The PGA’s Produced By Conference

Cannes Film Festival

M. Galas

When it came to producing a three day conference complete with two mixers and an award presentation, the Producers Guild of America did not disappoint.

The Produced By Conference kicked off its weekend program June 5th at the Paramount Studios Lot with a cocktail social.   The following two days, 900+ registered attendees gathered at the Sony Studios Lot to partake in a myriad of workshops and presentations.  The weekend concluded with a short film and webisode competition entitled "The Producers Challenge."

To catch a flavor of the conference, below are some highlights from this reporter’s event log.

Friday, June 5th:
After a busy evening pouring slushies and answering questions at Cinegear, I made my way across the Paramount Lot to the kick-off party.  I arrived to a sea of martini glasses.  Not wanting to gobble down appetizers in a desperate frenzy, I headed straight for the registration pick-up line which resulted in a 20 minute wait.  Noticing my LA 411 tee, a couple asked if I’ve just attended Cinegear and asked how things went.  Although my outfit attracted positive attention, I noticed the crowd closely followed the "cocktail attire" request, so I departed after receiving the weekend’s credentials. 

Saturday, June 6th:
I arrived at 8:00 am for the location manager’s meet and greet breakfast and gladly grabbed a coffee.  After chatting with folks from New Mexico, Plymouth Rock Studios, and Hawaii, I discovered I only had ten minutes to get to my first session: Branded Entertainment for Producers.  A great deal of information regarding building brands into shows, the progression of actor’s relationships to brands, brands relationship to content ("Transformers" being the perfect example), and the advent of brands in web content was discussed.  What I found most interesting were the comments made by Howard Owens.  Owens talked about how Tivo has reshaped viewers’ habits by allowing them to skip advertising.  He encouraged producers to think about new media models, and suggested revisiting the models of the 50s when advertisers sponsored programming, such as Texaco Home Theater. 

Lee Daniels discussed the incorporation of physically and mentally ailing individuals in his feature films, a point I found very topic-appropriate during the Storytelling in an Age of Diversity panel.   Moving on to Virtual to Viral: Opportunities for Monetization, Marketing and Development, I couldn’t help admiring the control Gordon Paddison had as moderator of the panel.  I appreciated the comments made about a production company’s need to have a plan for social networking, and found the discussions about digital distribution interesting if not slightly funny when acronyms such as VOD, SVOD and AVOD were used repeatedly..

 After a quick 30 minute sandwich break, I raced over to The Collaborative Process of Visual Effects: From Previs to Post.  With a panel of ten people and a lot to cover, Richard Edlund did as fine a job as possible of keeping everyone talking really fast.  Early previs clips from "Star Wars," where people where holding dolls or ship models as sequences were filmed, illustrated the great advancements that have occurred throughout the years as computer graphics and motion control entered the picture.  The group discussed how previs helps everyone from producers pitching a project to art directors to the post production teams.  With no minutes left, Marc Weigert raced through his presentation of an earthquake previs.  He then slipped in a clip from "2012," that was so realistic; I don’t think I can see the film, or at least, not in Los Angeles.

I enjoyed learning about the "fingerprinting" process that takes an audio/video snapshot very 50th millisecond of an online film to prevent web piracy during the Digital Rights seminar.  Being in the building closest to the Sony Hall, I quickly grabbed a table and munched on hummus and roasted veggies.  Several people eventually shared my space, including a producer who worked with David Cronenberg ("He’s a very weird guy," he said.)  I also chatted with producers from Vermont and Philadelphia, and was impressed that people of such caliber were willing to travel great distances to spend their weekend learning. 

Sunday, June 7th:
I arrived at 8:30 am, trying to hit up as many booths in the expo room as possible.  After learning that Gucci and Prada are working on developing designer 3D glasses from the RealD booth, I ran over to Made in the USA: Navigating Domestic Tax Incentives, eager to meet presenters John Hadity and Joe Chianese.  After a lively Q &A that included many state film commissioners defending their incentives, I excitedly moved on to the PGA/ASC Camera Assessment Series.  I’d been looking forward to since first learning about it in March.  After outlining the specifics of the cameras that were tested, the various set-ups, the post process, and introducing the crew, the various examples were shown.  The differences were clear and extremely interesting, illustrating the various scenarios each camera, including the film camera, excelled in.  To sum up the session in one sentence, the assessment series illustrated that cameras should be used like film stock, matching cameras to the needs of a shot list. 

Arriving at the Q&A portion of the "Green Tomorrow" and feeling like I missed the meat, I slipped out and headed to the Catering Truck showdown.  Wow!  With options ranging from pizza to sushi, I settled on trying my first deep fried avocado, stuffed with tender crab meat.  Next up: barbecued ribs.  Oh, to eat like this every day!  I was too full to eat more than two truck’s goods.

I waddled over to Sounds Like a Deal: Music Licensing.  Two additions to the panel, Carole E. Handler and Rolfe Kent, proved worth the wait.  Handler fashioned the panel’s questions per the needs of the audiences.  Kent discussed his process in scoring each scene of a feature.  After learning that new internet technologies and file sharing has had no impact on music licensing, I ventured over to A New Dimension: 3D Stereoscopic Production.   This panel included a physiology lesson discussing the eye’s relationship to the brain, illustrating why incorrect 3D can become an unpleasant physical experience.  Every second of this panel was educational and valuable to me.  I was especially happy to see extended scenes from "G-Force." (see spotlight article.) 

Performance/Motion Capture Production Technology completed my set of panels.  The demonstration of how facial structure was captured from hundreds of tiny dots on a face model, and then molded into a creature’s head, was very interesting.  However, my attention span was becoming as spotty as the model’s face.  When the program concluded, I wanted to check out the Producer’s Challenge but couldn’t find its location.  This was a minor disappointment to a weekend filled with such valuable insight into legal, technical, and logistical issues faced by producers.  I walked off the Sony lot, hoping to return next year for a second Produced By Conference. 

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