For the first time in twenty years, Awards Daily was invited to be a guest at the Producers Guild Awards nominees breakfast and awards ceremony. It was such an honor and humbling experience to be asked to go and represent the work of a woman, Sasha Stone, who has worked so hard day after day to build her business and brand to be a leading and influential voice when it comes to Awards Season. It was humbling to be the eyes for the readers who come to the site.
While millions of women across the country proudly marched for the Resistance, my responsibility made Saturday Producers Guild Awards Day for me, from dawn till midnight. It started at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills with a nominees breakfast followed by a Q&A with the nominated producers.
At the breakfast, I ran into Evegeny Afineesky, director and nominated producer for the HBO documentary Cries From Syria. Afineesky was with Aaron Butler who worked on editing the documentary that takes us onto the streets of Syria, to the shine a light on the plight children and Syrian refugees. While he was there to talk about his nominated work, he mentioned he was already at work on his next documentary which he hopes to debut later this year.
Jane producer Bryan Burk was holding court to admirers of the documentary which would go on to win Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Pictures later that evening.
A crowd was gathered near the entrance as Margot Robbie arrived. Robbie not only stars in I, Tonya, but also is one of the film’s four producers, along with Steven Rogers, Bryan Unkeless and Tom Ackerley. I chatted briefly with Robbie, asking whether she had skating experience prior to doing the film. The Australian ex-pat said she had only taken up ice hockey when she moved to America, but did not really figure skate until she worked on the film. During the Q&A she revealed she was Mighty Ducks fan and that had made her want to get on the ice.
It was time for the panel to start where PGA President and discussion moderator Gary Lucchesi, Sean McKittrick (Get Out), Graham Broadbent (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), J. Miles Dale (The Shape of Water), Mark Gordon (Molly’s Game), Barry Mendel (The Big Sick), Evelyn O’Neill (Lady Bird), Amy Pascal (The Post), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Deborah Snyder (Wonder Woman), Peter Spears (Call Me By Your Name), and Emma Thomas (Dunkirk) talked about casting, and how they got their movies made. The first obvious thing to note was that there were five women on the panel representing the films, and Sony co-chair turned executive producer, Pascal, was behind two films Molly’s Game and The Post. When asked about what she has learned about being a producer that she didn’t know about while being a studio exec, Pascal joked to the audience that was filled with her peers, “Everything you think you knew as a studio executive is complete bullshit. I think I should have been fired much sooner.”
Talking about the swift production schedule of Spielberg’s The Post, she said, “I read it (the script) in the morning and by midnight I bought it.”
For her part, Deborah Snyder, an executive producer on Wonder Woman, talked about the challenges of telling the story. “The history is so rich and the hardest challenge was what story did we want to tell.” Synder pointed out that she found it interesting that the film premiered when it did, especially as the character has always represented woman’s place in society. She also drew applause when she said they had made a point to have a female director behind the film and since Patty Jenkins had pitched the idea seven years ago and had a clear vision of the character, she was perfect to direct the film.
Broadbent said that Martin McDonagh had specifically written the film part for France McDormand, similarly, Del Toro had written Sally Hawkins’ part for her. Dale informed the audience that Del Toro “felt the performance had to be about moving the eyes and movement.” He had Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton’s performances in mind and felt that very few actors could have carried out that performance in the way that Hawkins did.
Robbie talked about her reaction when first reading the script penned by Steve Rogers admitting that she didn’t know it was a true story based on real-life events, she just knew that she wanted to produce it and be in the film.
Talking about Get Out, McKittrick said he had a meeting with Jordan Peele who pitched him the idea. McKittrick told him to go off and write the script and later Peele would decide to direct it, but “We bought it at the table.” He told the audience.
Thomas talked about how going to Dunkirk was what really brought home for him how incredible achievement of the evacuation had been, and how she found it strange that the story had never really been told already. Having worked with director Christopher Nolan before, he told her that he wanted to make an experimental film, so he wrote the script quickly.
Later that night it was on to the red carpet before the PGA Awards where the nominated producers gathered for the awards ceremony.
— @jazzt (@jazzt) January 21, 2018
Chinese food was served as the ceremony got underway. Presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary welcomed everyone and talked about sexual harassment. “It’s our duty to protect the teams working with us.” Earlier that day, the Producers Guild had sent out its new guidelines against sexual harassment.
Animated feature, Coco took home the first award of the night and accepting the award was Darla K.Anderson. “As we know, cinema is a powerful means for engendering empathy. Now is the time for more diversity and building bridges across the world. Respect matters, dignity matters and keeping families together matters,” she said referring to Trump and his administration.
Chair of Universal, Donna Langley was presented with the 2018 Milestone Award and in her speech pointed out that she was, “only the third woman to receive this award. But if we get this right, I’m going to be far from the last.”
Get Out’s Jordan Peele was honored with the Stanley Kramer Award. He referenced Kramer saying that there would be no Get Out without Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. As he accepted his award, he too made references to Trump and said, “When I set out to do this movie, I had to ask myself, what really scares me? I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not white people. It’s silence. Get Out is my protest against that.” He went on to say, “That’s how I came up with the idea for the sunken place, the sunken place is the system that silences the voice of women, minorities, of other people. It’s the system where we are relegated to when the screams of police brutality go ignored. The sunken place is the president who calls athletes sons of bitches for expressing their beliefs on the field, and the homeland of our most beautiful immigrants shitholes. Every day there is proof that we are in the sunken place.”
Director and trailblazer Ava DuVernay was honored with the visionary Award and paid tribute to Allison Shearmur who had passed away the day before. In a poignant speech DuVernay recalled speaking to people and their memories of Shearmur.
As the night came to a close with The Handmaid’s Tale winning Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama, it came time for The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures to be handed out. Morgan Freeman was on stage to present.
The award went to The Shape of Water which our very own Ryan Adams had predicted. With cellular and wi-fi practically non-existent I managed to call Sasha and we both had a “Holy Fuck” moment of sheer surprise and delight.
Del Toro was not on hand to accept the award as he was with his father in Mexico. Richard Jenkins read a speech that Del Toro had written:
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. Tonight I stand by the side of my father’s bed in my hometown in Mexico. I would like to ask of you all to allow me then to dedicate a little moment and the honors of this night to both my father and my mother, to whom my infinite gratitude belongs, and in turn as a father to offer to my kids also. May they be free to pursue their dreams and fantasies and may they stand by my side when I fade away.”
So, the evening came to a close. It was time to filter out of the ballroom and into the fleet of SUV’s, congratulating winners as they made their way home with prizes in hand.