Just look at what our friends in film on the left coast have done!

Over the past ten years, as movies have become more difficult to finance, Producer Credit has been added to the perk list for major investors.  Premiere tickets, visits to the set, etc . . . and now Produced by.

Does this sound familiar?

Well, since people do like to see their name up on a screen, and since they do like to get up on that stage come Oscar time, the trend flourished.

Does this sound very familiar?

The Producers Guild of America has taken issue with the concept, arguing that major investors may not have the same education, experience or skill that their members may have . . . and, therefore, shouldn’t be listed side by side with someone who just writes a big check.

And, their lobbying worked.

Just recently, three major studios (Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures) have agreed to add the letters “p.g.a.” after the name of any Producer who requests it who has received the Producer’s Guild stamp of approval to distinguish between the two types of Producers.  (You can read the full announcement in the New York Times article here.)

Interesting, no?

All about egos?  Yes.

I guess I kind of get it, and it sort of makes sense . . . but really?  Is this the kind of change in the industry that they’re spending their time on?

Broadway has obviously had similar issues.  As our shows have become more difficult to finance, we’ve given credit and more in order to get the shows up on the stage.  And, in recent years The Broadway League has responded and established stricter gate-keeping regulations to membership (you can no longer get full membership (and Tony Voter status) just because you got a credit – you now have to be responsible for a certain amount of capitalization, etc.), which I agreed with.

But will we follow the film industry or go even further?

I hope not.

One, we’ve got bigger fish to fry, bake, broil and sushify.

And two, if a Lead Producer wants to give away credit in order to get his show off the ground, then so be it.  Do I long for the David Merrick days when there was just one name above the title?  Sure.  But, to use Spring Awakening as an example (which I believe was the show that started this trend in earnest) . . . I’d bet that show would not have happened if it wasn’t for giving that credit to so many people.  They need a reason to take that kind of risk. And the billing made it easier.

And I think the world and the theater is better off because that show happened.  Great art was produced that inspired conversation and education.  And, to put it in political speak . . . a lot of jobs were created.

Oh, and in that case?  It actually recouped its investment and made some people some money.

There’s no question that some folks have gotten out of hand with dishing out credit like it’s Ben and Jerry’s ice cream on free cone day . . . but big whoop.  For me?  I’m thankful to those who are willing to invest six figures or more in a show.  And I’m happy to give them a lot more than a name above a title if it means the difference between getting my show off the ground and not.

Producers have to be responsible with what they produce and how they produce it.  No question.  And there can certainly be more peer pressure exerted to try to get some folks to self-regulate.  But stamping our names with letters would seem to be a waste of time and all about ego.  If I wanted letters after my name, I would have gone to law school.  I just want to get good shows up.

What do you think?

 

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8 Responses to Hollywood makes you earn your Producer billing. Is Broadway next?

  1. Adam says:

    Unlike the WGA and SAG, the Producers Guild isn’t a union. It’s a trade association. What’s next – putting AMPAS after Motion Picture Academy members’ names? The equivalent isn’t listing Equity on an actor’s bio – it’s listing membership in the Broadway League on the marquee. Anyway, it’s going to be moot. Now that Hollywood has decided it wants Broadway for itself, theater producers won’t be able to get a house.

  2. Lewis says:

    As we know, giving away titles is free. But it does irk one who actually produces shows – raises money, finds the property, goes to all the meetings, shepherds every moment of the process, has his butt on the line – to hear the hundred of ‘producers’ who only invest or package investment swanning around town saying that “Yes, darling, I’m a Tony Award Winning Producer, dontcha know.” Aint true. The guy has never produced anything. But or business (and the bios in Playbills) say this. I have colleagues who are multi Tony Winners for raising money, not for producing. Its rough.

  3. I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, granting Producer credit to anyone who has enough money in the show dilutes the meaning of what it is to be a producer, and waters down the professional brand by creating a large pool of people who can call themselves “producers” without the skills or knowledge necessary to actually produce. On the other hand, as someone who very recently got his start as a producer by, to use Lewis’ expression, “packaging investments”, the producer credit that got me has allowed me to begin to grow my own business and has given me the much needed credibility to start to *actually* produce on my own. The only way into the field is to actually be in the field, so without that relatively low threshold, it will be really hard for aspiring producers to break in – particularly if they themselves can’t cut a big check.

  4. Doug says:

    Ken

    It’s a tough question, and it’s hard to ‘put the horse back in the barn’ so to speak. Lead Producer/General Partners SHOULD be titled differently than our highly valued co-producers who do DO provide not only financial support but great contributions in the day-to-day ongoing support of a show. That’s how I, and so many others, got our start with very generous leads who welcomed full participation from those ‘around the table’.

    The Recording Academy does it rather well; only permitting the actual CREATIVE ‘Producer’ to receive a Grammy statue (although co-producers may receive a nomination certificate)

    “Executive Producer” for the Leads really doesn’t do it since that title now has so many meanings. “Lead Producer” does say it well, and simply, with the others being co-producers. That’s what our legal documents say. Or, as I’ve suggested before, perhaps we formally credit those financial partners as ‘Angels’ who’d receive their ‘Wings’ when a show (and it’s LEAD producers) receive a Tony ® Award.

    The bottom line, though, is that those of us ‘on campus’ truly know who does what on any given show, and know the years of sweat, angst, and risk borne by the lead producers as well as the financial risk borne by our co-producer partners. If people want to self-aggrandize from time to time, that’s up to them.

  5. Billing Credit SHOULD be earned, but it shouldn’t be up to a trade association to determine who gets it.

    Each show (or film for that matter) is different, and has different challenges. If a person is instrumental in overcoming certain of those challenges, then it’s appropriate to give credit for that contribution (whatever it may be). But, I also feel strongly that producer credit shouldn’t be something that gets bought and sold like any commodity. It should be reserved for those who bring something meaningful to the party…

    Sure, cash is king, but there are those who don’t bring much (or any) capitalization, yet DO add real value and deserve credit. Sadly, their contributions are at risk of devaluation if the trend continues.

    Bottom line: Lead Producers should be judicious and discriminating. Offer credit where it’s needed, but don’t go overboard. And Trade associations should stay clear of these decisions.

  6. Sue says:

    The only people caring about who produced a show is the producers. Most audience members don’t even notice. So it is all about ego.

  7. Derek says:

    Isn’t this dishing out of Producer credits something that’s closely related to the crowd funding model ? People are “bribed” to contribute financially and rewarded with producer credits left, right and center, even though most of them will not have the slightest clue what a real producer does.

  8. Interesting comments. The real question should be how did Merrick, Abbott and way back to Billy Rose, Ziegfeld and George Cohen satisfy their investor’s egos??? Remember: “Those who give up freedom in order to gain security (getting the show up) will not have, or deserve, either one.” Pretending to be a producer? What’s next? A quick appearance on the stage to get star billing? Be the man. Let them be the investors. —sjc

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