I thought it might be interesting to look at tonight's Producers Guild nominations NOT as Oscar predictions -- they're always that since the industry end game is the Oscars -- but as what they're ostensibly intended to be: awards honoring producers who shepherded certain movies to the screen. The nominees...
The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures
- Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov for ARGO
- Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn for BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
- Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher for DJANGO UNCHAINED
- Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh for LES MISERABLES
- Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark for LIFE OF PI
- Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg for LINCOLN
- Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales for MOONRISE KINGDOM
- Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
- Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson for SKYFALL
- Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Megan Ellison for ZERO DARK THIRTY
Producing is a very mysterious job from the outside looking in. Every film's producers have different jobs ahead of them based on a) what kind of project it is, b) how much fighting they'll have to do to get it made creatively and financially and c) whether they'll be separate from or very tied to the artistic decisions -- notice that only 50% of the nominated teams include the director of the film in question so some of these producers have far more influence on the final product than some of the others.
No film has an easy road to movie theaters but if you remove your feelings about which of these ten films is "the best" from an artistic and/or entertainment standpoint and start thinking about what the particular challenges might have been, it feels like a different contest altogether, right? more...
Barbara Broccoli, for instance, entered the Bond family business when she was 17 (she's 52 now) and she's has been toiling away on the franchise ever since, leaping through many fiery hoops over the years (remember all the MGM financial and legal troubles that?) to keep the series going. Even if you have issues with the franchise during her reign -- roughly speaking, the Brosnan/Craig years -- you have to admire how well executed this whole 50th anniversary celebration/production was! On the opposite end of the spectrum, how the hell would anyone get a film as alien, poetic and all around amazing as Beasts of the Southern Wild made with no stars no obvious selling point and no well-oiled machinery making the distribution part a snap (as so many of these films already had)?
So those are the two films I'm most amazed by from a producer's standpoint. But obviously it's tough to judge a producer's work but for what's in the finished film... which everyone than credits to the director. Awards are a strange business!
For the curious among you as for as Oscar-correlation statistics go, we don't have much info to go on. We've only had Oscar's new larger Best Picture pool (with fluctuating rules) for the past three years: In 2009, 8 of the PGA's nominees went on to Oscar nominations with the Academy replacing Invictus & Star Trek with The Blind Side and A Serious Man (upgrade); In 2010 9 of the PGA's nominees went on to Oscar nominations with the Academy replacing The Town with Winter's Bone (upgrade); In 2011 7 of the PGA's nominees went on to Oscar nominations with the Academy replacing Bridesmaids, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and The Ides of March with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Tree of Life (upgrade?). While Oscar is hardly as blockbuster averse as the media likes to pretend, the PGA is definitely more friendly to them suggesting that Skyfall is in the weakest position to translate its PGA nod to an Oscar nod. And who knows what Oscar will do with Django Unchained? Will they like it? I know that people are crazy about it right at this moment but you have to admit that it's more genre pulpy than their tastes usually run. Did Inglorious Basterds mark a sea change with Oscar voters (who previously mostly ignored Tarantino outside of Pulp Fiction) or was it just too big to ignore in its year?
Their other categories...
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:
- Katherine Sarafian for BRAVE
- Allison Abbate, Tim Burton for FRANKENWEENIE
- Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner for PARANORMAN
- Nancy Bernstein, Christina Steinberg for RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
- Clark Spencer for WRECK-IT RALPH
I'll admit right up front that I have far less of an idea about what the producer of an animated feature might have to do. In some ways the journeys of animated films to the screen strike me as not so different than the old Studio System as we understand it today. Well oiled machinery, an art factory if you will, is in place to produce "product" on a very specific timetable (like Pixar's one film a year schedule) since animated films are almost always produced in-house rather than acquired.
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:
- "A People Uncounted” (Urbinder Films) Producers: Marc Swenker, Aaron Yeger
- "The Gatekeepers” (Sony Pictures Classics) Producers: Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky, Dror Moreh
- "The Island President” (Samuel Goldwyn Films) Producers: Richard Berg, Bonni Cohen
- "The Other Dream Team” (The Film Arcade) Producers: Marius Markevicius, Jon Weinbach
- "Searching For Sugar Man” (Sony Pictures Classics) Producers: Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn
Interesting that only two of these films (Gatekeepers & Sugar Man) are in the running for the Oscar.
