‘The Butler's’ 41 Producer Credits Are ‘Embarrassing,’ PGA Presidents Say

'The Butler's' 41 Producer Credits Are 'Embarrassing,' PGA Presidents Say

But the Producers Guild's Mark Gordon and Hawk Koch say they understand why a hard-to-make movie can accumulate so many producers in the current climate

When it comes to producers’ credits, the most newsworthy movie of the moment is definitely “Lee Daniels‘ The Butler,” which has drawn media attention for having more than 40 different credited producers.

“I wish that there weren't so many producer credits on this picture, because it is a little embarrassing for everyone within our community,” said Producers Guild of America co-president Mark Gordon in an interview with TheWrap. “But I do understand that there's very little that someone won't do to get a movie made. And in the end, if you look at that movie and you appreciate what its message is, and you weigh what they had to do and what they ended up with, I get it.”

laura_ziskin-224x300Most of the credited producers are in the executive-producer and associate-producer categories, with IMDb listing seven associate producers, six co-producers, 18 executive producers and four co-executive producers.  Only five – Daniels, Cassian Elwes, Buddy Patrick, Pam Williams and Laura Ziskin – receive the actual “Produced by” credit, and those five have yet to go through the vetting process that would result in the Producers Mark.

Also read: Inside Story of How the Producers Guild Convinced Studios to Let It Overhaul Movie Credits (Exclusive)

If the film is nominated for any awards, though, they will be.

“It will be arbitrated, and if it gets nominated we'll announce who the real producers are,” said PGA co-president Hawk Koch.

And although Ziskin (right) died in 2011, before the film went into production, he added, she is in a good position with the guild: “This was Laura's project.”

Also read: Did ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ Just Kick Off the Oscar Race?

While “The Butler” is an extreme case, Gordon said the use of multiple producers of all kinds is becoming the norm. “The idea of 41 names in some producorial capacity is very sensationalistic,” he said. “It's a great headline. But the reality is that making a picture now requires alliances, it requires partnerships, it requires people coming together to get movies made. And that's even more true on the independent side.”

As an indie film that required a number of different backers to raise the money for its production, he added, “The Butler” is an aberration that nonetheless illustrates the current nature of filmmaking.

“I will bet you that at least 50 percent, if not more, of the people who are credited as some form of producer on that movie are deserving of their credits for making a contribution to a movie that was very, very difficult to get made,” he said.

“But I'm sure that there are more people who got a credit on that movie than should have any kind of credit,” he added. “I don't know the circumstances – but look, how many producers does it take to screw in a light bulb? It ain't 41.”

  • tamara andre

    JUST more proof that we should have stuck with the studio system. There is no actor alive worth 20 million dollars per, and points btw. Can you imagine 40 producers listed on an old MGM or Warner Brothers movie? Never would have happened. And some dude putting his name in front of the title, a la “Lee Daniel's The Butler”, or any movie by Tyler Perry, NEVER would have happened in old style hollywood.

    • Koko B.

      I guess you never heard of Alfred Hitchcock.

      • Larry

        Or Walt Disney.

    • k_e_stewart

      Or David Lean? Or Francis Ford Copola? There are many. And in this case it was mandatory since the title: “The Butler” is owned by another studio.

    • Film_Shark

      Director Ron Howard's films over the years have generated approximately a billion dollars and he couldn't get studio backing for his formula one movie, ‘Rush.’ I think it's awesome that even A-list directors are going the indie route to get their passion projects made.

  • Anonymous

    Tamara, just have to remind you that Lee putting his name in front of the title was the very last thing that he wanted to do. He wasn't left with much of a choice after the big legal fight went down over the original title of the film which was simply just “The Butler”.

  • Jim

    Hiring Oprah is embarrassing!

    she's worth $2 billion! She couldn't finance the pic, herself, so she can make a butt outta herself at the Oscars when accepting the award for Best Picture.

