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

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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