Abstracted from the weekly edition of Screen International
Everything about the summer hit Pearl Harbor was big: the scale of the production, the array of special effects, the breadth of the marketing and the cast of thousands who got a producing credit on the film. Pearl Harbor's credit roll includes six executive producers, four associate producers and two producers. With a $150m+ budget, perhaps it's to be expected
Now consider David Cronenberg's Spider, a Canada-UK coproduction currently shooting. At last count - the credits are not locked yet - there were nine executive producers and three producers. The film's budget is approximately$12m - less than one-twelfth that of Pearl Harbor's - and yet those receiving a producing credit outnumber those on the blockbuster.
Welcome to the world of credit proliferation, where everyone and his brother can see his or her name in lights. And the value of the term 'producer' is diluted.
It is an accepted, if not entirely acceptable, industry practice to give an 'executive producer' credit to anyone who invests a significant sum into a production. For example, on Spider, Martin Katz of Grosvenor Park, the picture's Canadian coproduction company, is among the executive producers. As is Victor Hadida, an executive with Metropolitan Films, the Frenchdistributor which pre-bought the rights. The executive producer credit acknowledges their belief in the project and the substantial risk they are undertaking in investing in the film.
But, as with any perk, ubiquity is taking the shine off the executive producer credit. Indeed, so crowded are the ranks of executive producer that some financiers are asking for an upgrade to 'producer'. For example, Samuel Hadida, the head of Metropolitan, shares the producer credit with Catherine Bailey and David Cronenberg, although he performed none of the functions associated with producing Spider.
Victor Loewy, Chairman, Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Group, which bought the rights for Canada, told Screen International, where this story first appeared: "I know [Hadida] had nothing to do with it except he brought in a missing piece of the financing." (Samuel Hadida was unavailable for comment.) While he wassurprised to learn that Hadida had the producer credit, Loewy feels the title reflects the precarious state of Spider's financing history. "Spider has lived and died a thousand deaths, so many names have been attached to it."
Indeed, the film has passed through the hands of UGC and Cobalt Media before landing at Capitol Films, which is handling international sales and struck the deal with Metropolitan. France is usually the strongest territory for a Cronenberg film; perhaps Hadida's producer credit acknowledges that. But where does that leave the actual producers'
"Looking for fairness," says Catherine Bailey, the UK-based first-time producer who developed the project and has shepherded it since 1996."There's enough credit to go round for everyone. But what people do on a film should be credited accordingly."
According to Telefilm Canada's Karen Franklin, who as Director, Operations Ontario, oversees the federal finance agency's involvement in theproduction, "it is highly unusual for a financier to receive a producer credit." That said, Franklin adds, "the credits on Spider are awkward all-round": Grosvenor Park is the official Canadian co-production companyopposite Catherine Bailey Productions but director Cronenberg is acting as the official Canadian producer. Telefilm has yet to approve the credits.
Credit proliferation first came into the spotlight in 1999 at the 71st Academy Awards ceremony in 1999 when Shakespeare In Love was awarded Best Picture. The world watched as the film's five credited producers (inalphabetical order) - Donna Gigliotti, Marc Norman, David Parfitt, Harvey Weinstein and Edward Zwick - jostled for the microphone. That June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences changed the rules for the BestPicture award: "If more than three producers are credited on a nominated picture, the recipients shall be those three who have performed the majorportion of the producing functions." In its press release the Academy noted that "Four films nominated for Best Picture in the last five years have credited more than three producers."
Clearly, proliferation existed before. According to an Academy spokesperson, the Best Picture rules have been changed three times in the last seven years in an effort to cope with the problem. In 1999 proliferation became aproblem.
For the 74th event in March 2002, the Academy has again changed the rules. This time it makes special mention of studio executives and personalmanagers, saying they are "ineligible unless they have fully functioned as producers on the picture." And it adds, rather sternly, "The Producers Branch Executive Committee shall resolve any questions of eligibility."The root of the problem is not the job description -- it can be clearly, if lengthily, defined -- but rather the job: is it management or labour'
The major studios are also asking questions, partly because they are getting frustrated with credit proliferation and the upward creep of fees they're paying. "There's a cost saving for the studios," says Producers Guild of America (PGA) Executive Director Vance Van Petten. "People ask for one credit and then the next film comes and now they expect the credit. And they want a feeassociated with it. It's not just financiers, it's star talent, managers and the entourage of the stars of certain films. It's starting to add up."
According to Van Petten, as undeserved those these credits may be, they carry a significant degree of clout and they cannot easily be disproved after the fact.
To combat proliferation, the PGA proposed an accreditation acronym attached to below-the-line talent similar to cinematographers' ASC or BSC (for American or British Society of Cinematographers). But, egos being egos, thatwasn't a popular solution: directors and writers don't use them and the studios are afraid of annoying power brokers who would be denied them.
Another PGA recommendation, said Petten, is providing alternative credits that don't include the term 'producer' and are "more meaningful in terms of the services rendered". But this seems a non-starter: if financiers are pooh-poohing the exalted title of 'Executive Producer', it's hard to imagine their accepting anything less.
The only concrete action the PGA can take is in its own backyard, on its own terms. The PGA Awards, presented annually since 1988, honour thebest-produced motion picture and TV series. Last March, Gladiator won the Best Picture prize at the Academy Awards and the PGA Awards. At the Oscars, three producers (the Academy maximum) received statuettes: Douglas Wick,Branko Lustig and David H. Franzoni. However, only Wick and Lustig received a PGA Award; the PGA ruled Franzoni, who wrote the screenplay, ineligible. Franzoni appealed but the decision was upheld.
"There are examples of managers and stars who do deserve the credit," said Van Petten. "But there are many individuals who do not perform the role but get the credit for extra power, extra money or extra ego gratification. It's these individuals who are claiming a credit who haven't earned it."