Determining who gets a producer credit on movies, TV shows

Few issues are as thorny in Hollywood as who gets producer credits — and who deserves to get them.

When five producers rushed onstage to accept the best picture award for “Shakespeare in Love” in 1999, a flap ensued and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to limit future nominations to no more than three producers.

To tighten the rules further, the Producers of Guild of America also adopted a “Code of Credits” in 2003, a set of job descriptions and rules for resolving disputes over who is entitled to the ubiquitous “produced by” credit.

However, the “code” has not been formally recognized by the networks and studios, meaning that producer credits on films and TV shows continue to proliferate.

Mark Gordon and veteran producer Hawk Koch, the newly elected co-presidents of the 4,300-member Producers Guild of America, are determined to change that.

Gordon, the 53-year-old producer behind the movies “Saving Private Ryan” and “2012" and TV shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” recently talked to The Times about the credits issue.

Why is there a need for a code of credits in the first place?

It’s important because the producer’s credit on a film or a television show has gotten so gray, nobody knows what that person does. Being a producer is a craft just like being a director of photography. We have skills, we’ve learned a lot and we’ve gone to school. We’re proud of what we do and we want to make sure that if you do the job, you get the credit.

And just what is the job of a producer?

When you ask people outside our industry what is a producer, usually you get “the guy who raises the money,” and that’s it. That is really not correct. The producer is engaged in a project from the very beginning to the very end, from hiring the writer and helping to develop the script with the writer to casting the movie, pushing the project through the studio, and marketing and distributing the last DVD. It’s both a creative and a financial job.

How is it that many people who don’t do the job still claim the credit?

You will see certain people getting credits who had no role in the development in the script, who never stepped foot on the set and who had no involvement in decisions about the marketing and distribution of a film. Producers have finally taken a stand and said enough is enough.

Is that why the Producers Guild recently decided to investigate a complaint over the awarding of a “produced by” credit on the film “Solitary Man” to the 17-year-old granddaughter of one of the producers?

This is an extreme case, but it’s a perfect example of the ridiculousness of certain people getting credits.

So why does the problem persist?

Although people are taking it much more seriously, the problem is we can’t enforce the code [outside of award shows] because it has not been formally recognized by the studios and networks. We want to have the authority to arbitrate credits just like the Writers Guild does.

Are the studios open to the idea?

We’re having conversations with studio heads and people in a position to grant us authority. We have a couple of studios who’ve embraced this, and we’re looking for others to jump on board. I would hope that by early 2011 we will be able to announce that enough studios have allowed us to be able to arbitrate these credits so that eventually it will become standard procedure.