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Hollywood producers unite to protect future generations

Hollywood producers unite to protect future generations


A group of 86 producers responsible for producing the lion's share of film and television in Hollywood have banded together to form Producers United. While recognizing that they earn a good living, the collective aims to address the fact that producers typically spend long periods of development with little or no pay or benefits. This means that only rights-holding producers – those with enough personal assets to survive long periods of speculation – can survive in the current system. And without essential support, newcomers struggle to find their place. Members of Producers United want to open the doors to future generations of producers-in-training, and they believe that inaction will not only harm producers, but will surely reduce the influx of creative minds into the business, and therefore the quality of the future. projects.

“I don't think what we're suggesting will be painless, but we think it's not extremely painful either,” said Lorenzo di Bonaventura, one of the most prolific major studio directors and one of the rare to still have a global picture. deal in a big studio. “We are talking about basic American rights here. You have the right to work and be paid for it, and you should have health care.

Hollywood is emerging from a crippling strike and another potential conflict with the Teamsters and IATSE in July, and yet without the power of a union backed by collective bargaining, producers are on their own.

“What we're asking is to respect a fundamental commitment,” says Di Bonaventura, “which is to pay people for their work and give them a little protection. It’s not earth-shattering from a monetary standpoint. We recognize that we are asking them to take a step, but we don't think it's that important a step. But it’s a big step forward for emerging producers.”

That's why the 86 producers who make about 90 percent of Hollywood's films are seeking reforms they say will avoid an “extinction event” for future generations of producers. The cost seems minimal, it's mostly money that will be applied to fees that come into effect after the green light and just before production begins.

It's hard not to sympathize with producers, especially during the crucial development period that largely determines whether a movie or pilot will be good. While the writers and everyone else gets paid, the career producers who oversee the entire process are expected to survive on half of a $25,000 development payment – ​​the only thing keeping them going for what may be , say, from nine months, to more than a decade. Overall studio deals are becoming rare, and those who don't have one just have to hang on. Not to mention the lack of health care.


Protesters marched on the picket line at Paramount Studios last year during the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Worse still, these are the producers who sign a document that exposes them to budget overruns and other problems, even a decade after the project's release. At this point, studios certainly don't want to hear about audit results that require additional residual payments. Producer fees can be generous when things work, but if a project dies mid-development, all that upfront work is for naught. It is not surprising that they compare themselves to savages, those who drill and only get rich when they find oil.

Even if they touch the geyser, the producers' residuals have been capped. Additionally, they will be the ones who face a reduction in their fees if budgets are tight or additional producers are added, and the threat that a rejection will kill a project in its tracks.

Producers United believes that its coterie of career producers – those whose allegiance is solely to the project – is essential in providing the first line of defense against budget overruns and keeping facilities safe. Of course, this last question is on everyone's minds after the tragedy of Rust.

Producers United also believes that most CEOs are not even aware of their plight and hopes that by raising awareness, the problem can be resolved.

So why don't producers have the strength of a union behind them? It's not for lack of trying. By 1950 they had the Screen Producers Guild, which in 1968 negotiated an agreement with the AMPTP putting producers on equal footing with the DGA. Except the WGA challenged its authority to represent producers, because many had ownership stakes in the studios, and the California courts agreed. This situation no longer exists, but the PGA was denied another attempt to unionize in 1983. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that the growers were still essentially an arm of the employers and shared in the profits.

Producers United hopes to avoid this and persuade bosses that these reforms will be best for their businesses. But last year, many of these same producers asked AMPTP to remove the word “producers” from that moniker because it made them appear at odds with labor guilds like the WGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters. Although this would have essentially been the cost of new stationery, their appeal has so far fallen on deaf ears.

One particularly intriguing aspect is that these producers should have allies among studio heads. After all, it's inevitable that they'll become ex-studio heads. There's a good chance they'll move into production, putting them in the same boat as those they're currently well-positioned to change course from.




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