Some commonality in diversity

Producers talk shop at PGA's nominees breakfast

This year's PGA film nominees ranged from expensive studio fare with "The Dark Knight" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" to the relatively modest studio effort "Frost/Nixon" to scrappy indies "Milk" and "Slumdog Millionaire." All five had certain common threads according to their producers, who shared their experiences at the Producers Guild of America's annual nominees breakfast.

During Saturday's seminar moderated by PGA president Marshall Herskovitz at the Landmark Theatre in West Los Angeles, "Milk" producer Bruce Cohen suggested that each of the nominated films "creates a universe that you absolutely take the audience to and they forget about the challenges that happened."

He explained how director Gus Van Sant's experimental films including "Elephant" and "Paranoid Park" contributed to the sense of authenticity he created for the actors working on "Milk."

Kathleen Kennedy, one of the "Button" producers, said each of the films involved had to take risks. In the case of "Button," she said, "the effects had to be completely in service to the story."

"Knight's" Charles Roven acknowledged that one of the real challenges on his film, which the studio was eager to shoot in the wake of the success of "Batman Begins," was "not getting it made prematurely. We needed to make sure we got the story right."

In the case of "Frost/Nixon," Brian Grazer noted that Peter Morgan's play was about ideas rather than action, a hurdle for any film. "I really believe in propulsion, and it's really hard to give any movie propulsion." But he said director Ron Howard solved that problem by "almost (turning it) into a thriller."

"Slumdog" producer Christian Colson credited director Danny Boyle with deciding to use three sets of actors, rather than just two, to play the young children who grow into the movie's young adults. "From the casting point of view, that created enormous challenges," he said, but it also "radically transformed" the modestly budgeted movie by making it appear more epic.