AN ITCH FOR “TWITCH” p. 38 PRODUCEDBY april | may 2019
PRODUCEDBY THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF THE PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA // APRIL | MAY 2019
Nina Yang Bongiovi volume XV number 2
BONGIOVI “MAKE SURE YOUR PURPOSE IS CLEAR. MAKE SURE YOUR INTENTIONS ARE GOOD. BECAUSE WHY YOU’RE PURSUING A PROJECT IS EVERYTHING.”
THE FURTHEST REACHES OF YOUR IMAGINATION ARE CLOSER THAN YOU THINK.
With versatile landscapes, experienced film crews and incentivized tax breaks, the only limit to filming in the U.S. Virgin Islands is your imagination. Enjoy up to a 29% tax rebate and up to a 17% transferable tax credit when you film in the USVI. For more opportunities in St.Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, call 340.774.8784 ext. 2243.
filmusvi.com DOWNLOAD THE FILM USVI APP:
Â© 2018 U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
Pearl, childhood cancer survivor; and Arnold, leukemia survivor.
Lori, breast cancer survivor. MARVEL STUDIOS’
AVENGERS: ENDGAME, MASTERCARD, AND STAND UP TO CANCER ARE JOINING TOGETHER TODAY TO HELP TAKE DOWN ONE OF THE BIGGEST VILLAINS OF ALL: CANCER. JOIN US NOW AT STANDUPTOCANCER.ORG/MASTERCARD. STAND UP TO CANCER FUNDS GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH IN PURSUIT OF ITS MISSION TO MAKE EVERY PERSON DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER A LONG-TERM SURVIVOR. Pictured: Heroes from Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame. Survivor photos by Kevin Lynch.
STAND UP TO CANCER IS A DIVISION OF THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY FOUNDATION, A 501(C)(3) CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION. MASTERCARD IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK, AND THE CIRCLES DESIGN IS A TRADEMARK, OF MASTERCARD INTERNATIONAL INCORPORATED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. AVENGERS: ENDGAME ONLY IN THEATERS APRIL © 2019 MARVEL
THE PLACE TO BE… FOR THE BUSINESS YO U ' R E I N tOBy EMMeRiCh
June 8–9 2019 WA R N E R B R O S. S T U D I O S L O S A N G E L E S, C A ShIVANI rAwAT
rEgISTEr NOw prOdUCEdbyCONFErENCE.COM For sponsorship inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org (310) 994-7294
Current Sponsors Include: TM
BRANDED ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK
THE COVER: NINA YANG BONGIOVI
14 THE COVER: NINA YANG BONGIOVI
7 FROM THE NATIONAL DIRECTORS
Meet the busy producer who has an uncanny ability to spot great talent and material.
28 ZEN AND THE ART OF SHOWRUNNING
Chris Brancato is a hot property who knows how to keep his cool.
38 IT’S TWITCH TIME Welcome to the brave new world of producing.
A lesson in communication
48 FAQ: THE PRODUCERS MARK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MONICA OROZCO
APRIL | MAY 2019
51 PGA HEALTH: WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
Changing hearts and minds
The “Wild” call to action
ON THE SCENE
Celebrating the Oscars
Counsel with a conscience
A FOND FAREWELL
Produced By [Former] Editor Chris Green signs off
COVER PHOTOGRAPHED BY MONICA OROZCO
PRESIDENTS Gail Berman
VICE PRESIDENTS, MOTION PICTURES Reginald Hudlin Jon Kilik VICE PRESIDENTS, TELEVISION Gene Stein Lydia Tenaglia VICE PRESIDENT, NEW MEDIA John Canning VICE PRESIDENT, AP COUNCIL Carrie Lynn Certa VICE PRESIDENTS, PGA EAST William Horberg Kay Rothman TREASURER Megan Mascena Gaspar SECRETARIES OF RECORD Mark Gordon Hawk Koch PRESIDENTS EMERITI Gary Lucchesi Lori McCreary NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/COO Vance Van Petten ASSOCIATE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/COO Susan Sprung NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS James P. Axiotis Lynn Hylden Nina Yang Bongiovi Rosemary Lombard Stacy Burstin James Lopez Yolanda T. Cochran Kate McCallum Donald De Line Chris Moore Mike Farah Bruna Papandrea Melissa Friedman Kristine Pregot Donna Gigliotti Jethro Rothe-Kushel Gary Goetzman Charles Roven Jennifer A. Haire Peter Saraf Marshall Herskovitz Jillian Stein Charles P. Howard Ian Wagner EDITOR Peggy Jo Abraham
PARTNER & BRAND PUBLISHER Emily S. Baker CREATIVE DIRECTOR Ajay Peckham
COPY EDITOR Bob Howells
PHOTOGRAPHERS Noah Fecks, Monica Orozco ADVERTISING Ken Rose 818-312-6880 | email@example.com MANAGING PARTNERS Charles C. Koones Todd Klawin Vol XV No. 2 Produced By is published six times a year by the Producers Guild of America 8530 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 400 Beverly Hills, CA 90211 310-358-9020 Tel. 310-358-9520 Fax
1411 Broadway 15th floor New York, NY 10018 646-766-0770 Tel.
FROM THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT A new year brings new beginnings, and the Producers Guild is looking forward to an exciting 2019. The dates have recently been announced for our annual Produced By Conference. The 11th edition of PBC is set for Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9 at the historic Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank. This educational forum brings together creatives from the worlds of film, television and new media in a dynamic learning environment that features acclaimed producers, numerous Oscar and Emmy Award winners, and emerging entrepreneurs. Participants will hear from a diverse group of speakersâ€”individually, on panels and in roundtable discussions. Additionally they will have the opportunity to take part in the alwayspopular Producers Mashup, where participants can ask questions of the most talented producers and seasoned executives in the entertainment industry. These valuable sessions promise to be both informative and entertaining. The Producers Guild is also happy to announce a new addition to our
team. Peggy Jo Abraham has been named Director of Communications and the Editor of Produced By. Peggy Jo has a rich and varied background that includes producing, reporting and writing hard news and entertainment news. During her years in the news business, she was honored with both an Emmy Award and a Golden Mike award. After transitioning to the entertainment field, Peggy Jo served as Executive Producer for E! News, focusing on film, TV and music. In the digital space, she ran E! News Now, which created daily, hosted videos that were distributed to major online platforms. In other lives, she has worked as an editor for an all-news website, a media consultant and copy editor. We know that Peggy Jo is open to fresh ideas and concepts for Produced By, in order to better serve our membership. Please keep that in mind as you embark on new journeysâ€” creating innovative, stimulating and inspiring content. We want the magazine to inform, educate and entertain, as we celebrate and honor the work you do.
Vance Van Petten
M E N TOR I NG M AT T E R S
THINK BEFORE YOU HIT SEND Some key advice heads off any future problems Written by Ken Kristensen
’m a TV and feature writer/producer. For the past three years, my fall/winter has been spent at the Marvel Television offices working on shows featuring the characters who shaped my childhood. Come spring/summer I will write Happy!, the relentlessly obscene action comedy on SyFy. And in between I pitch my own material or chase after open writing assignments. The PGA mentoring program was on my radar. I applied for it in past years when I had a development deal at FX, but I wasn’t selected. Last year, when I sold a new project to a premium cable network, I decided to take another shot at getting a PGA mentor. What I wanted was one who is a writer/producer— more specifically, one who had successfully navigated complex development at this particular network, which is known for its rigorous and often lengthy development process. This time I got my wish. The PGA gave me the name: Kirk Ellis. Wanting to get to know him as a writer/producer and as a person, I read interviews with Kirk before I reached out to him. When I eventually contacted him, by sheer coincidence we both happened to be spending a week in Palm Springs. We met for breakfast. My prep for this meeting was really coming up with a litany of my hopes and fears. After listening to my story, Kirk was very forthcoming about his own experiences, positive and negative. Perhaps more importantly, he was extremely supportive of my point of view— reassuring me that my instincts were dead right. Cut to: months later. I had doubts that my vision for this project would be achievable because of some issues I was already running into. That’s when a voice popped into my head. “When in doubt, call your mentor.” A call with Kirk and several follow-up emails over the next couple months helped me run through the gauntlet of frustration and keep my cool. I’m sure everyone has written emails they later regret sending. I drafted several but waited to talk to Kirk before I sent them. If it weren’t for his advice on how to react to certain individuals, I might have blown it. Cut to: now. The project is currently alive and well, and there’s a very real chance we will be shooting the pilot this summer. Until then, it’s winter, so I’m having fun in the Marvel Universe. ¢
“When in doubt, call your mentor... If it weren’t for his advice on how to react to certain individuals, I might have blown it.”
N ER A H TH H. T E NO AC R MOST A Y BE JU ETT PR
s, ion and t a c e lo ucture filming s r r e ve f di infrast e mak rdale o d l e y w wor urnke tives, t Laud he a t r t n lly era tting, a ry ince ater Fo e. See t i l i h t gl e Wit perm indus in Gr ry an e free ucoup uction om ev rg /film L bea r prod al â€” fr unny.o O, I AG C s n u I CH yo eptio ed at t c c x e xpe A C I une A JAM
N , CA BAY
N STO MB
AZ , BR
es v i t n , nce tions i filmroduc 467 k c Ba cial p 67-2 h s Ca mer 54 -7 r o F com ct 9 on onta c
Airline Cabin Sets
with Dimmable LED Lights
Visit Us at www.AeroMockUps.com Call 888-Mock-Ups (662-5877)
Skyway Stage & Terminal
Executive Jet Sets
13126 Saticoy St., North Hollywood, CA 91605
O D D NUMBERS
TRADING PLACES ITâ€™S YOUR TURN TO PLAY STUDIO EXECUTIVE
ur entertainment is no longer limited to one or two formats. Imagine if you could switch it up when it comes to your viewing pleasure. What would be your new fave?
WHICH CHILDHOOD TV Shazam! SHOW WOULD YOU LIKE Captain Kangaroo TO SEE MADE INTO A VIDEO GAME? Leave It to Beaver I Love Lucy All in the Family
WHICH BOARD GAME WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MADE INTO A TV SHOW?
Life Guess Who? Monopoly Risk
ILLUSTRATED BY AJAY PECKHAM
46% 11% 11% 25% 7%
14% 22% 32% 25% 7%
WHICH OF THESE FILMS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN A DIFFERENT GENRE?
Jaws - as a rom-com The Notebook as a horror movie Carrie - as a comedy
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days - as an action thriller The Terminator as a musical
21% 11% 7% 29% 32% PRODUCED BY
OUR STUDIO HAS A LOT OF WHAT’S SHOT IN YOURS. 1,000 hours of movies, premium programming, and more, free on Delta Studio.®
Entertainment options may vary by aircraft and route; not available on all aircraft. Check our listings at delta.com to make sure your aircraft or route is included.