The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:
- "American Horror Story” (FX) Producers: Brad Buecker, Dante Di Loreto, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy, Chip Vucelich, Alexis Martin Woodall
- "The Dust Bowl” (PBS) Producers: Producer Eligibility Pending
- "Game Change” (HBO) Producers: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Jay Roach, Amy Sayres, Steven Shareshian, Danny Strong
- "Hatfields & McCoys” (History) Producers: Barry Berg, Kevin Costner, Darrell Fetty, Leslie Greif, Herb Nanas
- "Sherlock” (PBS) Producers: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, Beryl Vertue, Sue Vertue
The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:
- "Breaking Bad” (AMC) Producers: Melissa Bernstein, Sam Catlin, Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Stewart Lyons, Michelle MacLaren, George Mastras, Diane Mercer, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett
- "Downton Abbey” (PBS) Producers: Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge
- "Game of Thrones” (HBO) Producers: David Benioff, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, Carolyn Strauss, D.B. Weiss
- "Homeland” (Showtime) Producers: Henry Bromell, Alexander Cary, Michael Cuesta, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Michael Klick, Meredith Stiehm
- "Mad Men” (AMC) Producers: Jon Hamm, Scott Hornbacher, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Victor Levin, Blake McCormick, Matthew Weiner
The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:
- "30 Rock” (NBC) Producers: Irene Burns, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Vali Chandrasekaran, Luke Del Tredici, Tina Fey, Matt Hubbard, Marci Klein, Jerry Kupfer, Lorne Michaels, David Miner, Dylan Morgan, Jeff Richmond, John Riggi, Josh Siegal, Ron Weiner
- "The Big Bang Theory” (CBS) Producers: Chuck Lorre, Steve Molaro, Faye Oshima Belyeu, Bill Prady
- "Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO) Producers: Alec Berg, Larry Charles, Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Tim Gibbons, David Mandel, Erin O’Malley, Jeff Schaffer, Laura Streicher
- "Louie” (FX) Producers: Dave Becky, M. Blair Breard, Louis C.K.
- "Modern Family” (ABC) Producers: Cindy Chupack, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel,Danny Zuker
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:
- "American Masters” (PBS) Producers: Prudence Glass, Susan Lacy,Julie Sacks
- "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (Travel Channel) Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandy Zweig
- "Deadliest Catch” (Discovery Channel) Producers: Thom Beers, Jeff Conroy, Sean Dash, John Gray, Sheila McCormack, Bill Pruitt, Decker Watson
- "Inside the Actors Studio” (Bravo) Producers: James Lipton, Shawn Tesser, Jeff Wurtz
- "Shark Tank” (ABC) Producers: Rhett Bachner, Becky Blitz, Mark Burnett, Bill Gaudsmith, Yun Lingner, Brien Meagher, Clay Newbill, Jim Roush, Laura Skowlund, Paul Sutera, Patrick Wood
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:
- "The Colbert Report” (Comedy Central)Producers: Meredith Bennett, Stephen Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Tom Purcell,Jon Stewart
- "Jimmy Kimmel Live” (ABC)Producers: David Craig, Ken Crosby, Doug DeLuca, Erin Irwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Jill Leiderman, Jason Schrift, Jennifer Sharron
- "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (NBC) Producers: Hillary Hunn, Lorne Michaels, Gavin Purcell, Michael Shoemaker
- "Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO) Producers: Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Dean Johnsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin
- "Saturday Night Live” (NBC) Producers: Ken Aymong, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lorne Michaels, John Mulaney
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:
- "The Amazing Race” (CBS) Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster, Mark Vertullo
- "Dancing with the Stars” (ABC) Producers: Ashley Edens Shaffer, Conrad Green, Joe Sungkur
- "Project Runway” (Lifetime) Producers: Jane Cha Cutler, Desiree Gruber, Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Jonathan Murray, Sara Rea, Colleen Sands
- "Top Chef” (Bravo) Producers: Daniel Cutforth, Casey Kriley, Jane Lipsitz, Dan Murphy, Nan Strait
- "The Voice” (NBC) Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John De Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Nicolle Yaron, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker
You know what is so odd to me about television awards? If you get a job on certain TV series you can just add PGA or Emmy nominee to your resume before the nominations are even announced, before you've even done any work even!, because the same series are always nominated. Movies are so much more volatile when it comes to "honors" -- it's a new contest every year -- and maybe that's another reason I like them so much better.