Wednesday, October 26, 2016
  • Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016
A Big Win For "The Big Short" At Producers Guild Awards
"The Big Short" (photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)
"Amy" tops feature documentary category; "Inside Out" earns animated film honor; "Game Of Thrones," "Transparent," "Fargo" among TV winners
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The Big Short (Paramount Pictures)--the Adam McKay-directed hybrid comedy/drama chronicling the global economic meltdown of 2008 which was triggered by a propped up, fraud ridden real estate/home loan market--won the Producers Guild of America’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award as the best theatrical motion picture of the year during a gala ceremony on Saturday night (1/23) in Los Angeles. The PGA feature honor has proven to be an accurate predictor of what unfolds at the Academy Awards. For the past eight consecutive years, the Guild’s selection has gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

The Big Short producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner accepted the PGA Award and seemed stunned by the win. Their surprise was fueled in part by presenter Michael B. Jordan, star of Creed, reading off the nominated films but failing to mention The Big Short. When he then opened the envelope and said The Big Short, many in the audience--including apparently Gardner and Kleiner--thought he was acknowledging the film as a nominee he had neglected to mention the first time around. Jordan then had to affirm that The Big Short had won, at which point Gardner and Kleiner came up on stage.

Gardner and Kleiner thanked fellow producer Brad Pitt, who was not in attendance, as well as director McKay and Paramount Pictures. Gardner also addressed “the elephant in the room,” referring to the topic of industry diversity--or the lack thereof. She said that as producers, “We have privilege in our hands as storytellers. We need to tell stories that reflect our world on every street corner.”

Inside Out (Disney/Pixar) won the PGA Award for best animated feature while Amy (A24 Films)--which delves into the life of the late vocalist/songwriter Amy Winehouse--was honored as best feature documentary.

While it was bested by Amy in the documentary category, the nominated film The Hunting Ground (RADiUS-TWC) did not come away empty handed, winning the PGA’s Stanley Kramer Award, named after the legendary producer famed for films tackling and shedding light on social issues others were hesitant to confront. The Hunting Ground exposes the rape epidemic on college campuses with victims after the assault being violated further, subject to reactions of disbelief and being left to feel deep humiliation and responsibility for what happened to them, their claims dismissed by university and local law enforcement authorities. Producer Amy Ziering accepted the Stanley Kramer Award on behalf of The Hunting Ground, thanking director Kirby Dick and “the women and men who shared their stories with us.” She also said it was gratifying to win an award named after Kramer, a filmmaker who gave voice to “the silenced and marginalized,” proving that the American public “was willing to listen.” Ziering noted that Kramer’s work achieved the remarkable combination of entertaining while uplifting audiences.

Prior to Ziering’s acceptance of the award, Lady Gaga stirred the audience with her rendition of the Oscar-nominated song “Til It Happens To You” from The Hunting Ground.

On the television front, Fargo (FX Networks) won the David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form TV (a category spanning TV movies and miniseries), Game of Thrones (HBO) took The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama, and Transparent (Amazon) earned distinction as winner of The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy.

In addition to the Stanley Kramer Award, other previously announced honors included:  Fox’s Jim Gianopulos receiving the Milestone Award for historic contributions to the entertainment industry (presented to him by director Ridley Scott whose latest collaboration with Gianopulos was The Martian); Harry Potter producer David Heyman garnering the David O. Selznick Achievement Award (presented by actor Gary Oldman); Industrial Light & Magic scoring the Visionary Vanguard Award (presented by J.J. Abrams, a self-avowed ILM groupie and director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and producer Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder) being presented (by actress Viola Davis) the coveted Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television.

Davis introduced series creator Rhimes as a force who set “the curve many people are behind” when it comes to diversity. Davis noted that Rhimes is the “first solo female recipient” of the Norman Lear Award, adding that Rhimes is also going into business with Lear as they plan to team on a documentary series with a political theme. In her acceptance remarks, Rhimes said she doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer like Lear was 40 years earlier. She shared that studios and networks didn’t say no to her when it came to portraying strong women and three-dimensional people of color. Rhimes conjectured that perhaps nobody else was asking networks and studios to show empowered women and minorities. Maybe, she said, they didn’t ask because they were tired of hitting a brick wall in years past over such requests, or perhaps privilege had made some producers oblivious to the importance of depicting women and people of color as they actually are.

Rhimes concluded that there are too many people to thank so she would mention just one--her producing and creative compatriot over the years, Betsy Beers, who's been with her from “day one of Grey’s Anatomy.”

The diversity issue came up several times during the course of the evening, kicked off by PGA co-president Lori McCreary who in opening remarks said that producers are industry leaders and “we are tonight asking all of you to pledge to make a conscious decision to challenge the status quo until our casts, our crews and our own companies are as diverse as the audiences for which we make this entertainment.”

Here’s a rundown of winners of the 27th Annual Producers Guild Awards:

Feature Films

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures
The Big Short  Producers: Brad Pitt & Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
Inside Out  Producer: Jonas Rivera

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
Amy  Producer: James Gay-Rees


The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama
Game of Thrones  Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, Carolyn Strauss, Bryan Cogman, Lisa McAtackney, Chris Newman, Greg Spence

The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy
Transparent  Producers: Jill Soloway, Andrea Sperling, Victor Hsu, Nisha Ganatra, Rick Rosenthal, Bridget Bedard

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst  Producers: Marc Smerling, Andrew Jarecki, Jason Blum

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television
The Voice  Producers: Audrey Morrissey, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Marc Jansen, Lee Metzger, Chad Hines, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver  Producers: Tim Carvell, John Oliver, Liz Stanton

The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program
Sesame Street

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television
Fargo (Season 2)
Producers: Noah Hawley, John Cameron, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Warren Littlefield, Kim Todd

The Award for Outstanding Sports Program
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

The Award for Outstanding Digital Series
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee