'Slumdog' leads the pack at PGAs

'Madmen,' '30 Rock' nab best TV drama, comedy

"Slumdog Millionaire" continues to hit the awards jackpot, as on Saturday night the Mumbai-set tale of an orphan boy who strikes it rich was named best picture of the year by the Producers Guild of America.

Producer Christian Colson, who accepted the guild's Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award for Theatrical Motion Pictures, said the pic's awards-season run should be taken as a sign of the value of unconventional moviemaking.

"Some people argue this was a film that shouldn't have been made," Colson said, citing the lack of major stars, the mid-range budget and foreign-language dialogue, as he accepted the award at the PGA's annual bash at the Hollywood Paladium. "I hope the success of our movie enables all the movies that don't tick any boxes to get made."

Among other major awards, Pixar's "WALL-E" earned Jim Morris the prize for producer of the best animated film, while  "Man on Wire," the documentary about tightrope walker Philippe Petit, brought Simon Chinn the honors for best feature documentary.

In presenting the award, Aaron Echkart gave a shout-out to nonfiction pictures, saying that on a list of tough jobs, "somewhere between bomb defuser and beekeeper is documentary filmmaker."

On the television side, AMC's "Madmen" and NBC's "30 Rock" were singled out as best produced TV drama and comedy series, respectively; Matthew Weiner and Scott Hornbacher picked up the "Mad Men" prize while Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, Marci Klein, Robert Carlock, Jeff Richmond, Jerry Kupfer and David Miner nabbed the award for "30 Rock" for the second straight year.

HBO's "John Adams," another established awards winner, was named the best long-form television. That award was presented to David Coatsworth, Frank Doelger, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks and Steven Shareshian.

Jeff Fager of CBS' "60 Minutes" was recognized as the producer of the year for nonfiction TV and the award for live entertainment/competition TV went to Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" and its producers, Stephen T. Colbert, Jon Stewart, Allison Silverman, Richard Dahm, Meredith Bennett and Tom Purcell.

The guild also honored producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, who were
also nominees this year for "Frost/Nixon," with its Milestone Award.

Hanks, who has starred in a number of Imagine productions, introduced the pair, and when Grazer thanked, among other people, studio execs -- "I know, people don't do it, but it's appropriate," he said -- Hanks piped in from behind him on the stage, "Which one, Brian? Name the studio execs now." (Grazer went on to name Universal chief Ron Meyer and others.)

Michael Douglas received the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures in honor of his producing career -- with Danny Devito and the hyphenate riffing on their time in theater camp four decades ago -- while "The Sopranos" creator David Chase was presented the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television.

Lear presented the award named after himself with an "I've known Norman Lear all my life and, frankly, I've found him wanting." Chase paid tribute to Lear by saying "There was a little bit of Archie Bunker's DNA in Tony Soprano" and calling the Lear character "the first of perpetually pissed-off guys from the tri-state area."

The Stanley Kramer Award, which is given to a film that tackles social issues, went to "Milk," with attorney general Jerry Brown presenting the award and producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen thanking Brown for introducing a lawsuit that would challenge the legality of Proposition 8.

MySpace founders Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe were presented the
Vanguard Award, with DeWolfe calling for the site to be used as a "hub for the creative community" while Participant Media founder Jeff Skoll was given the Visionary Award.

Al Gore presented the award to Skoll, who in turn noted the skeptics' attitude when he started Participant that "the surest way to make a small fortune is to start with a big fortune and go into the film business." People, he recalled, also said of his socially conscious label, "You'll make change -- twenty-five cents on the dollar."

Also at the show, PGA chief Marshall Herskovitz sounded a call to producers to concentrate on mid-range productions and not cede that ground to foreign companies.

"If producers let foreign companies take over the lower-cost (part of the business),,.he said, "what happened to our banking industry...could happen to our industry." He added "You think I'm talking about the auto industry but I'm talking about the film business."