My Attempt to Start a Producers Union and What I Learned Along the Way

By Rebecca Green

Over the past several months, as our collaborators in the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild have put their livelihoods on the picket line, there have been rumblings about the lack of protections for producers. For example… 

In a statement released in May by The Hollywood Reporter in support of the WGA strike, the Producers Guild of America Presidents, Stephanie Allain and Donald De Line, explain how producers “are the only artist on a union production that has no minimum salary and no health insurance.” They go on to say, “Another issue of concern is that producers are not guaranteed a minimum salary. Thousands of our members are working below the line without fair compensation, even though their contributions are fundamental to a production’s success.” And while they explicitly say that the PGA is not a union, they remark, “These producers are the lifeblood of any production and deserve better pay and benefits.” 

In June, on Deadline Strike Talk, hosts Billy Ray and Todd Garner invited guest producers Julie Lynn and Bonnie Curtis to discuss the struggles of being an independent producer and the need for union protections. When it comes to negotiating Todd says, “The bottom line is that as producers, we are totally fucked.” Julie clarifies that producers “are not financiers, except for instance, when I have to take out a second mortgage on my house because the actual financier wasn’t really doing anything but playing a shell game.” Billy then goes on to give a very lengthy analogy between independent producers and local farmers that will break your heart. 

And in July, Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote a piece titled Documentary Filmmakers Don’t Have the Option to Strike for a Better System citing the lack of protections for documentary producers and noting, “In recent years, the DGA has admitted more high-profile documentary filmmakers into its ranks, while the WGA has recently begun to work on unionization contracts with documentary shops like Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions union, which covers 50 freelancers. But these are exceptions for a field that has no precise standards for pay equity, healthcare, and other key issues at the root of current union negotiations.”
In addition to the public mentions, I’m aware of many more offline conversations happening amongst different circles of producers about the issues we face and lack of minimum protections we have as workers in the entertainment industry.  

However, what’s missing from these conversations, is that there is a Producers Union. In October 2019, I launched a grassroots effort, alongside veteran producer Chris Moore, to build a Producers Union. The organization has a constitution, hundreds of members and a basic agreement. But despite the years of work put in by myself, Chris and dozens of producers, the Producers Union has not made its way into the narrative. 

Over the past three years of organizing producers, so much has been uncovered as to why producers don’t have the same type of basic protections our collaborators have and I believe it is important for all producers to be aware of what I learned. So, for the sake of my fellow producers and for the next generation, I’ve decided to write this piece detailing the efforts made to launch the Producers Union, the challenges we faced, the decisions we made, the hurdles we overcame and why I eventually chose to step away from the leadership role. 

Let’s rewind… 


In September of 2019, I sent an email to producer Mynette Louie with the subject line, “possibly a dumb question” asking her, “What is the reason producers don’t have a union? Is it because we are often also the employer by being the ones who manage the LLC?” Mynette suggested I reach out to Julie Lynn who had been in these types of conversations for many years and who could possibly shed some light on the ‘why’ of it all. Here is what I wrote to Julie… 

“I was at the Sundance Producing Summit in August and overwhelmed with the issues producers are facing. I started working as the manager of the Sundance Producing Lab and Summit in 2010 and over the last decade, I have witnessed the conversation about how producers struggle push its way to the forefront, but there has been no action put into place to solve any of the issues, no systematic changes to protect us. And the issues are hitting producers so early in their career now. I came home from the Summit feeling that the only way things change for producers is if we have a union.

So I’m writing to you to ask if you know the real reason why producers don’t have a union? My assumption, as it was Mynette’s, is because we often control the LLC making us the boss. However that doesn’t have to be the case, there are many films in which the investor owns the LLC. 

I have no idea how to start a union, but I’m thinking about it a lot. Since working at Sundance, I’ve been someone producers turn to unload all their woes and heartbreak and since starting Dear Producer, that has increased to a level where I’m honestly just tired of it all and the way we are mistreated. I also have no faith that things will change, which was driven home by what was said on panels at the Summit.” 

Julie and I had an exchange of emails and phone calls and she deeply empathized with how I was feeling. She connected me with producer Chris Moore who had also been having these types of conversations over the last decade. 