O P E N D O ORS
CHANGING HEARTS AND MINDS THE PGA JOINS WITH AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL TO PROMOTE STORIES OF INCLUSION Written by Dan Halperin
n an ongoing effort to widen the scope of PGA programs and panels, the Guild’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee joined with Amnesty International USA for a thoughtful panel presentation at the ArcLight Hollywood. Powerful storytellers and representatives from the world-renowned organization discussed the need to reframe the portrayal of vulnerable populations in film and television. The panelists were: Neal Baer (EP, Designated Survivor, The Beast, Under the Dome, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, ER), Ilene Chaiken (EP, The Handmaid’s Tale, Empire), Rafael Agustin (Jane the Virgin, Illegal), Melinda Hsu Taylor (EP, The Gifted, The Vampire Diaries, Lost), Angela Kang (EP, The Walking Dead) and Scott Budnick (EP, The Hangover 1-3, War Dogs, Due Date, They Call Us Monsters). After opening remarks from our National Executive Director Vance Van Petten on the PGA’s long-standing support for diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera, Amnesty International offered to share its decades of data and research with the entertainment community. “My parents were refugees who fled the Communist takeover of China, so I’ve always been drawn to narratives about outsiders who build lasting community in new surroundings and who find unexpected strength when overcoming adversity,” said Melinda Hsu Taylor. “And while I’m a science fiction/fantasy writer, my real-life immigrant heritage absolutely fuels and informs my aspirational approach to the genre storytelling, inclusive casting and far-flung settings of my work on shows like Lost, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Vampire Diaries and The Gifted.” The current refugee and asylum-seeker crisis is the largest in recorded history. Persecution, conflict or the threat of violence has forcibly displaced 68.5 million people worldwide. It is a critical and timely topic, one that is increasingly being addressed by the creative community. “The Central Americans at our border are not migrants; they are asylum seekers. And there is nothing illegal about seeking asylum,” stated Rafael Agustin, a writer for Jane the Virgin, who recently sold Illegal, a pilot based on his experiences in a community of undocumented immigrants. Amnesty leadership noted that refugees are most commonly portrayed in one of two ways: as villains or as victims. The group claims these victimhood portrayals can be as much of a hindrance to acceptance as vilification. “Television has the power to tell stories of immigrants that
Top: PGA members lead discussion on reframing portrayals of the immigrant population Bottom: Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
can change the heart, which is the only way I know of to change made-up minds,” said Neal Baer, a former pediatrician, now TV writer, director and producer, known for his work on ER and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and current showrunner of the new Designated Survivor. Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, emphasized her organization’s willingness to work with content providers to present accurate and hopeful depictions of the immigrant population. “When it comes to talking about refugees and asylum seekers, the power of storytelling is needed now more than ever to convey the humanity behind the headlines. Content creators are critical in changing hearts and minds by bringing these stories to America’s living rooms. We are proud to offer the collective research and on-the-ground expertise of our global teams to help guide the stories you tell.” ¢ The PGA Diversity and Inclusion Committee invites PGA member input for future events and initiatives. Contact: PGADiversity@gmail.com.
NINA YANG BONGIOVI Producing With Passion And Purpose INTERVIEW BY PEGGY JO ABRAHAM PHOTOGRAPHY BY Monica Orozco
er smile comes readily, but don’t be mistaken—her mission is dead serious. Nina Yang Bongiovi is a champion of filmmakers and a director’s best friend, especially if that director is a woman, a person of color or both. It’s definitely a long journey from Taiwan to East L.A., and one could argue it’s an equally long trek from there to Hollywood success. Bongiovi has navigated these waters with a fearless spirit and razor-sharp instincts, while facing devastating personal setbacks along the way. Both the professional roadblocks and family losses have given her a healthy perspective on her career as a producer. She does not “sweat the small stuff” now. And recognizing that it’s all mostly small stuff is, in her mind, a huge gift. Bongiovi has an uncanny track record when it comes to believing in talent—often first-time or relatively unknown directors. Can you say Ryan Coogler? When she first met the director, he was still in graduate school, and Bongiovi says no one was giving someone like him a shot at success. Today she speaks of the “Coogler effect”—the fact that now so many people are looking for “the next Ryan Coogler.” This makes Bongiovi laugh, but she is also genuinely proud of having been part of that change, where Hollywood is more willing to be open to new, untested filmmakers. This passionate producer has found the perfect business partner in Forest Whitaker. From an unlikely trip to China together— when the two didn’t even know each other—to the formation of their Significant Productions banner, they share an enthusiasm for diversity, in both subject matter and collaborators. Together they have been ahead of the curve, recognizing the need for inclusion before it was commonplace. But as Bongiovi puts it, they operate quietly, helping unknown or struggling filmmakers pursue their dreams. The unwavering support she offers and the fierce belief in her directors are what set this executive apart. There are producers and there are pillars of strength. Nina Yang Bongiovi is both.
5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90038
THE COVER: NINA YANG BONGIOVI
WHEN YOU FIRST THOUGHT ABOUT ENTERING THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY, WAS PRODUCING A GOAL OF YOURS? I grew up predominantly in East Los Angeles, and I don’t think any of us were told that you can pursue a career in entertainment and in Hollywood. And even though the proximity is only about 20 miles away, we weren’t afforded that awareness—that you could pursue a producing career. So I would say no. When I first got into the industry, I was in grad school at USC, and I got a job as an analyst in marketing and media research. Right away I knew this is not what I wanted to do. I wanted to make movies and I wasn’t even close to my goals with this corporate job. I knew by the time I graduated, I needed to make the move into the production realm. I started as an assistant to an action director in Hong Kong, and then we ended up moving to Shanghai to continue working on films and television shows. So that was my first foray into the world of moviemaking—martial arts/action films.
WHAT MADE YOU EVEN CONSIDER WORKING IN THE INDUSTRY? I thought I was going to be a journalist at one point. I remember at a very young age my mother said (in Mandarin), “You should be a news anchor.” That’s because when my family immigrated to this country, my mom watched Connie Chung on TV. She thought, “That’s a good choice for you.” It was because Connie was the one Asian American image for us as a family in America. That’s the closest I would say that the “entertainment industry” came into the fold. Fortunately my mom didn’t push me to be a doctor, lawyer or a scientist like what’s most expected from Asian families.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST “AHA MOMENT,” WHEN IT DAWNED ON YOU THAT YOU WERE ACTUALLY A PRODUCER? Well, I think there are levels of it. There’s the point where you’re thinking, “I need
What’s positive is that there are more opportunities for sure, where I hear of studios looking for filmmakers of color, making an effort to diversify above-theline and below-theline talent, to work with more women and women directors.” to be a producer. I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m going to do it and figure this out.” That first aha moment was when I was working on the Hong Kong films, and I was always in such awe of the action se-
quences. And I was like, “Man, the action is so good. If they only had a good script.” [LAUGHS] Then I thought, “I wonder what that process is.” But while I’m there, I’m just breathing in everything because I love the actual production aspects of making a movie. So I was enthralled with everyone’s roles on the crew.
AT THAT POINT, DID YOU THINK ABOUT BECOMING A WRITER AND WRITING YOUR OWN SCRIPTS? I never thought of myself as a writer. I just thought putting together a project would be so incredibly exciting, but daunting at the same time with not knowing what it takes.
BUT YOU THOUGHT LIKE A PRODUCER. Yes, now reflecting back …
AND YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A MUCH BETTER MOVIE IF IT HAD A GOOD SCRIPT. Exactly. But I didn’t have a say in the early development process. I was just an assistant to a director. I was getting tea and heating up soup. I thought if I was a producer, then I would have a say. I could go after projects I wanted to see on screen and put them together. I was very naive at that time, but it was a lofty goal. Cut to 10 years later is when I really felt I was a producer. So from the time I started as an assistant to a director and then trying to figure out what producing was about, raising money, “producing” random projects here and there, I had never felt I was a real producer. I always felt a bit insecure about what it really takes to make a great film. It was an educational process. Sometimes I would say I failed for the first 10 years of my career. But friends would tell me, “No. You didn’t. That’s your learning curve.” And it took me quite a while to understand that, but I never gave up on wanting to become a bonafide producer. Fruitvale Station was the first film I felt where I was able to drive something from inception all the way to the end and support an incredible filmmaker, Ryan Coogler, at the same time.
THE COVER: NINA YANG BONGIOVI
Nina Bongiovi and Lakeith Stanfield on the set of Sorry to Bother You, winner of an Independent Spirit Award
AS A PRODUCER, WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR MAIN ROLE, YOUR MOST CRITICAL FUNCTION? I think the most critical function is to champion the filmmaker, to support the vision of the director that I have chosen to work with, or I have pursued to work with. And I need to do everything in my power to make that vision come through in the most resourceful way possible, balancing art and commerce.
NO WONDER PEOPLE WANT TO WORK WITH YOU. [LAUGHS]
HOW DID YOU FIRST CONNECT WITH FOREST WHITAKER? I first connected with Forest in 2009. It was an adoption story, a movie that I wanted to produce in China to address racism, prejudice and cultural differences. I didn’t know it was a subject matter that actually appealed to him. I worked with a friend on a spec script that spoke about those issues, about an interracial couple going to China to adopt a Chinese baby.
She’s Chinese, he’s black, and it deals with anti-black sentiment and discrimination they faced when they traveled there. I made an offer to Forest’s agent at WME and thought, “I’m going to make an offer to Forest Whitaker, who just won the Oscar not that long ago. Maybe I’m delusional!”
BOLD. Yes, bold or blind faith. I submitted an offer backed by a financier, and Forest actually read the script and called me. I was quite intimidated. And he said, “I really love the story and what you’re trying to say here, but the script isn’t strong enough … I can help you.” And I’m thinking, “Who are you?!” I remember saying, “I don’t have the funds to hire another writer. I’m not sure what we can do.” And he told me, “I have a couple friends who are top screenwriters, and I’ll see if one of them is interested in supporting the project.” During that time he asked me when I was going back to China, and I told him I would be going back soon.
I READ THAT WAS BECAUSE YOU WERE DEALING WITH SOME FAMILY ISSUES. Yes. My mom passed away, and then a year later my sister also passed away. It was a very dark time for me, so I was really going to see my family. My brothers were there. My dad was there. I was pretending that I was going to do work and research, but actually I was really depressed. And Forest says, “I’ll come with you.” And I’m like, “OK” and in my head, “Yikes.”
AND DIDN’T THAT BLOW YOU AWAY? Yes. It blew me away because I’m thinking he’s an A-list star who won the Academy Award for The Last King of Scotland. And he’s helping me with a story that I want to tell.
HE OBVIOUSLY BELIEVED IN THE STORY. He believed in the purpose. Thinking about it, every movie we’ve produced to date possesses a certain statement about
A BENEFIT FOR THE HAROLD ROBINSON FOUNDATION
SUNDAY, JUNE 2, 2019 SANTA MONICA PIER 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
CYCLISTS OF ALL AGES JOIN US FOR A HIGH ENERGY, FUNDRAISING EVENT IN SUPPORT OF CAMP UBUNTU. GUARANTEED TO BE A DELIGHTFULLY ENTERTAINING DAY OF RELAY-STYLE RIDING, LIVE DJS, DANCING AND AN ARRAY OF GREAT FOOD AND DRINKS! Register now at:
pedalonthepier.org to guarantee a seat on one of the 100 available stationary bikes.
LET’S RIDE FOR THE KIDS! Harold Robinson Foundation uses camp as a vehicle for personal empowerment and social change. @haroldrobinsonfoundation • #WeSpinKidsWin • haroldrobinsonfoundation.org
THE COVER: NINA YANG BONGIOVI
race, culture and class. And so now it doesn’t surprise me, but at that time I was thinking, “What is happening?” And I actually thought, maybe my mom and my sister sent me an angel to help me in my career that I was so down about, because I felt like I was failing on so many levels.