  • Ron Merk

    I used to get a kick out of the 12-14 producers listed on many major TV shows, or when twenty producers get up on stage at the Tony Awards when a show wins. But 41? I always wondered what all these producers did on a day-to-day basis. It seems that if they were anywhere near the set, they'd be tripping over the cables and each other. Maybe we need to create some new titles for people who help finance a film and get it made. The Producer Credit should be given to the person (or perhaps a max of three people) who actually day-to-day produce the film. Credits on films have reach the point of absurdity. Credit crawls are running ten minutes now. Does anyone in the industry actually think audiences sit through them? Does anyone think audiences care who produced a movie unless it's Steven Spielberg or George Lucas?

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      Tamara, just have to remind you that Lee putting his name in front of the title was the very last thing that he wanted to do. He wasn't left with much of a choice after the big legal fight went down over the original title of the film which was simply just “The Butler”.

  • k_e_stewart

    41 Producers! The embarrassing thing is not the number per se, but the fact that Hollywood and independents need that many people to get a character driven film off the ground. People are not offered that title unless they bring something to the table. Whatever that “something” may be, In the advancement of getting the project up and running and ditributed. Don't blame the players…blame the system.

  • C A McCann

    Can you say “crowd sourcing”? People get films funded these days with promises of T-shirts, set visits and free seats at premieres. 41 Producers will be the NORM before you know it, since a vast portion of studio funding is reserved for movies the investment geeks green light, and studio devoted to indies have virtually disappeared. Producing movies like Precious and The Butler should be an honor, but brave souls like Lee Daniels have to be hugely resourceful. I applaud those 41.

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  • Latin Producer

    Oprah did the African American filmmakers and community a great disservice by NOT bankrolling the film herself. That would have been a real act of power instead of dragging the process out and basically showing the world that ‘we can't do it without ‘the man ‘ . Now Cassian Elwes and Laura Ziskin are awesome people and producers, but they are not nearly as rich as Oprah and yet she made Lee Daniels into another butler by subjecting his film to this kind of patchwork funding. It is a metaphor for the film itself, you gotta suffer before you succeed..and we can't do it without bowing our heads…and bein'thankful ;-( .but really young [white] producers like Meg Ellison step up to the plate and do it with their own money. I admire that kind of executive producing above all. When the PGA picks through this mess, we won't have Oprah to thank.

  • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Out in the Street Films

    Throwing money into the ring is not producing. It's financing. What we need is a new category, like financial producer.

    • movie_guy

      Or just financier.

  • JohnDoe

    This is a symptom of a failing system. 41 Producers to raise funding for a moderately budgeted indie character drama is the new norm. Look at crowd sourcing. Many indie producers and filmmakers rely on contributions from individuals that want producing credit for investing in a film that has little or no chance of earning back its budget. It is the least you can offer if it gets your film made!!!

    I honestly don't understand how the PGA or media outlets can scrutinize the film or filmmakers. The system is broken!!! Studios will only fund tent pole dribble, spending more in fringes and P&A then this film's entire budget . I get it– your formula works sometimes… But, then again, it doesn't (RIPD, CITY OF IMORTAL BLAH BLAH BLAH).

    Audiences showed up for ‘The Butler’ and the argument was won with ticket purchases. This will be an ongoing ‘chicken or the egg’ argument by Execs, Studios, Producers and Audiences. Indies can still make a grab for Oscar GOLD but diminishing studio funding will be the death of Hollywood. Stop blaming the filmmakers and politicians and start firing studio executives… Or not (as I eat my cake)…

    PS — How is having 41 Producers “a great headline”? <– Isn't this a clear indication of blood in the streets?

  • Jayne Err

    Excuses for selling off fraud producer credits? That is a conflictIng signal, PGA. I am sorry but no director or actor or writer would allow their credit to be fraudulently shared by multiple pretenders, and nor would the DP or the make-up artist… but a bona fide producer credit is up for grabs to numerous non-producing bidders etc.? Rather than give them “Executive Producer” status? Filmmakers, including producers, if you can't afford to make the film, don't make the film.