last time out.

That last point is the one we’ve had to keep in mind for our 2011 Produced By Conference. Our previous two efforts were sellout successes, so the bar was already pretty high. But after a lot of hard work, we’re certain that this June 3–5, the PGA will be offering its biggest and best edition of Produced By yet.

To do that, we’ve brought on a partner, the Association of Film Commissions, International (AFCI), who have merged their annual Locations Expo under the Produced By banner. So what does this change mean for producers attending our Conference? Only that they’ll have access to over hundreds of local, state and international film commissions, each of which will be trying to lure your next project to their neck of the woods. Together, these commissions represent more than $2 billion — yes, that’s billion with a "B” — in production incentives. If you’ve got a project you’re looking to get off the ground (and if you’re reading this magazine, you probably do), Produced By 2011 is where you start the countdown.

Of course, our Conference will be offering the mix of top speakers and panels you’ve come to expect from this event. How often do you get to spend a weekend with Harvey Weinstein, Mark Gordon, Gale Anne Hurd, Damon Lindelof, Hawk Koch, Marc Cherry, John Sloss, Marshall Herskovitz, Lauren Shuler Donner, Jason Blum and dozens of their colleagues, all drawn from the top ranks of our profession? You’ll hear the straight story from producers who have been there, on everything from producing blockbusters to getting micro-budget features made to selling your non-fiction series to a hungry network.

Every year, we try to rotate our Conference to a new studio venue. This year, Disney/ABC Studios has stepped up as our host, offering Conference attendees unique access to their facilities and producing talent. Executives Barry Jossen, Paul Lee, Sean Bailey and Anne Sweeney have embraced the event wholeheartedly and have helped us to assemble a weekend that no producer will want to miss.

At Produced By, you’ll have the opportunity to network with hundreds of your colleagues, get face-to-face advice from a top producer through our Mentoring Roundtables, learn detailed ins and outs of a variety of shooting locations through FilmUSA’s "On the Ground With...” program, and immerse yourself in your profession like never before.

Oh, and in case you hadn’t heard, 600 PGA members (first come, first served) will get to do nearly all of this for free. Membership has its privileges, after all.

I look forward to seeing you at Disney/ABC Studios for this year’s Produced By Conference ... assuming you can get a registration slot. As I mentioned earlier, this thing has a habit of selling out. Go to today and register for the event of the summer.

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Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012
If you were there, you know what it was like. Tuxedos. Red carpets. Press photographers. Stars, studio heads and producers as far as the eye can see… which, to be fair, wasn’t far—it was a sold-out event, with attendees packed in pretty tight. But it wasn’t hard to make your way among the tables and get a glimpse of the industry’s top talents and power players kicking back to relax together—Tom Hanks swapping joke ideas with Judd Apatow; The Fighter’sAmy Adams comparing notes with King’s Speech director Tom Hooper; Justin Timberlake sharing a laugh with Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin. No exaggeration: The entire industry turned out to support the PGA on January 22.

After enjoying a tasty filet mignon (or non-red-meat entrée of choice, for those who leaned that way), the crowd settled in to enjoy host Judd Apatow’s formidable (and frequently R-rated) hosting skills, as the host affectionately skewered nearly everyone in the room.

After category wins for such lighter fare as Modern Family and Toy Story 3, the evening soon reached some of its emotional high points, including the presentation of the prestigious Stanley Kramer Award to Sean Penn by Major Brian Woolworth, a fellow veteran of the Haitian relief effort.

As the evening continued with non-fiction TV wins for The Colbert Report and Deadliest Catch, the powerful tributes kept coming. After a moving introduction by director David Fincher, Laura Ziskin took the stage to accept the PGA’s Visionary Award.

Not long thereafter, Waiting For Superman took home the PGA’s documentary award, while Mad Men copped its third straight TV drama award following a memorable off-script presentation from Mark Wahlberg. It all led up to the evening’s dramatic moment, Dame Helen Mirren’s announcement of the upset winner of the Darryl F. Zanuck Award.

It was a dazzling, memorable, packed-to-the-gills kind of night. Kudos once again to Paula Wagner, Hawk Koch, Mark Gordon, and the entire Awards team for doing the PGA proud. And for those of you who can’t get enough of the Producers Guild Awards, check back soon for some exclusive behind-the-scenes photos of the Awards’ stars and winners.

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PGA Job Forums: "Hire" Ground

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The PGA East Non-Fiction Job Forum
Whether you’re sitting at a PGA Job Forum table or making the rounds conducting interviews, you can count on being dazzled by the producing talent on display. Participants perfect their "elevator pitches” so well that by the time the fourth interviewer comes around, tablemates can do each other’s spiels. You may think it’s hard to connect that quickly, but we all know first impressions play a huge part in any job interview.

For the uninitiated, a PGA job forum presents an opportunity for one-on-one face time between promi- nent employers and numerous qualified producers, executive producers, line producers, APs, field/segment producers, post producers, production managers and production supervisors. On the West Coast, up to 100 members take part; events held through the PGA East are slightly more intimate, with participation capped at 55 members.