SO HE DIDN’T KNOW AT ALL ABOUT WHAT HAD TRANSPIRED WITH YOUR FAMILY BEFORE YOU GOT THERE? No, not until we got to China. We spent some time together and I talked about it. And I think he’s so intuitive that he probably knew I was clinically depressed. He had a lot of empathy, but he didn’t feel sorry for me. It was more like he understood because he’s a very spiritual man. And then he also got to spend time with my dad and a couple of my childhood friends. And what’s great is, when we went to Shanghai, many friends from my early production days resided there. And they said, “We got you. You come with Forest. We’ll take care of you. We’ll show him the city. We’ll show him how we work here. We’ll take care of him.” So Forest was well taken care of by my old team from Hong Kong. And he had a great time. It was kind of scrappy, and I was hoping he didn’t mind, and he didn’t. I didn’t know him well enough then to know that he’s such a kind soul.
BUT JUST THAT HE MADE THE OFFER TO COME IN THE FIRST PLACE WAS SOME SORT OF INDICATION OF WHO HE WAS AS A PERSON. Yes. And I think he was very interested in the culture. He hadn’t been to China, and he wanted to see for himself what kind of issues I talked about in the story when it comes to prejudices and discrimination. He wanted to experience what it was like being a black man in China. But everyone was pretty kind to him because he’s Forest Whitaker. [LAUGHS]
DO YOU THINK WITH TALK OF RACISM AND DIVERSITY IN THE
HEADLINES SO MUCH, THAT IT MAKES IT EASIER OR HARDER TO PUT TOGETHER A FILM THAT DEALS WITH THESE TOPICS? Overall it’s still a struggle to get films and projects starring people of color and/ or with directors of color green-lit or financed, especially with certain subject matters. We collectively have to operate at an excellent level when it comes to storytelling, scripts and vision, so if something produced is mediocre, we’re easily categorized as a niche and that niche isn’t worth betting on. So I think it makes all of us, my peers who are in the same space, hyperconscious of what we have to do to continue to elevate what we produce. Because it’s too easy for the marketplace to say, “Black films don’t travel so it’s worth less. Or, films starring Asian Americans don’t have an audience base, except for Crazy Rich Asians.”
WHAT ABOUT SOME OF THE RECENT SUCCESS STORIES? DO THEY MAKE A DIFFERENCE? They do make a difference. I think of what Crazy Rich Asians has done, as well as Black Panther, Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Get Out, all these wonderful movies … they have paved a wide path in discussions of what’s out there for financiers and studios and networks to back. And I’m getting a lot of calls these days asking, “Do you have any Asian projects in development?” The real test is if folks will buy or fund scripts without the word “rich” in the title or subject matter. However, what’s positive is that there are more opportunities for sure, where I hear of studios looking for filmmakers of color, making an effort to diversify abovethe-line and below-the-line talent, to work with more women and women directors. So you see that shift happening, and it allows us to be in the room to talk about projects. It allows us to send projects to executives who have a keen interest and an initiative in giving diverse story perspectives a shot.
YOU WERE ACTUALLY IN THE FOREFRONT OF THAT WITH FIVE FILMS AND FIVE DIRECTORS OF COLOR, AND MANY OF THEM FIRST-TIME FILMMAKERS. Thank you for saying that, because we’re really proud of it. Forest and I pride ourselves on being inclusive, but we do it quietly. We just produce our movies, and we push them out into the world by any means necessary. Fortunately all five of them launched at Sundance in competition, which is mind-blowing for us, and also catapulted all these wonderful filmmakers’ careers. We are in the forefront of this movement. I feel like we’re pioneers of it because we were champions of diversity at an earlier time, before it was really popular. And there are people coming to us asking, “Would your company adopt an inclusion rider?” And I say, “We’ve been doing that since 2010.” We’re just not loud about it, but everything we do represents inclusion.
LET’S TALK ABOUT FRUITVALE STATION AND HOW IT AFFECTED THE CAREERS OF YOU AND RYAN COOGLER. Going into Fruitvale Station, I had no trajectory. I mean, I wasn’t thinking, “This is the plan. We’re going to make this movie, launch this career and then have Ryan Coogler change the world with Black Panther.” That wasn’t it. It came purely out of love for filmmakers who don’t have an opportunity to be championed. It was a professor at USC, Jed Dannenbaum (via Jane Kagon) who reached out to me and said, “I have this young man in my class who’s really remarkable.” I still have Jed’s email to me. The full email about Ryan is just beautiful. So Ryan came into the office, and he was just an old soul, although only 23 at the time. I felt a certain kinship because he’s a kid from Oakland, not privileged enough to have the Hollywood connections. I thought back to myself growing up in La Puente, east of Los Angeles. No one was ever going to give me that opportunity. Ryan left me five short films
THE COVER: NINA YANG BONGIOVI
Keenan Coogler, Bongiovi, Michael B. Jordan, Ryan Coogler celebrate at the Cannes premiere of Fruitvale Station in 2013.
that he directed in grad school. I watched them in my office and I remember crying at a couple of them, thinking, “These are so damn good.” That’s when I knew he’s a true storyteller. Forest watched them that night, and the next day he came to the office and said, “Tell him to come back in.” And during that meeting, that’s when Ryan told us about Fruitvale and Forest goes, “Let’s make this movie.” That was the first time I felt like, “I am a producer. I’m going to do this. It’s going to be easy because I’m producing with Forest.” Wrong. Ryan connected me with Oscar Grant’s (the young African American man whose killing by BART police is the subject of the film) mother, who held his life rights. And that process went on for quite a while because they were going through a civil lawsuit. They couldn’t talk to anybody in “Hollywood” about a movie because it could jeopardize their case. So we discreetly spoke to her about what it would mean for us to make the
film and what it would mean to the community. And there were conversations about building that trust and telling her, “We’re not the type of producers to exploit you. Our purpose is to create dialogue, very important dialogue, that’s seriously needed in this country.” After about 10 months in, Oscar’s mother, Wanda Johnson, said, “OK, we can continue talking about it.” By then Ryan was out of grad school, and I was still negotiating the life rights. Wanda is a woman of God and many don’t know that at the end of the day she said, “Nina, talk to my church minister and explain to him what this life rights option is. And if he says it’s a go, it’s a go.” And I’m thinking, “Man, that’s a different type of pressure.”
about 20 pages, and I was going line by line, explaining what everything meant. And at the last page he goes, “That sounds great to me.” And I had tears in my eyes, thinking “I can’t believe we’re getting this.” I immediately called Ryan and said, “She agreed!” Thinking back, it was really funny because that was just the first big hurdle.
WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT— THE MINISTER? Yeah. It was an unconventional approach. [LAUGHS] And I’m still close with Wanda.
I WAS WONDERING ABOUT THAT.
AND DID YOU TALK WITH HER MINISTER?
I sit on the board of the Oscar Grant Foundation, and it provides at-risk youths with scholarships in Oakland and educational support; plus Wanda works with coalitions across the country to address social issues.
I did, and I remember being very nervous going through the contract with him on the phone, trying not to mess up. It was
AND THE FILM WON THE PGA’S STANLEY KRAMER AWARD,
Helping children of the world enrich their lives with music. Make a donation at rheuben.org and make a childâ€™s life better through music. ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE.
We offer expert advice to movie, TV and video producers about equipment. Make a donation to RAEF and we will help with your next project. We provide instruments, downloadable studies, and educational videos to deserving underprivileged children at no cost to the child, parent or guardian. RHEUBEN ALLEN EDUCATION FOUNDATION 1978 Del Amo Blvd. Unit A Torrance, CA 90501-1333 501(c)(3) Public Charity www.rheuben.org
THE COVER: NINA YANG BONGIOVI
WHICH HONORS PRODUCTIONS THAT BRING TO LIGHT IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUES. We were a very intimate movie that was noticed by the PGA, and to honor us with the Stanley Kramer Award was huge for us. It was the film’s energy, love and its purpose that allowed it to flourish and allowed a filmmaker like Ryan Coogler to flourish. It was meant to be his directorial debut. It’s Ryan’s destiny to be this influential today from all his narratives.
first-time feature director—it’s too risky. Two, he’s a first-time black director. Three, you have a predomonantly black cast, so that makes it even harder. And lastly, the story is too depressing and no one wants to see that.” We had all the odds stacked against us. After everybody said no, that’s when I reached out to my childhood friend, Mike Chow, in Shanghai—who was not from the film industry—and I said, “I know you’re doing well in Asia. I hear you guys are all
success with Rick Famuyiwa. Once again the project was challenging because Rick and I went to every studio that he wanted to work with and they all said no. They said no to a movie that to me is so fun, original, and not in the marketplace. I remember telling Rick, “Don’t worry. I’m going to get this funded. Let’s make it independently.” So that’s when I went back to my childhood friends—by now we’d gathered six of them and created a film fund.
SIX OF YOUR FRIENDS?
I THINK THE MOST CRITICAL FUNCTION OF THE PRODUCER IS TO CHAMPION THE FILMMAKER, TO SUPPORT THE VISION OF THE DIRECTOR THAT I HAVE CHOSEN TO WORK WITH, OR I HAVE PURSUED TO WORK WITH.” IS IT TRUE THAT YOUR BIGGEST INVESTORS ARE OLD CHILDHOOD FRIENDS OF YOURS? Yes, particularly one of them—which means that you fight a lot and argue a lot but then you just go, “You know what? We’re like family so we move on.” It’s very different than working with traditional industry investors. You have to have a strong sense of humor. It came about when Forest and I were trying to make Fruitvale Station. Once we got the life rights option and Ryan started writing the screenplay, I was already in the process of raising funds for the movie. I reached out to high-net-worth individuals within the U.S. And Forest talked to his connections as well. Every single person we spoke with turned us down. I was told, “Number one, Ryan’s a
rolling in money over there, killing it. I need your help.” And he’s asks, “What do you need?” I say, “I need a million dollars to make a movie.” He’s a serial investor, so he starts asking me about the projections, ROI, IRR, and I tell him to just trust me and invest in the movie. And he said, “What if it doesn’t work?” And I replied, “If it doesn’t work, see it as philanthropy.” I couldn’t believe I said that! And he responded, “That’s the worst pitch ever.”
BUT IT WORKED. It worked really well, and we still laugh about that terrible pitch. Fruitvale’s success allowed us to set a mission for Significant Productions: to champion filmmakers of color and shift the paradigm of our business. After that we had Dope, which was a tremendous
Yeah, from Asia, Asian Americans, to create a fund to support Dope. Then concurrently we supported Chloé Zhao’s first movie, Songs My Brothers Taught Me. That was the third. The fourth movie was Roxanne Roxanne—a similar situation where it was tough for traditional financiers and studios to take on. But we had a fund so we got it done, and it went on to premiere in Sundance 2017.
WOW. SUNDANCE HAS BEEN GOOD TO YOU. They’ve been good to us. They’re magnificent to collaborate with— to give our films and filmmakers a platform for the world to see, because these films are all underdogs. But underdogs that won at the end.
SO ALL OF YOUR FILMS HAVE DEBUTED AT SUNDANCE? All of our independents, in competition. Every year they choose 16 films in U.S. Dramatic Competition, 16 out of 13,000+ submissions. So we’re very blessed that all five of them got that platform, and to have fans, distributors and buyers who love what we’ve done.
