Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher were both Hollywood veterans when they were elected co-chairs of the Producers Guild of America in June 2018. But while both had overseen major studios, movies and TV shows, nothing could not have prepared them for what they would do. encounter during their four years with the PGA, including the #MeToo revolution, the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t know each other when this marriage was formed,” Berman said. “But we kind of held hands and said, ‘Let’s do our best to get things done. And we had the best time together. It was certainly more than we ever thought when we said yes, but I will say that we leave with our heads held high with great pride for the organization and what the organization has been able to accomplish in a difficult, difficult time .”
Before bidding farewell to their co-chairmanship, they will celebrate the 33rd PGA Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The non-TV show awards producers of movies (nominees include “The Power of the Dog,” “CODA” and “Dune”) and TV shows (from “Ted Lasso” to “Squid Game”). And they’ll also pay tribute to George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, Issa Rae, “Dune” producer Mary Parent, Greg Berlanti and Rita Moreno.
Both women were already pioneers in their industry before taking up work with the guild. Fisher has been a studio executive for more than 40 years, overseeing films like “The Goonies” and “The Fugitive” at Warner Bros., and “Men in Black,” “Jerry Maguire” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding” as Vice President of Sony Pictures. Berman, meanwhile, made a name for herself in television as executive producer of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and an executive at Fox, overseeing the development and programming of shows like “American Idol” and “Arrested Development.” “.
During their tenure with the Producers Guild, they led efforts to address sexual harassment in their company, worked to diversify their membership and provide mentorship to underrepresented groups at different stages of their careers, and encouraged more ecological productions. When the pandemic hit and production halted, Berman and Fisher helped create a relief fund for members, transition community events to virtual environments, and develop safety protocols when production was able to resume.
When people started getting back to work, PGA members were meeting on Zoom to share information, give advice and ask for it too. The community spirit was unparalleled and brought to light work that often only gets noticed when things go wrong.
“In the midst of all the horrors of the last year, the producers prevailed,” Fisher said. “Producers are the unsung heroes and don’t often get recognition. Our job is to sometimes be invisible and push everyone forward and make a machine that works, which is what we try to do. And obviously the director is in charge, but I think it’s been a good time for the producers to stand up and for the world to respect what’s been accomplished because it could have been that there was no business. And that didn’t happen.”
They also helped to blur and level old divisions between television and film producers within the guild. Berman’s involvement, Fisher said, was key to this because there had never been a high-powered television producer in the role of president. Now they have the highest number of paying members they have ever had: 8,400 people.
The awards show on Saturday will be an opportunity, after last year’s virtual gathering, to come together and celebrate what producers have been able to accomplish in a particularly difficult time.
“Each producer is a small entrepreneur. And interesting and challenging times create opportunities for entrepreneurship,” Berman said. “I had a film stopped, a pilot stopped, a series stopped. But over time and working with a lot of very, very capable people, all of these things ended up happening and happening. And I know that our colleagues have had similar experiences, and we all come out of it, certainly not unchanged, but certainly, in some ways, stronger.
Fisher usually doesn’t like price discounts, but this one is an exception. Part of that is because it’s not televised.
“People are a lot more laid back and it’s a lot friendlier,” Fisher said. “The winners had time to think about what they wanted to say and they really talk about what the company means to them and what their work means to them. And it’s not a showoff-y, soundbite-y version of things. It means a lot to get an award from people who actually know what the job is and what it takes to make something good or bad.
Now Fisher and Berman are ready to return to their day-to-day work as producers. Berman’s next stop will be the Cannes Film Festival with the film “Elvis” by Baz Luhrmann. And they are happy to leave on a good note.
“We at least have the satisfaction of knowing that we made a difference,” Fisher said. “Never as much as you want, but definitely a difference.”
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr
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