Spearheading the organization are Rebecca Green (“It Follows”) and Chris Moore (“Manchester by the Sea”). The group has elected an executive committee with Green as its president and Effie T. Brown (“Dear White People”) as vice president.
Currently, the union currently excludes documentary and TV producers, although “our goal is to eventually include documentary and television producers,” the site states. “We chose to be very specific in our work with the assumption that we could get off the ground faster if we focused on one type of producer first. Once we have industry support, we can decide whether to expand our reach.”
Under the National Labor Relations Act, producers are recognized as supervisors and excluded from the protections of federal labor law. Under legal advisement, the Producers Union principals decided to form a union of supervisors without NRLA certification. According to the Producers Union website: “The Supreme Court has recognized that supervisors have fundamental labor rights that exist independent of federal labor laws. So, while we would not be protected by the NLRA, we have an independent right to form a union.”
The Producers Union wants to improve low and inconsistent wages, a lack of employer heath care contributions, and other issues. The union aims to collectively bargain with studios, financiers, and independent productions; producers are currently one of the few groups in the industry without collective bargaining power.
The Producers Union is distinct from the Producers Guild of America, which represents the interests of producers but does not work in a collective bargaining capacity.
The union will be opening up membership in the coming months at two levels: Professional, for those with two or more producing credits on feature-length, scripted movies; and Emerging, for those with one feature producing credit. There is no charge for membership at this time, although that will change after the union drafts its basic agreement that determines salary minimums, pension and health plans, and clarifies the role and rights of producers. Members will vote on that agreement and the union will seek to negotiate with potential signatories.
Green, who formerly managed the Sundance Institute’s producing labs and is the editor-in-chief of Dear Producer, said the union is a response to an increasing squeeze being put on producers and a lack of clarity around their role.
“Over the last decade, I’ve gotten to know so many people’s struggles to pay their bills and health care,” she said. “It just keeps getting worse and worse every year, even though more and more content is getting made … I’ve been in the business for almost 20 years and have been producing for a decade and even having hit movies, still can’t sustain a living.”
Most producers aren’t connected to blockbuster IP and multi-million-dollar deals. They spend years developing ideas with writers and directors, raise financing, manage budgets, oversee production and deliver the completed film. Often they are only compensated when a film is in physical production.
A recent Dear Producer survey reported that 35 percent of producers surveyed in 2019 said producing was not their primary source of income; 41 percent of all respondents reported earning less than $25,000 that year in producing income. Nearly half of the respondents said an average feature takes 3-5 years to move from development to release; during that period, producers often are unpaid or invest their own money into the project.
Union officer Kishori Rajan (“Random Acts of Flyness”) said the value of a producer’s often unpaid and uncredited work in can be illustrated in the current diversity push from studios that want fresh, diverse talent for big-budget projects.
“Who develops and scouts and finds these filmmakers, who makes those first features? How do they get the validation and the belief and the work behind them so they can actually be known as a filmmaker? I think that is so much of the work that independent producers do,” she said. “So much of the pipeline relies on groundbreaking first features.”
Green said the union is meant for producers working at all budget levels and seeks to lessen the gap between producers commanding $500,000 fees and those starting at zero. Without union-guaranteed minimum compensation, she said, producers are often under pressure to cut or reduce their fees.
“There’s a huge discrepancy,” she said. “We are looking to lift up the people that are really being exploited. But there are high-level producers who are feeling the squeeze as well — the consolidation of companies, streamers not having backend. Everyone’s deals are changing right now. All the other unions have been able to step in and negotiate on behalf of their members. They’re able to negotiate as this business has been so rapidly changing.”
Below is the complete list of Producers Union Executive Committee members. More information about the union is available on its website.
Rebecca Green, President (“It Follows,” “I’ll See You in My Dreams”)
Effie T. Brown, Vice President (“Dear White People,” “Real Women Have Curves”)
Monique Walton, Vice-President, Emerging Producers (“Bull”)
Avril Z. Speaks, Secretary (“Hosea,” “Jinn”)
Chris Moore, Treasurer (“American Pie,” “Manchester By The Sea”)
Lucas Joaquin, At-Large Officer (“Selah and the Spades,” “Love Is Strange”)
Amanda Marshall, At-Large Officer (“The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” “Swiss Army Man”)
Gabrielle Nadig, At-Large Officer (“Little Woods,” “Standing Up Falling Down”)
Heather Rae, At-Large Officer (“Tallulah,” “Frozen River”)
Kishori Rajan, At-Large Officer (“Random Acts of Flyness,” “The Short History of the Long Road”)
Robert Salerno, At-Large Officer (“I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” “21 Grams”)