YOUR 2018 COMPETITOR WAS SORRY TO BOTHER YOU , DIRECTED BY BOOTS RILEY. TELL ME ABOUT THAT. I met him in 2015 through SFFilm and I thought, “This guy is cool. He’s different.” He’s an activist, a rapper and a musician. Boots and I kept in touch on his and his
THE COVER: NINA YANG BONGIOVI
producers’ progress in their fundraising efforts, but there were no bites. Years had passed since he had written the first draft of his screenplay in 2010. I was on set in New York during the Summer of 2016, and Boots came to see me. I told him once I finish Roxanne Roxanne, I will take on his film next. I loved his vision but I honestly didn’t know what to do with the material [with financiers] because it was so revolutionary, so unique. That meant I didn’t let my core investors read the script. [LAUGHS] I was nervous because it’s a very ambitious project to produce independently. But I believed in Boots and so did our amazing cast. I’m thinking, “Either this is going to be genius or it’s going to be a bomb. There is absolutely no middle ground. So let’s do this!” And thank God it’s genius!
DOES THE PERSONAL ADVERSITY YOU’VE FACED HAVE A BIG EFFECT ON YOUR WORK? It absolutely does have an effect on my career. Because before my mom and my sister passed away, there was the first seven to eight years of my career where I was unsure of my abilities and was taking
things too seriously—and also taking the failures extremely hard. But then after they passed away, I didn’t take my work so seriously anymore. And the stress level that comes with producing doesn’t faze me because I think, “We’re in the creative field. How fortunate are we to get to do what we do?” And it doesn’t even compare to the heartache and intense pain of losing loved ones. I remember when projects were just utter chaos, falling apart at every level, and I’m just laser-focused on solutions. And I remember people saying things like, “Why are you so calm?” and “Why aren’t you crying about this and that disaster?” I would tell them, “I’m all cried out. I cried when my mother and my sister died. This is producing. We’re not crying in producing.” Of course I wanted to punch people in the throat, but that would be unprofessional of me. [LAUGHS]
I UNDERSTAND YOU MENTOR PEOPLE. WHAT OTHER WAYS DO YOU GIVE BACK? I mentor a filmmaker every semester at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. I also started a nonprofit with Mimi Valdes,
who is Pharrell Williams’ producing partner. It’s called Metta Collective, and our whole purpose is to educate storytellers and producers of color, because we’ve come to realize, and I’ve personally come to realize, that to have a seat at the table when you’re a producer means you’re making decisions that change the face of your production and evolve the industry. Whereas sometimes when you’re an actor or a director, you’re not in those rooms. So it’s crucial for producers’ voices to be in the rooms. Forest and I are executive producing television as well now. Having a female voice—a woman of color’s voice—really changes the dynamics in the studio and network system. We express how critical it is to tell stories from authentic viewpoints, whether those come from producers, directors or writers. We also need to make sure we have inclusive crews, starting with heads of departments. Once we are conscious of these needs and make efforts to adopt them, it will lead to positive morale that gets reflected in the production and results in a great show. And that’s what really makes us happy. ¢ Bongiovi, A$AP Rocky, Shameik Moore, Mimi Valdes, Quincy Brown at 2015 Dope premiere
PHOTO COURTESY OF ADRIENNE PFEIFFER
THE WILD CALL TO ACTION EVEN IN A REMOTE LOCATION, A GREEN PRODUCTION CAN BE SECOND NATURE Written by Katie Carpenter
t seems like a massive undertaking that a production as large as Call of the Wild, with so many cast, crew and locations, would attempt an ambitious green-production protocol to reduce environmental impacts. Sure, it’s based on a novel about the natural world and features Harrison Ford, one of the country’s most outspoken climate activists. Yet it’s also a full-bodied adventure script, requiring the construction of several 1800s Alaskan towns and Klondike camps from scratch, mostly covered in snow on locations in Southern California. Fortunately executive producer Diana Pokorny had “greened” quite a few movies since Valentine’s Day in 2010, and she’s a pioneer of on-set sustainability. A gigantic rig and crew with hundreds of day players to feed, water and educate every day didn’t deter her. Conditions on the set were extreme, and shooting Yukon scenes on a hot hillside with people standing around in fur coats meant they needed cool, clean water served up constantly. That was handled by a full hydration team, delivering water in compostable cups to
hundreds of people in between takes. “It was hard at times, but people were excited about what we were doing. The word ripples out quickly. It’s not just one movie, it’s a movement,” says Pokorny. Pokorny and the team developed a strategy that used renewable energy sources at every turn. They had solar-powered work lights by DC Electric, portable solar-powered VOLTstack generators and Ecoluxe solar trailers. They even provided EV Safe Charge electric charging stations for crew members, enabling them to carpool up to the ranch from L.A. in electric vehicles. Catering and craft services did their part: It was a tall order to feed 500 to 750 in cast and crew some days. They generated more than 30,000 pounds of compost, which when diverted from landfills means some 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide was avoided. Organic meal options were served every day, and leftover food was donated to Rock and Wrap It Up, who in turn served more than a thousand meals to homeless people in L.A.
PHOTO COURTESY OFCHARLIE CROUGHWELL
PHOTO COURTESY OF ADRIENNE PFEIFFER
Top: Call of the Wild hydration team was led by Darin Eppich (center) with Walter Myal (left) and Conte Matal. Bottom: 20-pound medicine ball of recycled plastic salvaged from the set
Environmental sustainability manager Adrienne Pfeiffer, now of Green Spark Group, was charged with implementing this multipronged strategy on a daily basis. “I tip my hat to Diana,” says Pfeiffer. “Things that should have been challenges were not, because she takes an innovative and very inventive approach. We educated day players every morning with a short pep rally, and we built excitement around donating leftover lunches and composting. The response was positive, though, and people were so grateful to be a part of it, that they embraced it.” Since they were sometimes shooting frozen Arctic scenes on a broiling ranch, they had tons of extra plastic to recycle—including their massive plastic ice set. Pokorny and Pfeiffer saw this as an opportunity. They wanted to recycle every plastic item, from hairbrushes to latex sponges, camera covers to makeup containers. But they had more than 10,000 pounds of it, and mixed plastics are hard to recycle. A fortunate ally appeared in the stunt department. Stunt coordinator Charlie Croughwell had a side project recycling ocean plastic, and he took up the challenge. With the help of his not-for-profit organization, Earth’s Oceans, the plastics from the set ended up in exercise equipment like medicine balls and kickboxing punching bags, as well as boat cushions and dog beds. Croughwell spent most of his time on set fist-fighting with Harrison Ford or making it appear actress Karen Gillan was trapped in a rushing river, but he’s especially proud of the recycling effort. “If you can change the way the world thinks, provide alternatives to this business of using things then discarding them, you can make a real difference,” he explains. That huge plastic island floating out in the Pacific that most people have heard about does rivet the attention. “The most effective way to eliminate plastic pollution in our oceans is to make certain it
never reaches the water in the first place,” says Croughwell. Ford now has one of the recycled plastic medicine balls, and director Chris Sanders does too. Croughwell agrees the ripple effect can be powerful. “People come to me and say ‘Hey, I never thought that much about plastic until you taught me about the different kinds and how they can be used. Now I’m picking it up on the beach, putting plastic caps in my pocket, just being more aware.”’ It helped that the studio, 20th Century Fox, was already an industry leader in terms of environmental practices and policies. The studio has been tackling issues related to recycling and energy for years, and another of their high priorities is responsibly sourced lumber. Their policy states: “Avoid the use of lauan altogether by reusing or recycling wood from previous sets—and if you must use new lauan, buy only FSC-certified lauan (or vetted sustainable alternatives.)” Getting this and other environmental policies in place was the job of Lisa Day, who with her team, oversees sustainability efforts across Fox. Day sets the pace for producers wanting to take their productions green. She was thrilled with the Call of the Wild green effort, their clean-power setup and the recycling firsts. She called the construction efficiencies “groundbreaking.” The construction department had the difficult task of creating multiple Alaskan towns and camps, all from recycled wood where possible. Construction coordinator Stacey McIntosh says, “All clean woodcuts were reused or recycled, and we gave workbenches, tables and sawhorses to other shows that were just gearing up.” The crew was also aware of another important point: more than 20 million tons of electronic waste is generated worldwide every year, and only 11% of it is recycled. That means neurotoxins like mercury, lead and cadmium end up in landfills and water sources. The Call of the Wild team collected batteries, print cartridges and electronic waste both on set and in the production office. Day adds, “It’s the will of the people plus the technology to make it possible that’s finally getting us to the point of viability. I’m excited to see this movement accelerating. We have started to reach critical mass. The fun part was geeking out on new technology. Transportation and Locations were excited by some of the electric innovations partially displacing the diesel. Everything is so quiet, and it doesn’t smell. You just have to take the risk.” With Fox and Disney merging, that’s two green studios making an even greener powerhouse—just in time for the release of the film later this year. You might hear Ford talking about all this at that point, and if you wonder whether he believes in it, here’s what he told an audience of global leaders earlier this year: “We need nature now more than ever, because nature doesn’t need people, people need nature.” Dozens of new green vendors have been added to our PGA Green-Studio website by the Call of the Wild production team. Check them out at: greenproductionguide.com. ¢
AND THE ART OF SHOWRUNNING Chris Brancato is a hot property who knows how to keep his cool Written By Sarah Sanders photographed by noah fecks
ZEN AND THE ART OF SHOWRUNNING
I’M A LITTLE INTIMIDATED as I wait to meet Chris Brancato in his Greenpoint office. The room is large and full of sunlight, with a striking view of the New York City skyline visible over warehouse rooftops, and I’m not quite sure what to expect from the man best known for co-creating the gritty Netflix crime drama Narcos. His desk is topped with a nameplate that reads “DO EPIC SHIT,” and his bookshelf is full of books including the World Encyclopedia of Organized Crime, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Gangsters of Harlem. As soon as Brancato walks in, though, I am put at ease by his warm handshake and eagerness to talk about his work. The books are there for research on his current show, the Epix series Godfather of Harlem, set to premiere this fall. Brancato and his team are hard at work on postproduction, and his passion for the show is palpable and contagious. “At the very beginning, Godfather of Harlem suggests a tradition of gangster dramas,” he says, but it’s made with an angle that “makes it feel just a little bit different than any mob show you’ve ever seen,” even as it draws inspiration from classics like Goodfellas and The Godfather. The series, which is inspired by true events, revolves around crime boss Bumpy Johnson, played by Forest Whitaker, and his friendship with Malcolm X. “The initial concept of the show—the vision—was: This is about the collision of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement in early ’60s Harlem. Those two things, criminal underworld and civil rights, usually don’t go in the same sentence,” he says. This collision, in addition to
making for a compelling pitch to network executives, allows Brancato and the team to explore themes that are not only historically significant, but also resonant today. “How do we use this friendship to create an examination of civil rights?” he asks, explaining that Godfather of Harlem sets out to look at the tropes of the traditional mob show through the “prism of crime” as a method of social mobility. “That’s what the show really is,” Brancato says. “It’s an examination of how different social groups—Italian, Black, German, Irish—move through an economic ladder to political, social, cultural significance.” The show also draws many implicit parallels between events of the 1960s and current news. “We’re not trying to be on the nose about it, but we’re just simply depicting stuff that happened then that hasn’t changed all that much,” Brancato explains. He names a few of those issues: “An opioid crisis of immense proportions. A political divide in this country between right and left. Fight for political representation. Police brutality. The beginning of a social movement that’s similar to Black Lives Matter, in terms of not only the civil rights movement, but specific protests against violence against Black kids in Harlem. So what we have is a show that’s making a commentary about a lot of stuff that we’re dealing with today, but has the safe remove of distance.” When Brancato invites me into one of several editing rooms, I watch as he works with an editor to fine-tune a clip of an interaction between Bumpy Johnson and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (played by Giancarlo Esposito). The
