Producers say don’t blame us
With the Hollywood writers strike now in its second week, media coverage often describes the labor impasse as a dispute pitting writers against producers.
But a loose-knit group of 85 independent producers, many of them with credits on studio and independent films, wants to make it clear: They aren’t the ones negotiating with writers, and they don’t control how much -- or how little -- residuals writers receive.
To clarify their point, the informally organized group of producers signed a joint statement asking the print and broadcast media to quit referring to the strike between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers as between “writers and producers.”
“Actually, the Writers Guild is negotiating against an entity that represents studios, networks and multinational conglomerates,” said Linda Goldstein Knowlton, whose producing credits include the film “Whale Rider.”
Julie Lynn, whose producing credits include “The Jane Austen Book Club,” said: “In many of the publications we read and [broadcast] stations we listen to, it almost always is viewed as a dispute between the writers and producers. While the AMPTP has ‘producers’ in its name, that’s not really what it is.”
In their statement, the producers say that “it serves the studios’ interests to pretend to represent individual producers instead of corporate entities.”
They also noted: “Creative producers are not directly involved in this dispute: We do not receive any residuals, nor are we stakeholders in the studio profits (excepting where some powerful producers do have back-end holdings in particular studio shows and films, just as do powerful actors, writers and directors).
“We do not dispute the need for residuals, including those from DVDs and new media. Residuals are important and significant revenues. It is only fair that the creators of films and television share in the proceeds from all of the ways the product they create may be exploited.
“We support our wonderful writers, directors and actors. We are also happy to pay benefits to the fantastic tradespeople on our films.”
Vance Van Petten, executive director of the 4,000-member Producers Guild of America, echoed the comments, saying in an interview that the days when studios were run by producers was changing.
Long gone are producers such as David O. Selznick and Darryl F. Zanuck, who ran studios. Today, for example, Van Petten notes that although producer Alan Horn is studio chief at Warner Bros., he answers to a nonproducer, Barry Meyer. And all the studios are mere cogs in huge conglomerates, he said.
“It is frustrating to my members that [the news media] keep referring to the alliance as producers,” Van Petten said. “Historically, when the alliance first formed, many of my members were one and the same.” But today, he noted, “producers are relegated mostly to employees or independent entrepreneurs who are out there trying to put things together.”
He noted that even big-name producers such as Jerry Bruckheimer, Brian Grazer and Kathleen Kennedy were not the ones seated across the bargaining table from the writers. That is the studios and networks, who are represented by the alliance.
“It’s the WGA versus the alliance. The writers versus the studios and networks,” he said.
Among the producers signing the statement were Susan Cartonis (“What Women Want”), Effie T. Brown (“The Station Agent”), Caldecot Chubb (“Eve’s Bayou”), Richard N. Gladstein (“Finding Neverland”), Lynette Howell (“Half Nelson”), Eva Kolodner (“Boys Don’t Cry”), Janet Yang (“The People vs. Larry Flynt”) and Clark Peterson (“Kinsey”).
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