These popular events were inaugurated in Los Angeles in 2003, when the West Coast Employment Committee embarked on its quest to showcase the Guild’s talented members to the major employers in our industry. The Job Forums quickly became one of the major benefits to being a member of the Producers Guild, and the format migrated east later that year.

The event’s format is often compared to speed dat- ing. Participating PGA members sit in groups, where they are joined by a potential employer. Members at the table get a chance to market themselves for two minutes — it’s longer than you think — a great way to hone your interview skills. It’s a format that forces you to be direct about how you’re a good fit for the person in front of you, and they listen intently as they have only two minutes to suss you out. After a prescribed amount of time, a bell sounds, and the employers rotate to the next table.

Alex MacDowell, Director of Production Management at AETN, greets a table at the 2010 PGA East Non-Fiction Job Forum

In the course of one event, employers meet scores of experienced PGA professionals and leave with a binder brimming with resumes — a fantastic resource to staff up their next project. For PGA members, besides the obvious benefit, it’s also a chance to find out what employers are looking for — and network with lots of their fellow PGA members. (You never know where your next job will come from!) The event is a win-win for everyone involved.

Over the course of a year, the Employment Committees organize separate job forums for separate categories of production. On the West Coast, employ- ers are eagerly signing up for the Episodic/Scripted TV Job Forum, which will be held Saturday, January 29. Representatives from ABC, CBS, NBC, Comedy Central and Sony TV to name but a few, are already lined up to make their acquaintance with dozens of PGA members. The PGA East’s Job Forum for Scripted Production takes place in the fall.

PGA members who work in reality and non-fiction can look forward to their own job forum, held in the spring on both coasts, with a second non-fiction forum under consideration for later in the year in Los Angeles. This forum is regularly used as a resource by such companies as Mark Burnett Productions, FremantleMedia, Endemol, E!, OWN and many more. Feature film and long-form television are given a separate forum in Los Angeles, usually in October, with past attendees including representatives from Warner Bros., Walt Disney Pictures, Morgan Creek and Miramax.

Employer and PGA East Vice Chair Mark Marabella (second from right) of Marabella Productions meets with members Stephen Palgon, Mitchell Scherr, Cindy Younker, Patrick Denzer and Laura Marini
There are some important differences between the coasts. On the West Coast, the events are more regimented, allowing for more precise specialization. Depending on the forum, the employers a member will meet will work in either scripted TV, non-fiction TV or motion pictures & long-form projects. The looser East Coast events allow for more "cross-pollination,” inviting producers from different platforms and media to the same event. (i.e., so long as your production fits the "scripted” label, the company is welcome at the forum.) For instance, many New York members who work primarily in non-fiction TV also work in no-budget film; the PGA East Scripted Job Forum represents a chance to meet line producers and EPs from bigger-budget films and TV shows and learn a little more about how they can get a leg up in the scripted world. According to Committee members, those events tend to feel something more like group networking at the tables, rather than individual mini-interviews. (The Committee is quick to note that those forums still have resulted in members getting hired!)

The respective Employment Committees approach each Job Forum with a few goals in mind. Job interviews — even just reaching out — can be really stressful and scary, and the upbeat atmosphere at our events alleviates that on both sides of the table.

The obvious goal is getting people jobs, of course, but long-term contacts factor in as well. Especially in this economy, it’s hard to find companies that have openings right at the time of a job forum, so it’s a great way for them to add to their stable of freelancers and have an instant list of names to call upon when they do have openings. For members, it’s not only about looking for an immediate job, but also build- ing up relationships that could lead to something down the road, sometimes creating mentorship opportunities. Many attendees have followed up with informational interviews. Some have been referred by interviewers to other colleagues who are hiring.

Another important goal is to give members more options in their job searches. As productions get smaller and the landscape of the industry changes, it’s important for producers to understand how they can tailor their work experience and skills to different employers and productions. At a job forum, members have the opportunity to meet employers they might not have considered approaching, and hear about opportunities where they didn’t even think to look.

As the industry continues to evolve, the Job Forums will, too. We’ll always strive to reflect the work that’s out there and to provide our members with a variety of opportunities. In this effort, both Committees have expanded their slates of events. Because the film community hires differently than TV and new media, the West Coast Employment Committee successfully experimented with a "Targeted Tuesday” event — a more informal mixer for our film-based members. Based on the success of the initial offering, L.A.–based members can look forward to more over the coming year. The PGA East Employment Committee now also offers a series of job- seeking workshops and a group of legal seminars, with even more programs in store.

The Job Forums remain one of the most consistently popular membership events on either coast. Employers reading this who would like their companies represented at one of our upcoming job forums — including the January 29 event in Los Angeles — should contact Committee Chairs Richie MacDonald ( or Beverley Ward ( on the West Coast, or Robin Berla Meyers ( on the East Coast to reserve a place.

On behalf of the entire Guild, we wish you a happy, prosperous and creative new year in 2011!

by Beverley Ward, Richie MacDonald and Robin Berla Meyers
Photos by Lemia Bodden

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