few seconds I see are of a conversation about tenant rights and money in politics—topics that are as relevant as ever in New York City. This kind of analysis comes naturally to Brancato, who studied history at Brown University. “I was a history major in college, so research and using research to support writing has always been part and parcel of my development as a writer,” he says. For Godfather of Harlem, Brancato and his team read a lot and conducted interviews with people in Harlem who knew the real Bumpy Johnson. The writing process for Brancato is “a combination of researched historiography, interviews with some of the players or people who knew the players, and the requirements of dramatic scene construction.” He adds, however, that it took him awhile in his career to come to projects and subjects that let him do this kind of work. When I ask if being a showrunner was always his ultimate destination in the industry, Brancato laughs. “Well my ultimate destination in this business was trying to make a living and put food on the table.” When he first came to Hollywood in the ’90s, he most wanted to work on feature films, as “television wasn’t known for the kind of excellence it is today.” But in an effort to get whatever work he could, he pursued jobs in both film and television. He gradually learned more about the role of the showrunner, which did not have the kind of visibility it does now, and was drawn to the combination of writing and producing that the job involves. “You’re actually really in charge of a massive endeavor,” he says. “Not just a two-hour movie, but a multiple-hour show, and you’re the creative arbiter of the final product as much as the feature film director is arbiter of the final product in feature.” So Brancato decided to focus on showrunning for both artistic and pragmatic reasons. “I was trying to ensure my own longevity in the business,” he says, by pursuing a position where he thought there would be more job opportunities. “And then what happened, somewhat through dumb luck, is that feature films became
PHOTOS COURTESY OF DAVID LEE/EPIX
ZEN AND THE ART OF SHOWRUNNING
$200 million tentpoles, and television—because of the technological advances and the streaming services and the multiplicity of channels—television suddenly became the place where you were making interesting, deep, character-exploration stuff. “And so my decision to focus on showrunning turned out to be a good one creatively,” he says. (Actually, Brancato is no stranger to film. His writing credits include such features as 1997’s Hoodlum and the upcoming Sherlock Holmes 3, starring Robert Downey Jr.) At this point in his career, Brancato seems confident in his understanding of showrunning. “When people ask me what it is at its core, I say it’s a benevolent dictatorship. There does have to be a decider, a person who’s weighing choices and trying to have the rhythm and the music of the show in their head … And, well, I created the show, or I co-created it, so I guess I’m the decider. I decide what sounds discordant or what sounds in harmony. And that’s a subjective judgment. I’m not always right.” Brancato explains that for him, showrunning has four components: script development, preproduction, production and postproduction. In a typical day, he will be involved in all four of those at once—by, for example, giving notes on postproduction editing for one episode, visiting the set as another is shot, and rewriting the script for the one that’s shooting the next day. “You’re besieged at all times by questions and problems from all aspects,” he says. Rather than getting overwhelmed by the multitude of problems, though, Brancato insists that another crucial aspect of showrunning is remaining calm, understanding that problems are foundational to the job. “I realize the job is problems. The job is a never-ending succession of creative questions, problems, challenges to be solved. And if you get yourself emotional about the never-ending avalanche of problems, you’re not gonna be able to do the job well. So you have to try to maintain a zen-like calm most of the time.” Those managerial responsibilities fall into the producing side of the
Chris Brancato and Forest Whitaker on the set of Godfather of Harlem. Whitaker stars as crime boss Bumpy Johnson.
Brancato with Chazz Palminteri, who portrays the character known as Bonano. Below: Giancarlo Esposito plays Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
ZEN AND THE ART OF SHOWRUNNING
showrunning, while the artistic decisions are also informed by the writing side. “There’s two different heads you wear as a showrunner. One is a writer head: introspective, interior, quiet, mousy. The other is producer: aggressive, tough, decisive. So you have to balance those.” While Brancato acknowledges that wearing both of those hats is a lot of work (and not for everybody), he also stresses the importance of delegating and speaks glowingly of his colleagues. “You’re hiring experts, all of whom are more talented at their respective fields than you are, and you’re trying to convey to them the vision of what the show is, what it looks like, with an allowance for them to add their own expertise, their own ideas, to push the boundaries of how you see your show—and then to accomplish it together, in collaboration.” Brancato believes it is important to trust his own gut instincts, while also allowing for his vision to be expanded by collaborators, whether they’re department heads or other writers. “Building a writing staff is always about finding component parts who do things as a writer better than you, so that you are supporting your own weaknesses,” he explains. Nothing makes him happier than reading a draft of a script from a writer and thinking, “Oh my God, they write the show better than I do!” he says with a smile. “That feeling does not inspire fear and jealousy. It inspires, how can I make that writer more comfortable? Can I give them an all-expenses-paid weekend away?” Again, that response comes from practicality as well as artistic generosity: a draft of a script that he thinks is excellent that can also be shot is good for the show as a whole. Brancato’s balance of creative vision and pragmatism is maybe most apparent in his approach to pitching a series to networks. Here he is adamant that just having a good idea isn’t enough to actually get a show on the air. While the multiplicity of channels and sheer number of interesting shows available could make it seem like it’s easy to sell a good series in today’s “golden age” of television, Brancato insists that notion is false. “It’s actually harder to sell a series
“IF YOU GET YOURSELF EMOTIONAL ABOUT THE NEVER-ENDING AVALANCHE OF PROBLEMS, YOU’RE NOT GONNA BE ABLE TO DO THE JOB WELL. SO YOU HAVE TO TRY TO MAINTAIN A ZEN-LIKE CALM MOST OF THE TIME.”
and get it on the air perhaps than it’s ever been,” he says. “Every executive—and I’ve grown up with most of these people over the last 30 years—has heard every pitch, in every incarnation. There’s almost no pitch you could ever give them that they haven’t heard in some way, shape or form. So how do you get it to on air, as opposed to in development?” The answer, he maintains, is to create a tsunami: a combination of factors, from the concept to the actors and producers involved, that together create something a network executive will not only be excited about, but also afraid to ignore. “The only way to get you [a network executive] to say yes is to make you terrified to say no—to make you worry that your competitor’s going to get that show.
It’s not actually just about creating a good idea. It’s about creating that tsunami.” And Godfather of Harlem did indeed create that perfect storm, bringing the show’s unique premise, Forest Whitaker’s celebrity, and a full script developed by Brancato and Paul Eckstein together into a pitch that the newly appointed Epix president, Michael Wright, agreed to. “It’s reminding yourself always that it is a team effort,” Brancato says of showrunning. “You have to have a lot of humility. You’re very lucky to have been granted the money to do the show. You’re lucky to have all these talented people working on it.” And now it’s off to the editing room. After all, Brancato’s day is just getting started. ¢
© Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
PHILIPPINES DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 25% Transferable Tax Credit Withholding Tax now reduced to 1.5% for foreign hire World Class Infrastructure & Production Services
THE FILM DESTINATION YOU’VE BEEN DREAMING OF
www.lantica.media / +1.809.544.0062
Run your production like clockwork, without the paperwork. GreenSlate is ushering in a new era, one where technology makes business simple, operations more efficient, and everything a lot less wasteful. • ENTERTAINMENT PAYROLL • PRODUCTION ACCOUNTING • TAX CREDIT MANAGEMENT • HEALTH BENEFITS
Our services are expertly integrated through customized workflows for a seamless, hassle-free production from greenlight to delivery. We save you time and money, because we’re made for what you do. Made for the business of production.
ON THE SCENE OSCARS VIEWING & RECRUITMENT PARTY, FEBRUARY 24, JALAPEÑO PETE’S, STUDIO CITY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MICHAEL CHAO
It was a golden night as the Guild hosted its 7th Annual Oscars Viewing and Recruitment Party at Jalapeño Pete’s in Studio City. Some 200 PGA members and guests packed the venue, enjoying cocktails and food while mixing with friends old and new. The elegant décor featured 20 dozen stunning roses, donated by Passion Roses. To help keep everyone safe, Lyft offered discounts to and from the event. Throughout the evening, guests took candid shots in the Hollywood-themed photo booths and on the red carpet. The fun-filled night was hosted by PGA member and Oscars event co-chair Michelle Romano. PGA Vice Presidents Carrie Lynn Certa and John Canning delivered some rousing motivational speeches, which had all the guests cheering. The Guild looks forward to welcoming the attendees who took time in between the partying to sign up for new membership.
ON THE SCENE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KATE MCCALLUM
STAR WARS: SECRETS OF THE EMPIRE VOID MARCH 5, GLENDALE, CA The PGA New Media Council presented Special Venue Deep Dive: The Void, the second successful event of the recently launched series designed to showcase new media technologies and on-site venue experiences. PGA New Media Council Board Member Ed Lantz and a team of volunteers produced the gathering, which took place at The Void demo venue, located within Disney Accelerator in Glendale. Guild members began the evening by enjoying drinks and pizza while networking. After that, The Void staff took groups of members to view a demo of the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire Void VR experience. Members also had the chance to discuss the demonstration and ask questions of Sean Griffin, Head of Business Strategy at The Void. Thank you to The Void for hosting the PGA West event and to all the volunteers who helped NMC board delegate, event producer Ed Lantz make it happen.
PGA member and event volunteer Rachel Klein
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ALISHA NICOLE BRABHAM
MASTERING CAREER LONGEVITY, FEBRUARY 25 FRANKFURT KURNIT KLEIN & SELZ, NEW YORK The timely and important topic of longevity in the workplace was the focus when PGA members gathered for a panel on Mastering Career Longevity. A reception followed the event, which was held at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz law firm in New York. The panel examined ways to address the problem of job-related age discrimination in three main areas: the job application process and questions asked during that period; issues of discrimination once someone is hired; and how storytellers can address these problems in their productions. Guild members also shared their personal experiences related to the issues and discussed ways producers can rebrand themselves. Offering their expertise were: producer Alexis Alexanian (Love Is Blind, Maggie’s Plan); producer Kati Johnston (Bull, Limitless); Dr. Ali Mattu, licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Columbia University Irving Medical Center; Dara Smith, senior attorney to the AARP Foundation Litigation; and Wendy Stryker, counsel to the Employment and Litigation groups at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz. The discussion was moderated by producer Todd Baker (left to right) Moderator Todd Baker, Dara Smith and and will be posted on the Wendy Stryker Guild’s website.
(left to right): Dara Smith, Wendy Stryker and Kati Johnston
PGA members at the Mastering Career Longevity workshop, asking questions. Jane Applegate has the microphone.
ON THE SCENE
Guild members got together for a Speed Networking event at Retro Report in New York City—a great opportunity to connect, hosted by PGA East’s Employment Committee. Featured speaker Michael Roderick opened the session by giving a short informative presentation on effortless connection—how to easily connect with any person, in any room. Members were then seated across from each other to practice their personal pitches in groups of two, shifting seats so they would meet most attendees by the end of the evening. The formal networking program was followed by a reception.
