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On the evening of Oct. 19, Fifty Shades producer Dana Brunetti declared war on the Producers Guild, firing his first shot via Instagram. The post, which he also shared on Twitter and Facebook, read: “Once again outdated Hollywood reigns. According to my own ‘guild,’ I’ve been determined not eligible to receive the PGA mark on #fiftyshadesdarker.”
Brunetti’s missive, which was followed by far more critical and incendiary posts over the following days, created the kind of headache for the 54-year-old guild only possible in the age of social media. Though PGA national executive director Vance Van Petten refused to engage publicly, a number of producers threw kindling on the blaze, voicing their support for Brunetti’s promise “to rally against the Producers ‘Guild’ with a vengeance.” Among those commiserating with the outspoken producer were Bold Films CEO Gary Michael Walters (“Not a fan of the PGA mark TBH. no transparency to the process”) and Drinking Buddies producer Sam Slater (“Makes you wonder what is the point in being a part of a guild that seems to try to hurt us, rather than protect us!?”). Even celebrities joined the Brunetti chorus, including actor Armie Hammer, who posted a GIF of Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle applauding, and actress and sometimes producer Kate Bosworth, calling the guild’s decision “truly insane.”
But will Brunetti’s campaign, which shows no signs of abating, have any lasting impact on the guild’s process in determining how producers are determined eligible for a coveted Producers Mark (“p.g.a.”), a credit considered key for awards?
“I’m making this a platform because I think everyone knows that Fifty Shades Darker isn’t going to be considered for an Oscar, so I really don’t give a f— about the mark,” Brunetti tells THR. “With Captain Phillips, I had to bow down to these f—ers, kiss their ass and go through their antiquated ways to ensure I was eligible.”
The PGA created the p.g.a. mark in 2012 to prevent film financiers from buying awards-season glory. A panel of three unnamed arbiters reviews all materials to determine who contributed work on set or in a “decision-making” capacity.
“The purpose of the Producers Mark is to protect the integrity of the ‘Produced By’ credit,” says PGA president Gary Lucchesi. “Drawing distinctions among producers’ contributions inevitably results in disappointment for some. We have an appeals procedure to address those cases, and we encourage all producers to take advantage of the entire process.”
Brunetti argues his tweets reveal how frequently he was on the Darker set. As for fulfilling the decision-making criteria, he points to his role in enlisting director James Foley, who worked on Brunetti’s series House of Cards. He is particularly incensed because the film represents the fourth time he has disagreed with the PGA’s determination on a film on which he worked, notably The Social Network, when he received the mark but Mike De Luca did not (De Luca appealed and the decision was reversed), and Captain Phillips. Both Social Network and Captain Phillips were Oscar best picture contenders, where the p.g.a. mark holds significance and affects which producers are noted at the ceremony.
But many producers say they embrace the current process. “The PGA mark is a great advancement for all producers,” says Jason Blum. “They don’t get it right 100 percent of the time, but they sure get close to that number.”
Adds Doug Wick, “It’s the difference between a merit-based credit and a bully-based credit. For the longest time, a producer credit was given to whoever had the most power or leverage even if they never stepped foot near the set”
Still, producer Craig Baumgarten, who was on the committee that wrote the rules, refused to accept his mark for the upcoming All I See Is You after learning that director Marc Forster and producer Michael Selby were denied. Baumgarten insists that all three were equally deserving.
“The PGA mark itself is a great thing — to designate who really produces a movie — but sometimes the prejudices or preconceptions of the arbiters — many of whom have spent most of their lives being screwed over by studios, directors and movie stars — overlie the facts.”
The PGA says arbiters are working producers, which it touts as a selling point. But bias is unavoidable, and even those who praised the mark as a far better alternative to the pre-mark days concede that it is easy to determine the identity of producers during the so-called blind process.
“A panel of your peers? It’s a peer I probably took this f—ing movie from because everyone was competing to get on this project,” says Brunetti of the Fifty Shades franchise. “It should be an arbitrary panel of people who know the rules but not a panel of peers.”
For his part, Brunetti is mulling legal action. Privately, the guild is encouraging him to appeal (Brunetti remains undecided). Either way, the PGA hopes that the PR nightmare unleashed by the social media-savvy producer will go away.
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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