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The PGA Determination Process
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Every Awards Season, there’s talk about the PGA Determination Process. Given the high stakes surrounding nominations for the Producers Guild Awards and the Oscars, it’s easy to understand why. The process, after all, determines which producers will be eligible for some of the industry’s most prestigious awards, as well as eligibility to receive the new Producers’ Mark.

Invariably, amid the accounts of the Determination Process that appear in the trades, on industry blogs, and within water-cooler conversations, inaccuracies crop up. This misinformation sometimes takes on a life of its own and threatens to undermine the legitimacy of a process that has been carefully developed and refined for a decade.

We’d like to take this opportunity to lead you, step-by-step, through the Determination Process as it applies to theatrical motion pictures. The process is applied to television as well — with modifications suited to that medium — but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll restrict this account to motion picture determinations.

1. The process begins with a studio or production company’s submission of a "Notice of Producing Credits” to the Producers Guild. The Notice is a two-page form listing names, titles and contact information for all major creative contributors to the project.

2. Once that Notice of Producing Credits is received, the PGA sends Eligibility Forms to all eligible producers; the forms are also available for download on For motion pictures, only those producers who have received the "Produced by” credit are eligible for consideration. The Eligibility Form itself is the most essential component of the process. Two pages long, it lists the many varied duties of a producer from development through pre-production, physical production and finally, post-production and marketing.

The Eligibility Form is literally the result of years of research into standard industry and production practices, based on input from hundreds of producers. As any reader of this website knows, the job of the producer is fundamentally multi-faceted; in constructing the final version of the Eligibility Form, the Guild went through numerous drafts — and continues to revisit and revise the form on a regular basis — in order to capture a full and comprehensive range of a producer’s potential duties, without getting bogged down in the minutiae of the job. For each of those duties, the eligible producer is requested to indicate her/his level of responsibility — minimal, substantial or final. The form also invites "free response” statements, allowing the producer to describe the nature of their involvement with the project and their claim to producing credit or award eligibility, and encourages the respondent to include any further account of their contribution to the production that they feel would be helpful.

3. As Eligibility Forms are distributed to the potentially eligible producers, Third-Party Verification Forms are sent to the non-producorial contributors to the project — the writer(s), director, casting director, costume and production designers, director of photography, UPM, assistant director, associate producer(s), visual effects supervisor (if applicable), editor, composer and post-production supervisor. These forms are far simpler, and merely ask the respondent to indicate which of the eligible producers they interacted with over the course of their work. At no time are studio executives invited or required to be a part of the process; apart from the initial submission of the Notice of Producing Credits, the entire undertaking takes place wholly outside of studio auspices.

All Eligibility Forms and Third-Party Verification Forms are kept strictly confidential, and shared only with other reputable organizations for the sole purpose of making award eligibility determination. The success of the process is absolutely depen- dent on the respondents’ willingness to be candid in their testimony, and the only way to promote such candidness is tomaintain the strictest possible confidentiality.

All completed forms are sent directly to the PGA and go immediately into the production’s file. The PGA maintains a full-time staff member to administer its determinations. Apart from this staff member, the forms or information therein are shared with no one at the Guild outside of the individual panelists who determine the producers’ eligibility.

4. Once the documentation is assembled, a date is set for the determination panel. Such panels typically consist of three experienced producers (though never less than two), each with strong credits in the genre of the production in question. Those three arbiters are drawn from a lengthy list of potential panelists. Prior to the commencement of the determination, all eligible producers are sent that list, and have the opportunity to strike any name, for any good faith reason, if the producer feels that a potential arbiter might demonstrate bias. So while producers whose projects are under consideration don’t know the names of the panelists conducting the determination, they are assured that any panelist who might display a conflict of interest will not be a part of the proceeding.

5. The determination proceeding itself is completely confidential. Over the course of the determination, panelists examine and debate sensitive questions that will determine producers’ eligibility. Apart from the PGA Administrator offering summaries and clarifications on the rules, no one apart from the panelists is present during the proceedings.

After an initial introduction, the Administrator departs after providing the panelists first with the completed Eligibility Forms, allowing the arbiters to weigh each eligible producer’s account of her/his contribution on its own merits. When this information has been digested, the PGA Administrator returns with copies of the completed Third-Party Verification Forms, which offer points of view that may corroborate or contradict a producer’s own testimony. After looking at all points of view, the panelists are able to piece together the clearest possible picture of who truly did what, and subsequently, who should be eligible to receive such distinctions as the Producers’ Mark or honors in producing.

6. Once the panelists have arrived at a clear understanding of every producer’s contributions to the project, it’s their job to weigh those contributions according to the guidelines laid out by the PGA. In motion pictures, the Guild suggests that:

  • contributions to the development of the project be weighed at 35%
  • pre-production be weighted at 20%
  • physical production 20%
  • and post-production and marketing be collectively, weighed at 25%

The rationale for this weighted system is simple. Because the producer’s job is so wide-ranging and has become increasingly complex over the past 10–15 years, it’s unrealistic to expect a producer to have final responsibility over every producing function listed on the Eligibility Form. In order to determine award eligibility, a producer must demonstrate responsibility for a majority (more than 50%) of the functions. Thus, a producer who was deeply involved in development (35%) and pre-production (20%), but not involved in physical production or post-production, would be eligible. Conversely, a producer with no involvement in development, heavy involvement in pre-production (20%) and physical production (20%), but no further involvement following principal photography would not qualify, as the producer’s demonstrated responsibilities only totaled 40% of the overall producing functions.

In terms of assessing the level of contribution within a given phase, it’s important to note that not all job functions are weighted equally. Hiring the director, for instance, will nearly always carry more weight than participating in location scouting. A producer who hired and consulted with the visual effects team will be considered differently if the project in question was an effect-heavy studio tentpole release as opposed to a smaller independent feature with sparing use of visual effects. In all cases, the arbiters rely on their considerable experience and perspective to arrive at a decision appropriate to the individual project.

7. After a panel’s decisions are handed down and distributed to the participating producers, aggrieved parties may file an appeal with the PGA, proposing that the panel was not in original panel and two new panelists, who will approach the issue with fresh eyes. The panel first determines whether or not the grounds for an appeal are valid. If not, the prior panel’s decision is re-instated. If there are legitimate grounds for the appeal, the panel will review all documentation in light of any new information uncovered by the appeal process, and render a new decision. After an appeal decision is handed down — either re-instating the initial panel’s decision, or offering a new list of eligible producers — there is no further recourse.

There you have it — the straight story of the PGA Determination Process. It’s a system the Guild is deeply proud of. While it may not be perfect — no such system is — it represents the best means yet devised of determining which producers actually performed a majority of the hard work of producing a project.