Shona Tuckman (left) and David Koch (right)
PGA members Lisa Truitt and Pete Couste
David Koch (left) and Raoul Dishdem (right)
PGA Members Pete Couste and Tainesa Davis
PGA members Sarah Katz and Mark Maxey
Featured speaker, line producer Maureen Ryan and guest
PHOTOGRAPHED BY RACHEL JOBIN
The PGA Capital Region hosted a two-day line producing workshop at the National Association of Broadcasters headquarters in Washington, D.C. Thirty PGA members and nonmembers from D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Richmond and Baltimore attended the sold-out event. Maureen Ryan, line producer for the Academy Award and BAFTA-winning documentary Man on Wire led the informative workshop. Ryan, who has published two books, Producer to Producer and Film + Video Budgets, is an Associate Professor in the film program at Columbia University. She has more than two decades of production experience. The workshop covered such topics as production insurance, pension and welfare, union versus nonunion rates, stunt coordinators, SAG contracts, archival licensing and music.
SPEED NETWORKING JANUARY 29, NEW YORK
PGA member Marvin Bryson and guest
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KATY JONES GARRITY
CAPITAL REGION LINE PRODUCING WORKSHOP, MARCH 9-10, NAB HEADQUARTERS, WASHINGTON D.C.
ON THE SCENE PRODUCERS ON PRODUCING FORUM MARCH 14, BIOLA UNIVERSITY, LA MIRADA, CA
(left to right) Panelists Hayma Washington, Gary Lucchesi, Mauricio Mota and PGA member Karen Covell, who moderated the event
The PGA and Biola University’s School of Cinema and Media Arts presented a panel discussion for the Guild’s Producers on Producing series. The event took place at the Biola campus in La Mirada, California. Panel members included Gary Lucchesi, President Emeritus, Producers Guild of America and President, Lakeshore Entertainment; Mauricio Mota, President/Founder, Wise Entertainment; and Hayma Washington, Chair Emeritus, Television Academy. About 100 students were on hand to hear about current trends, challenges and the issue of diversity in the entertainment business. The discussion was followed by an informative Q&A session. The event was sponsored by Cast & Crew, strong supporters of inclusion across the industry.
(left to right) Mauricio Mota, Gary Lucchesi, Marcy Carmena, Hayma Washington, Karen Covell
Top row L-R (Anthony Dominici, Dan Halperin, David Grace, Emman Sadorra, Kevin Burke, Zack Beckman, Josh Gummersall, Shana Waterman, Alex Duda, Karen Covell, Vance Van Petten) Bottom Row L-R (Julie Anne Robinson, Kelly Pancho, Holly Goline, Kareen Gunning, Adam Sussman)
ON THE LOT LUNCH, FEBRUARY 2, NBCUNIVERSAL, UNIVERSAL CITY An enthusiastic group gathered for another successful PGA On The Lot Lunch—this time at NBCUniversal. Kelly Pancho and Emman Sadorra from CannyLads Productions hosted the lively event. The PGA-sponsored gathering brought together 15 Universal producers, including PGA members and prospective members. After each person introduced themselves, Vance Van Petten, National Executive Director of the PGA, presented an overview of the Guild and the many opportunities and benefits offered to its members. The casual atmosphere made it the perfect time to share a lovely lunch, discuss the Guild and build the producing community on the lot. Many thanks to the CannyLads team who made everyone feel so welcome. If you would like to host an On The Lot Lunch on your lot, just email karen@ karencovell.com.
AN ITCH FOR Welcome to the Brave New World of Producing Written By Chris Thomes
onsumers have shifted their viewing to interactive devices (iPad/iPhone, Xbox, PS4, PC), and now creators are free of many of the limitations of broadcast television. But few traditional producers have taken advantage of this fact. Those who have are typically native to these new platforms, and they operate in a world that is as much about participation as it is about watching. Acronyms, pixelated faces and cryptic icons fly past, almost faster than you can read. Symbolic “emotes” flood the screen as viewers react to a big moment—from excited to shocked, heartbroken to overjoyed. It’s a live chat, flowing like a river of alien symbols. A conversation like this is the backbone of one of the most popular live streaming video platforms on earth. Its focus is primarily on video game live streaming, but it also includes broadcasts of esports competitions, music, “in real life” streams, and most recently, scripted “TV” programming. This is Twitch. Its scale is extraordinary. As early as February 2014, it was already considered the fourth-largest source of peak internet traffic in the United States. By May 2018, it had 2.2 million broadcasters monthly and 15 million daily active users, with around a million average concurrent users on 27,000 Twitch partner channels. The core draw for viewers is an insatiable desire to watch others with similar interests play games, engage in unique interplay with other viewers and users, boo or cheer the gamers and … simply hang out to chat. Twitch viewers post more than 300 messages per second, and while a lot of it may appear rather meaningless and trivial under all those layers of almost indecipherable noise and emotes, there is definitely meaning.
ITCH copypasta (kɒpiːpeɪstəə) noun 1. A
block of lengthy text repeatedly copy-pasted in an online forum or chat room. 2. (On Twitch) Lengthy text that is copy-pasted repeatedly in Twitch Chat, often to make fun of something through satire and repetition.
While this “meaning” may not be immediately understood by the average person, it’s not difficult to recognize that it is simply about connection. A community is thriving on Twitch. Players have something in common and a place that enables them to celebrate it. That’s the beauty of the platform—large-scale enablement of participatory entertainment. It embraces interactivity and innovation on formats that television simply cannot accommodate, and it acknowledges the viewer, and engages them real time. It also helps that streamers are encouraged to create content by being monetarily
First-Class Service, Non-Stop Quality Going Above & Beyond to Meet Your Production Needs
Airline Interiors • Commercial Airlines • 4 Executive Jets • 5 Cockpits • And More!
Aero Mock-Ups, Inc.
13126 Saticoy St., North Hollywood, CA 91605 (888)662-5877 www.aeromockups.com
AN ITCH FOR TWITCH
compensated in various ways. The breakdown goes like this: • If streamers manage to get 50 followers, they get a percentage of the pre-roll ads that Twitch runs in the live stream. • Viewers can also choose to subscribe to their favorite Twitch streamers. This supports streamers financially, but also gives the subscriber perks like special chat emojis and badges for use in chat rooms, as well as the ability to watch the stream without any Twitch advertisements. Subscriptions have typically cost between $5 and $25 a month depending on how many features the viewer can access. That money is split between the streamer and Twitch. • Viewers can also spend money on “bits,” which are basically animated cheering points they can lavish on the streamer. Bits serve as currency as well. When viewers “cheer” with their purchased bits, the streamer gets a cut of what viewers spent on them. • Viewers can also simply donate directly to the streamer, which eliminates having to give Twitch a cut. • Lastly, streamers can get a cut of affiliate sales by posting links to online retailers and encouraging viewers to buy. Having a popular channel and maintaining enough of an audience to make money is not easy, though. Although Twitch is a unique platform and format, the tenets of content creation and distribution are strikingly similar to those of traditional television. They require that one have a strong, understandable brand and voice, be engaging, maintain quality, have a consistent schedule and use marketing to reach new viewers. Because these are all the table-stake rules of engagement for the traditional TV business, one would expect studios to be knocking down Twitch’s door. But they just aren’t—yet. While the Netflix-savvy production world is embracing new streaming platform distribution approaches, the show formats are almost exactly the same as traditional TV. Each episode is the same length, and each season has the same episode order. Because they
By the Numbers
95 minutes: Average amount of time spent by users on Twitch daily Nearly 50%: Percentage of Twitch users who spend more than 20 hours a week watching videos on the platform 241 billion minutes: Number of minutes of created content that have been livestreamed on Twitch 2.2 million: Number of monthly Twitch broadcasters
(as of 12/5/18 DMR Business Statistics)
maintain this consistency in user experience and often rely on foreign sales to traditional TV outlets, the major online distributors are not positioned to embrace new expressions of video storytelling that don’t look and feel exactly like TV. One producer who has jumped into and embraced the multiformat Twitchverse is Bernie Su. He is no stranger to radical formats. In fact, two of his previous shows, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, won Emmys for excellence in interactive media. His latest effort, Artificial, is a scripted sci-fi series that is the first-ever Twitch show where the viewing audience can interact directly with characters while the show is on. Episodes of the show air live, with actors in front of the camera in real time, acting and reacting to audience input via questions and polls. Viewers literally change the story by voting. While Twitch did not finance Artificial, it did get behind it promotionally, hoping that would signal a new kind of programming and bridge the divide between Hollywood and gamers. With more than half
of Twitch users spending over 20 hours a week streaming content on the platform, there is very little time for them to watch traditional TV. Su rose to the challenge, though, and decided to tackle this niche audience head-on. “The younger generation (the millennials and the Z’s) are watching less and less traditional TV,” explains Su. “So I’m taking the initiative to produce and tell stories on platforms and formats where they are. These viewers have never known a world without the internet or without a smartphone. It’s how they experience their stories.” Su says that for this finicky demographic, participatory programming is right on target. “The storyteller in me is on a mission to design story experiences where the audience is part of the story, where they are consequential. They’re on the journey with the characters and affect the narrative canon. We grew up watching Luke Skywalker defeat the Empire. Now we want to help Luke defeat the empire.” The show aligns scripted narrative with interactivity that gamers expect, and it does so by leveraging a variety of Twitch’s unique features. In fact, when Su developed Artificial for Twitch, he made sure it was a proprietary experience. “Being live is just step one, and almost every platform does live and does it well, but they do not have the chat system, the bit/token system, the extension system, and the APIs that Twitch has and that we use for Artificial. If you moved the series to a different platform, we would have to rethink and redesign a lot of our tech and methods. Artificial in its current form could only be done on Twitch.” The method achieves more than simply allowing gamers to influence the story. The experience of watching and participating in Artificial taps into viewer values that Twitch has forged in its core—community and connection. And that might be the key to helping Twitch diversify its content offerings. Artificial provides a very different type of content for Twitch viewers, but it still utilizes the community features that they’re used to—features
AN ITCH FOR TWITCH
that keep them coming back. the most picky From a production standpoint, Artificial Twitch viewer, is almost like live theater, with key pivot it remains to be points allowing for variations suggested seen whether by the audience. Keen to stay within Twitch’s users budget constraints, Su avoids improvisawill fully embrace tion in the production. “One thing a lot nongaming conof people misconstrue about our series tent. They are on is that there’s a lot of improv,” he says. Twitch to watch “There is actually nearly no improv in our and talk about show. Every line of dialogue you hear the games. Expecting actors say is scripted somewhere. Now, it them to welcome may be on a screen or a printed page or a broader programvocal call, but it is definitely scripted. ming may be “What we’re doing is building audience more than they responses into our scripts. We know we want or are willhave a story we want to tell. We know ing to accept. our narrative points. But we do have a Other platlot of variables and branches, and it’s not forms including until the audience locks us into something Facebook and that we actually we commit.” Netflix are also That audience influence is critical exploring more Bernie Su is Twitch’s first exclusive scripted content producer. His to engagement on Twitch, no matter ways audiences show, Artificial, lets viewers interact directly with characters. what they are watching. Even Twitch’s can interact cofounder, Kevin Lin, has said that people with shows. For tune into Twitch for a “participatory exexample, Netflix recently produced and vates interactive is great for all of us.” perience” and enjoy talking to each other distributed Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, a The rest of the studios may need to while videos are streamed live and then new, interactive, choose-your-own-advenget on board with Su. In a disrupted discussing what happened afterward. ture movie that ties into the Black Mirror landscape where there are more TV Like the water cooler conversation after universe. While it taps into a popular inplatforms and programming than ever one’s favorite traditional drama series, tellectual property and has the weight of before, but where ratings are dropping for the Twitch community savors interNetflix’s custom platform enhancements live viewing, platforms like Twitch could acting with each other as they banter, behind it, it is asking viewers to consume offer safe harbor for creative producers. pontificate, debate and even give each content in a whole new way. But Su is Shows like Artificial give appointment other a hard time if someone is playing emboldened by that effort and says of the viewing a completely unique experience. poorly. The difference between Bandersnatch premiere, “I Programs like it could change the very interactive and participatory was incredibly excited. I’m meaning of live viewing and turn is blurred in this hyperactive happy to see Bandersnatch disruption into opportunity. world, but as Su explains, the and Netflix really push interBut with opportunity comes risk. For two concepts are not mutually active into the mainstream. many producers, shifting from linear to exclusive. “Interactive is where The choose-your-own-adinteractive storytelling could seem like a the user/viewer has some abiliventure style is familiar steep hill to climb. Learning all of Twitch’s ty to control the narrative. to a lot of viewers, just feature sets, chat system, bit/token Participatory is where not in video. And in an system, and APIs could, for some, be a big the user is working instant, Netflix made that barrier to entry. We could be in a world Peak Time with the character and, mainstream with a very where there is no looking back, though, 9,000,466 channels ideally, other audience well-executed piece. It’s and Twitch may be the new anchor whose peak viewing members. I consider not what we’re doing tenant of a participatory storytelling time is 10 p.m. Artificial to be both.” with Artificial, which is future. Its 15 million active users a day (Influencer While it seems Artithe audience as a whole make that argument pretty compelling. Marketing Hub) ficial has everything it influencing the direction, Producers like Bernie Su can’t imagine needs to satisfy even but anything that eletelling stories any other way. ¢
chris green words editing & composition
Your voice, at its best chrisgreenwords.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Speeches Website copy Business correspondence Magazine features Obituaries Tributes Awards shows Press releases Event program copy Q&A Marketing materials Ghostwriting Manuscript editing V.O. narration Slogans Brochures Op-Eds Toasts Rants Apologies Titles Proofreading Letters to the editor Script polishing Company newsletters Annual reports Professional bios Prefaces Postscripts Rewrites Jokes Announcements Guest columns Lyrics Thank-you notes Introductory remarks Recipes Resumes Powerpoints Bulletins
C O M I N G ATTRACTIONS
LEGAL SEMINAR APRIL 30 This promises to be an informative evening for PGA members in the D.C. area. Featured speakers Seth Polansky, Nicolas Bernasconi and Tiffany Gray will guide participants through key legal considerations that all producers should understand. As both lawyers and producers, Seth and Tiffany will share lessons and case scenarios that can help prepare you for your next production. Nicolas, Director of Business and Legal Affairs for National Geographic Partners, will offer insight into why networks make certain requests on contracts and what their needs are in order to sell a program.
