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Producers Try to Bring Sanity and Uniformity to Documentary Credits

The DPA, backed by Sundance and other major stakeholders, sets best practices guidelines to delineate the roles of funders and creatives.

Documentaries are increasingly becoming big business, which in turn has changed the way nonfiction films are funded and distributed. One of the unintended consequences of there being a wider variety of funding sources is that producing credits have become virtually meaningless, with no set guidelines delineating what it means to be an “Associate Producer,“ “Co-Producer,“ “Producer,” “Co-Executive Producer,” “Executive Producer,“ or to receive an “In Association With,” “Presented by,” or “A Production of” billing.

The Documentary Producers Alliance (DPA) – a group of 100 producers who advocate on behalf of the health and welfare of the documentary industry – after 12 months of research and conversations with the major stakeholders in U.S. nonfiction filmmaking, today are releasing its “Guide to Best Practices in Documentary Crediting” in an effort to solve this problem.

“The goal of this guide is to standardize the crediting landscape for documentary films big, small, and micro, towards clarity and parity,” reads the proposal. “The DPA’s intention is that these crediting standards will clarify the criteria for various producer roles—serving film investors, donors, supporters, and filmmakers alike in credit discussions and negotiations—and that they will be adopted widely.”

at the 33rd Annual IDA Documentary Awards at Paramount Theatre on December 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

The 33rd Annual IDA Documentary Awards at Paramount Theatre on December 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Getty Images for International Documentary Association

One of the clearest and most important steps the DPA took in the proposal was to lay out a crediting standard for financiers, based on the percentage of total budget contribution. So far example:

50-percent or Greater = Presentation Credit: Applicable to a distributor, broadcaster, company or individual. Affords a static or animated company logo at the top of the film and up to four individual Executive Producer credits in the main titles, if requested.

20-percent or Greater = In Association with Credit: Affords a static or animated company logo (if applicable) at the top of the film and up to two individual Executive Producer credits in the main titles, if requested.

10-percent or Greater = One Executive Producer Credit in the main titles and a static company logo (if applicable) in the logo section of the end credits.

Those contributing 7.5-to-9.99-percent of the budget are recommended to receive a Co-Executive Producer credit, 2.5-to-7.49-percent receive a Contributing Producer credit, and 1- 2.49-percent entitles funders to a receive a “This film was made possible with the support of” or “Additional funding by” mention in the end credits.

One of the stated goals is to properly acknowledge the work of the so-called “day-to-day” producers working with the director to get a film made. The DPA is recommending the industry move away from the title “Creative Producer.”

“We firmly believe that the Producer role is inherent to the creative process and that no qualifying adjective needs to precede the Producer credit,” reads the proposal. “We also believe that by distinguishing between financier and day-to-day producer credits we eliminate the need for the Creative Producing credit, which in recent years has resulted in confusion around the Producer’s role specifically and crediting practices generally.”

The DPA also strived to clearly delineate the various roles day-to-day producers play in making a film by clearly defining the roles of the Producer, Co-Producer, Archival Producer, Associate Producer, Consulting Producer, Field Producer, Fixer, Impact Producer, Line Producer and Post-Production Supervisor.

It’s important to note that the DPA does not have any authority to enforce these guidelines, but is simply making recommendations. Yet, by involving the major stakeholders in the year long discussion of best practices, the DPA proposal has secured endorsements of 24 film organizations which are leaders in the nonfiction industry: 1) A-Doc, 2) Brown Girls Doc Mafia, 3) Catapult Film Fund, 4) Center for Media & Social Impact, 5) Chicago Media Project, 6) Chicken & Egg Pictures, 7) Cinereach, 8) D-Word, 9) Doc Society, 10) Field of Vision, 11) Film Independent, 12) Firelight Media, 13) Fork Films, 14) IFP, 15) Impact Partners, 16) Kartemquin Films 17) New York Women in Film & Television, 18) Points North Institute 19) SF Film 20) Southern Documentary Fund, 21) Sundance Institute, 22)The Video Consortium, 23) Tribeca Film Institute, and 24) Women Make Movies.

Today’s announcement is also timed to come just before the start of the Sundance Film Festival, where DPA members will participate in the Sundance Talent Forum at the Kimball Art Center and will hold drop-in office hours to allow filmmakers to learn more about the guidelines and how put them into practice with their own films/projects.

You can read the full guidelines here.

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