Who is the "Producer?" What Does a Producer Do? And Why Are There So Many Producer Credits On a Movie?

In a September 10th, 2013 article for The Wrap, Steve Pond lays out the history of the "Producer" credit in movies - and why this year things are different.

Movies like Lee Daniels’ The Butler, (which has 41 different producer credits) will still be released with a dizzying list of associate, executive, and co-producers.

But, after decades of struggle, the Producers Guild of America will this year certify credits on all studio films (with the letters "p.g.a." after a producer's name in the credits - aka "the Producers Mark"), signifying that a "producer" has actually earned that credit.

Previously, as Steve Pond notes, producer "credits were too often currency to be bought, bartered and corrupted by anybody with the clout to do so."

"“All we ever wanted, from the beginning, was to give credit where credit is due,” said [Producer's Guild] co-president Hawk Koch, who has been part of the push to reform credits and gain respect for producers for more than 20 years."

Now the Producer's Guild has established criteria: "“[At first, we] put them into... sections,” said Koch. “The first was finding the material, developing it, finding the financing, getting the movie set up. Then there was pre-production, then production, then post-production, distribution and marketing. We decided that in order to get an award from our guild, a person had to do a majority of those functions, and we gave each one a certain amount of weight.”... The criteria have undergone revisions over the years. Currently, they consist of eight areas under “Development Phase,” 11 under “Pre-Production Phase,” eight under “Production Phase” and five under “Post-Production Phase.”"

The confusion about who actually deserved the credit (and who had obtained it because they were well-connected or demanded the credit as part of a deal) has lead to some injustices. Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger (producers I happen to know and admire) were (in my opinion) ill-treated in 2006 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - which has struggled with varying policies about how many "producers" could be nominated for the "Best Picture" award.

That confusion may continue. But now - at least - the Producers Guild will arbitrate who is entitled to put p.g.a. after their name in the credits of a studio film.

If you see a credit with p.g.a. after the name - you know the Producers Guild believes that person did the job.

Let's see what happens at awards time.  For now, Producers Guild arbitrations happen year round (not just at awards time). So the public, the Academy and those insider the industry will know from now on who the Producers Guild has determined should be considered the real Producer(s) of a film.

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