PBS DIGITAL PITCH SESSION MAY 14 Have a great idea for a digital episode that would work on PBS? Here’s your chance to pitch to representatives from the network in a small-group setting. During this 90-minute session, participants will share ideas with representatives from PBS Digital. They will be looking for nimble producers with experience in the digital space who can turn around three to five digital episodes within a two- to three-week time frame. Proposals should be written to entertain and educate and can cover a wide range of topics, from science to humanities. The episodes should be geared to an audience of high school age and above.
PGA MEMBERS: For more information or to RSVP for events, please consult producersguild.org.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRYAN THORNTON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY SAI KONKALA
The PGA’s favorite roving networking mixer, Thirsty Thursday, is holding a special Meet the Candidates night. It’s a great opportunity to mingle and hear from candidates for the upcoming election, as well as the current delegates who represent you. May’s event will be held at the historic El Cid tavern in Silver Lake. And remember, it’s always a good idea to rideshare so you can fully enjoy the evening if you come thirsty.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY PATRICK G. CLAY, KEVYN FAIRCHYLD
MEET THE CANDIDATES – THIRSTY THURSDAY MAY 9
COMMITTEE S P OT L IG H T
COUNSEL WITH A CONSCIENCE SOCIAL IMPACT ENTERTAINMENT GIVES PGA MEMBERS A NEW WAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE Written by William Nix
n a time when many people are seeking a way to make a difference, it’s important to realize those in the arts and media are perfectly positioned to create social change and transformation on an individual, local, national and global level. To that end, a working group of PGA members—Kate McCallum, Kia Kiso, Megan Mascena Gaspar, Anne Marie Gillen, Rebecca Graham Forde and William Nix—have come up with a brilliant initiative to raise public awareness of important social issues. The PGA Social Impact Entertainment Task Force (SIETF) was formed in the summer of 2018. The seed for the idea grew from a pilot event called Producing and Marketing for Social Impact. Held in early 2018 at the Norman Lear Annenberg Center at USC and cohosted by Hollywood, Health & Society, the program offered participants resources and strategies for development, funding and marketing content for social impact. The event also honored the winner of the Stanley Kramer Award. The award was established in 2002 to recognize a production, producer or other individuals whose achievements raise public awareness about
critical social issues. Last year’s Stanley Kramer Award went to the feature film Get Out, produced by Sean McKittrick, p.g.a.; Jason Blum, p.g.a.; Edward H. Hamm Jr., p.g.a.; and Jordan Peele, p.g.a. This year Jane Fonda will be honored for her legacy as an outspoken advocate for the most vulnerable in our society. Inspired by that event, the participating members created the new task force, working in conjunction with the Guild’s Education Committee. In just six months, they launched their first-in-a-series of SIETF Workshops at the Vortex Dome located at Los Angeles Center Studios. About 100 producers attended. They were diverse in gender, age and ethnicity, and represented a wide range of experience. The successful program featured presentations on defining Social Impact Entertainment, marketing SIE companies and projects, and distributing SIE through both traditional and new media platforms. Thoughtful discussions centered on who the current audience is for this new field and which studios, networks and digital companies are backing these revolutionary projects. Future workshops will focus
on SIE Finance and SIE Games/ New Media. In addition to the workshops, SIETF will be producing events, activities and roundtable discussions relating to all aspects of social impact entertainment, as a means of providing specific resources to the PGA membership. General information and a comprehensive list of resource materials can be found at www.facebook.com/groups/ PGASIETF and the PGA website. ¢
Right: William Nix, founding member of SIETF, addresses the audience. Below: Vortex Dome, Los Angeles Center Studios
Committee Spotlight is published in conjunction with the Producers Guild’s AP Council. There are many exciting opportunities on PGA committees that can bolster your career. Don’t miss out! PRODUCED BY
P G A AT YO U R SERVICE
MARKING TIME ARCTIC
The Producers Guild proudly salutes the following whose credits have been certified with the Producers Mark. This list includes films released in December and January. Certification via the Producers Mark indicates that a
Chris Lemole, p.g.a. & Tim Zajaros, p.g.a. Noah Haeussner, p.g.a.
Jack Arbuthnott, p.g.a. Malte Grunert, p.g.a.
CAPTAIN MARVEL COLD PURSUIT Michael Shamberg, p.g.a. Ameet Shukla, p.g.a.
producer undertook a major portion of the producing duties on the motion picture.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD Brad Lewis, p.g.a. Bonnie Arnold, p.g.a.
Kevin Feige, p.g.a.
CAPTIVE STATE David Crockett, p.g.a. Rupert Wyatt, p.g.a.
CLIFFS OF FREEDOM Casey Cannon, p.g.a.
DUMBO ISNâ€™T IT ROMANTIC Todd Garner, p.g.a. Gina Matthews, p.g.a. Grant Scharbo, p.g.a.
Justin Springer, p.g.a. Katterli Frauenfelder, p.g.a. Derek Frey, p.g.a.
FIVE FEET APART THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART Dan Lin, p.g.a. Phil Lord, p.g.a. & Christopher Miller, p.g.a. Jinko Gotoh, p.g.a.
MISS BALA Kevin Misher, p.g.a. Pablo Cruz, p.g.a.
THE PRODIGY Tripp Vinson, p.g.a.
RUN THE RACE Darren Moorman, p.g.a. Jake McEntire, p.g.a. Ken Carpenter, p.g.a.
TO DUST Emily Mortimer, p.g.a. Alessandro Nivola, p.g.a.
FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY Kevin Misher, p.g.a. Stephen Merchant, p.g.a.
WHAT MEN WANT To apply for producers mark certification, visit us online at producersguildawards.com.
Will Packer, p.g.a. James Lopez, p.g.a.
WRESTLE Lauren Belfer, p.g.a. Steven Klein, p.g.a.
Cathy Schulman, p.g.a. Justin Baldoni, p.g.a.
GRETA James Flynn, p.g.a. Lawrence Bender, p.g.a. Karen Richards, p.g.a.
HOTEL MUMBAI Basil Iwanyk, p.g.a. Mike Gabrawy, p.g.a. Julie Ryan, p.g.a. Jomon Thomas, p.g.a.
THE KID Jordan Schur, p.g.a. Sam Maydew, p.g.a.
NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE Jeff Kleeman, p.g.a. Chip Diggins, p.g.a.
SAINT JUDY Paul Jaconi-Biery, p.g.a. Sean Hanish, p.g.a.
US Jordan Peele, p.g.a. Sean McKittrick, p.g.a. Ian Cooper, p.g.a.
P G A AT YO U R SERVICE
MEMBER BENEFITS ■ Discounted registration for Produced By Conference and Produced By: New York. ■ Vote on Producers Guild Awards and receive discount tickets to the event, as well as DVD screeners for awards consideration.
■ Eligibility for PGA Mentoring Program. ■ Listing of contact and credit information in searchable online roster. ■ Arbitration of credit disputes.
■ Access to CSATTF online safety training videos.
■ Participation in the Motion Picture Industry Health, Welfare & Pension Plan.
■ Admission to special PGA pre-release screenings and Q&A events.
■ Free attendance at PGA seminars.
■ Full access to PGA website including events, calendar, social networking tools, members-only video library. ■ Access to PGA Job Board, online resume search, employment tools and job forums.
■ Wide variety of discounts on events, merchandise, travel. ■ Complimentary subscription to Produced By.
THINK GLOBALLY, FILM LOCALLY Gardens, roads, ponds, mature trees, statues, architecture.
626-405-2215 | FilmHuntington.org
P G A AT YO U R SERVICE
FAQ: THE PRODUCERS MARK those three little letters have a lot backing them up
WHEN I SEE P.G.A. AFTER A PRODUCER’S NAME IN A MOVIE’S CREDITS, WHAT DOES IT MEAN? It means that according to the rules of the Producers Guild’s certification process, that producer performed a major portion of the producing functions on that particular motion picture.
DOES THE P.G.A. AFTER THE PRODUCER’S NAME MEAN THAT THE PRODUCER IS A MEMBER OF THE PRODUCERS GUILD? NO. A producer does not need to be a member of the PGA to receive the “p.g.a.” designation after their name. In many cases, the sets of initials you see in movie credits (such as A.S.C. and A.C.E.) indicate membership in an organization. The Producers Mark is different. It’s a certification mark; its purpose is to designate that the producer has met an officially recognized standard of performance on that film.
IF A PRODUCER DOESN’T RECEIVE THE P.G.A. MARK FROM THE PRODUCERS GUILD, WHAT HAPPENS TO THEIR PRODUCING CREDIT? Nothing. The Producers Mark doesn’t control or affect the “Produced By” credit in any way, nor does it invalidate that credit by its absence.
WHAT IMPACT DOES THE P.G.A. MARK HAVE ON AWARDS? Determinations for the Producers Mark and for producer award eligibility are determined at the same time and via the
same process. In addition to the PGA, AMPAS, HFPA and BAFTA all rely on the PGA process to guide their decisionmaking. However the final selection of nominees is always at the discretion of the organization giving the award. Overwhelmingly, these organizations concur with the PGA determinations, but occasionally, the decisions diverge.
WHAT’S THE PROCESS? The process is initiated by the copyright owner of the film. After the postproduction process has commenced, but four to six weeks before credits are locked, the owner submits a film for consideration via ProducersGuildAwards.com. Within two to three weeks, the PGA sends out eligibility forms to every producer credited as “Produced By” or “Producer” on the film and sends confidential verification forms to a wide variety of third parties associated with the production of the film: the director(s), writer(s), department heads, company executives and key crew members. Once forms have been returned, the PGA convenes a panel of arbiters, each of them active and experienced producers with numerous (and recent) credits, typically in the genre or category of the film under consideration. (I.e., if the film is a major studio tentpole, we try to utilize arbiters with considerable experience in making those big-budget studio pictures. If the film is a smaller indie movie, we rely on producers familiar with that type of production, etc.) An initial arbitration panel typically has three arbiters. The arbiters review all materials
returned to the PGA by the producers and third parties, with all names of individuals credited on the film redacted, so that arbiters can arrive at a judgment based on the testimony provided rather than the name recognition and perceived reputation of the producers. Following the determination, the PGA staff informs the producers of the decision. Producers who object to the decision have five days to notify the Guild of an intent to appeal. After giving producers the opportunity to add to or clarify their testimony, the PGA will convene a new panel of arbiters. All appellate panels consist of three producers. If the initial decision was unanimous, the appellate panel will consist of one producer from the original panel and two new producers; if the initial decision was not unanimous, the appellate panel will consist of three new producers. The decision of the appellate panel is final.
SO WHEN ARBITERS ARE LOOKING AT THESE FORMS, WHAT ARE THEY SEEING? The eligibility form filled out by producers asks them to indicate their level of responsibility for a variety of producing functions spanning development, preproduction, physical production and post-production. The form also includes a free-response section for the producer to more fully elaborate on the specifics of the production and their role on the film. The verification forms filled out by third parties typically ask the respondent questions related to the nature of their collaboration with the credited producers.
P G A AT YO U R SERVICE
(For instance, the verification form for editors asks the editor to designate which producer(s) consulted with the editor regarding dailies, gave notes on cuts or participated in screenings.)
WHO SELECTS WHICH ARBITERS VET THE CREDITS OF WHICH MOTION PICTURES? That determination is made by the PGA’s Associate General Counsel in consultation with the National Executive Director/COO.
WHAT IF THE PGA SELECTS AN ARBITER WHO (UNBEKNOWNST TO THEM) IS BIASED AGAINST A GIVEN PRODUCER OR FILM? The Guild takes proactive measures to prevent that from happening. Prior to convening the panel, the PGA provides all producers with a list of potential arbiters. Producers are free to strike any arbiter for any reason. Such arbiters will not be empaneled for that particular film. Furthermore, all arbiters are asked to affirmatively state that they have no interests in the films to be arbitrated that might result in a biased judgment. Even if all of those hurdles are cleared, an arbiter will be removed from the process if they or the PGA administrator feels that bias is affecting their judgment.
WHY CAN’T THE PGA BE MORE TRANSPARENT ABOUT THE PROCESS? We maintain the strictest confidentiality around the identities of the producers, third parties and arbiters involved because such confidence is the only
p.g.a. way we can hope to get accurate and truthful information. Many producers are powerful figures in this industry and this might put pressure on third parties and arbiters to achieve a desired decision. Keeping those identities confidential is the only way to maintain the integrity of the process.
ONCE A PRODUCER’S CREDIT IS CERTIFIED WITH THE P.G.A. MARK, IS THAT CERTIFICATION APPLIED PERMANENTLY TO ALL OF THE PRODUCER’S FILMS? No. A Producers Mark appended to a producing credit applies to that film only. It represents the nature of the work performed on that film alone and does not “carry over” to future productions.
WHY DO SOME FILMS CARRY THE P.G.A. MARK, BUT NOT OTHERS? The Producers Mark is voluntary. Each of the major studios—Universal, Disney, Warner Bros., Sony, Paramount and Fox—has signed a contractual agreement to submit their films to the Guild for credit certification, as have Lionsgate, DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation, Lucasfilm, Marvel, MGM, New Line and Pixar. If an independently owned film elects not to participate, we can’t
force them to submit for certification. The Producers Mark also is recognized by the WGA, DGA and SAG-AFTRA. The PGA has agreed not to license the Producers Mark for use with any combined credit (e.g., “Directed and Produced By …”)
WHO DOES THE PRODUCERS GUILD REPRESENT? The PGA is composed of over 8,200 professionals working in motion pictures, television and digital media throughout the United States and around the world.
HOW IS THE PGA DIFFERENT FROM ITS FELLOW GUILDS? Unlike the DGA, WGA and SAG-AFTRA, the PGA is not a labor union. This means that we can’t go on strike, set wage minimums, or negotiate collective bargaining agreements on behalf of our membership. As we are now the largest professional trade organization in the entertainment industry, the PGA provides numerous benefits for its members, including educational and training events, employment opportunities, social and networking functions, and a collective voice that represents and protects the varied interests of producers and their teams, including the Producers Mark. ■
P G A AT YO U R SERVICE
NEW MEMBERS The Producers Guild is proud to welcome the following new members, who joined the Guild in January and February, 2019.
PRODUCERS COUNCIL Nnamdi Asomugha Michael Bachmann Michael Bay Robyn Bennett 1 Dawn Bierschwal Ryan Black Brett Bouttier Caryn Capotosto Mark Cartier Anna Chi Jon Cohen Bradley Cooper 2 Antonia Davis Nicholas Donnermeyer Karina Feld Guy Griffithe Dana Guerin Kristina Hontalas Mark Joseph Roger Lay Spike Lee Jayme Lemons Emily Lesser Simone Ling Christopher Long Peter McGough Chady Mattar Stephen Morrison Jonathan Oakes 3 Tivis Oâ€™Quinn Stephen Peek 6
Geoffrey Quan Chris Roe James Rogers Lisa Thomas Jude Walko
NEW MEDIA COUNCIL Kia Meredith-Caballero 4 Rebecca Donohue Angela Northington Jeffrey Siegel Daniel Suhart
AP COUNCIL ASSOCIATE PRODUCER/ PRODUCTION MANAGER/ PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR Taryn Conant Jennifer Jimenez Sharellis Tatis
POST PRODUCTION Kiegan Downs Gabriela Leibowitz Michelle McKibben Christina Miranda Amanda Price
VISUAL EFFECTS Laura Aldridge Jon Brody 8 Brian Houlihan Alexis Jacobson Jessica Smith
Tommy Armour Ryan Dennett-Smith Tucker Gilmore 5 Fetle Negash 6 Robert Ulrich
SEGMENT/FIELD/ STORY PRODUCER Rebecca Erbstein 7 Ethan Galvin Katherine Lannon
P G A AT YO U R SERVICE
PGA HEALTH: WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
“I WORK ON A WEST COAST IATSE PRODUCTION.”
“I RUN A SMALL COMPANY.”
“I AM AN INDIVIDUAL LOOKING FOR THE BEST COVERAGE I CAN AFFORD.”
Motion Picture Industry Plan
Open Health MEWA plan
The Actor’s Fund
Available to: Producers/Produced By, Executive Producers, Associate Producers, Post-Production Supervisors
Available to: Employers and employees of small production companies
Available to: All professionals who work in the entertainment industry
Who: •Work at a company with a minimum of three employees. Company owner may count as an employee if s/he draws a salary from the company.
The Actor’s Fund is the official organization representing the Affordable Care Act to the entertainment industry.
Who: •Work for an AMPTP signatory •Work on theatrical motion pictures, prime-time network series, prime-time, first-run syndicated series •Utilize a West Coast IA Crew •A re credited with 600 hours of work over the past six months. (Assume a 60-hour work week.)
CONTACT: (866) 491-4001 Request information about MEWA (Multiple Employer Welfare Association) plans.
CONTACT: (800) 221-7303 (New York) (888) 825-0911 (Los Angeles) Request a consultation to discuss individual plans available on the open market.
Once qualified, participants must be credited with 400 hours of work in the subsequent six-month period to extend coverage. CONTACT: Your payroll or labor relations department.
FROM THE [FORMER] EDITOR
Dear PGA members and fellow readers, The rumors are true. After a deeply gratifying and probably overextended run, I have relinquished the editorial reins of Produced By and ceded my post as head communications guy at the Producers Guild. By my count, this is the 98th issue of this magazine and the fifth to appear without my name on the masthead. It was February 2001 when Vance Van Petten handed me the reins of this infant publication and trusted me not to drop it on its head. Mostly I didn’t, though some contributors might contend otherwise. In the early days, to be fair, there was a lot less at stake. The day I first sat down at my desk in the PGA office, our membership numbered about 350. When our merger with the American Association of Producers was consummated a couple months later, it passed 800. That seemed like a lot of members at the time. When I left the PGA on my last day—18 years and two days later—the number of people who could proudly call themselves PGA members was north of 8,200, spread all over the country and the world. And while I don’t credit the Guild’s amazing, almost defiant growth to the lure of a sharp-looking magazine, it presumably didn’t hurt either.
It was a real privilege being part of this success story. It was an even greater privilege to have been handed a platform from which to address thousands of terrifically smart, creative people on subjects of my own interest and fascination. It will sound staggering to many of you, but for the most part, I ran Produced By free of editorial oversight by the national board or our chief operating officers, all of whom seemed pretty happy if I just kept the libel to a minimum and spelled everybody’s names right. I covered what I wanted, how I wanted to. I’ve worked in the business long enough to know how precious creative and editorial control is, and can only hope that I used the highly generous amount that I was given to the betterment of your professional lives. Best of all was the chance to work with so many people I came to respect, admire and love. My colleagues at the PGA, especially fellow long-timers Kyle
Katz, Jo-Ann West, Bryce Averitt, Mitzie Rothzeid and Andrew Mahlmann, have been a source of good spirits, selflessness and affection for many years. Within the PGA membership, I found colleagues and friends who consistently inspired me through their dedication, both to their jobs and to the Guild, as well as through their work itself. The talents I worked with on the publishing end—first Jeff and Jody Ingle, Dan Dodd and Gilda Garcia at IngleDodd Publishing, and later Charlie Koones, Ken Rose, Emily Stewart Baker and Ajay Peckham at Moon Tide Media— were endlessly patient with me as they effectively taught me my trade. Finally, I have to acknowledge Vance Van Petten, who was a pretty damn good boss for a pretty damn long time. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and the effect he’s had on my career as a manager, mentor and friend has been incalculable. So that’s all, folks. I’ve taken up residence at my new copy shop, Chris Green Words, and leave you in the capable hands of Peggy Jo Abraham, who will surely find ways to redeem the scattershot editorial approach I’ve been making up as I go for 18 years. Thanks for reading, and I hope our paths cross again. Post-editorially yours, Chris Green
ILLUSTRATED BY AJAY PECKHAM
Written by chris green
The Official Magazine of the Producers Guild of America