Chris and I come from two different career worlds. He had this to say in his piece for Dear Producer, The Disappearance of the Hit-Driven Business Model:

“Many producers of my generation had a business plan for our careers. For me, it was directly dependent on the success of each individual film. Not long ago, profit in the film industry was based on a hit-driven business model. If a lot of people bought tickets to see a film in theaters, rented the DVD, or paid for a digital download, it sometimes made a profit, and was considered a hit. At the time, producing a box office hit led to an easier time getting your next project made and usually with a bigger budget.” 

Chris’ circle of producer friends are the producers most of us would consider the “big leagues.” Those who benefitted from the hit-driven business model and were able to achieve sustainability, some even great financial success. On the flip side, my circle of producers are treading water in the speculative market, building side hustles to pay our bills, with no hope of sustainability or a retirement plan in our future. Demonstrating our different experiences and knowing I had made some really low budget features, Chris once emailed me, “Someday we must discuss how one makes a $300,000 movie.”

Coming from these two different worlds made us a good pair. Julie was smart to have connected us. While the “big league producers” seemed to have it figured out, Chris explained to me the struggles they were having at their level and the ways in which they were being exploited by the studios and streamers. And I knew first hand the struggles of the producers working at the low budget level, how we often have to defer all of our fee to get a movie made, how everyone involved in our films wants a producer credit, how there is no back-end to be had, no upside if we made a hit. We came from different worlds, but quickly realized producers in both circles were dealing with critical career issues.
After a few conversations, Chris and I committed to talking three times a week, every Monday/Wednesday/Friday, to share our thoughts on the state of the industry and the role of the producer. Our calls typically lasted two to three hours long and we learned so much from each other.
At the end of February 2020, after three months of talking shop, we decided to bring a group of 10 producers together in New York and another 10 together in Los Angeles (focused on producers working in the scripted feature space) to share what we had been discussing on our calls and float the idea of a collective bargaining organization (a union) for producers. We called these meet-ups “Producers’ Intervention” because we felt that producers needed someone to pull them out of their producing trance. To tell them that they didn’t have to work for free and sacrifice their livelihood for the sake of getting a movie made.
In these gatherings we dug into all the ways in which the business no longer respects producers and how the producer credit has been completely diluted. We discussed how producers are not able to sustain a career in the current market and what the future looks like. While there were many reasons given as to why a union wouldn’t work, the general consensus was that we had to try something.

20 producers joined our Exploratory Committee, which was broken up into the following committees: Eligibility, Schedule of Minimums, Fair Crediting, Creative Rights, Legal, and Partners. These committees worked diligently over March and April of 2020 (when we suddenly had a lot of free time on our hands) to put together recommendations for a path to sustainability and draft a Letter of Intent for producers to sign showing their support of the formation of a collective bargaining organization for producers. This was our first test to see if there was enough interest from the producing community to go all in on efforts to start a producers union. 

On April 29, 2020, I sent an email with our Recommendations and Letter of Intent to a list of hundreds of producers with the subject, “Exploring a Producers Union: Are You In?” 572 producers signed the Letter of Intent.


As the next step to becoming a more formal organization, we held an election for a Steering Committee in June 2020 with 13 seats to fill. The 572 producers who signed the Letter of Intent were the people eligible to vote and run for a seat. We held our first Steering Committee meeting at the end of the month, and while it was a rocky start with a clash of personalities, everyone was passionate about a collective bargaining organization for producers. The Steering Committee committed to meeting once a week.
The first order of business was to draft bylaws to keep us organized and accountable. Then over the next few months, we needed to figure out what type of organization we needed to be (i.e. non profit, co-op, union etc) and how we were going to pay for these efforts. We discussed a “hearts and minds” campaign to form the narrative of what it is a producer does and why our role is important to the health of the industry, we brainstormed who our allies could be (i.e. directors, other unions, the PGA, The Academy), we dissected the schedule of minimum salaries the Exploratory committee put together and what fair pay for producers could look like and we began researching pension and health plans that could work for producers. Most importantly, we met with a few potential lawyers and in September 2020, decided to hire labor attorney Allyson L. Belovin of Levy Ratner, P.C. who came to us with valuable information on how unions in other industries work and how we could model an organization different from a traditional Hollywood union.

The first big question was to determine if producers can have a union if they are also the employer in that they own or manage the LLC in which the company does business under. To understand this, here is a little history lesson…  

Did you know the PGA, now over 70 years old, was once a collective bargaining organization? 

The Producers Guild of America once had been an actual union, recognized as such for several years by the AMPTP before the California Court of Appeals stripped it of union status in 1974 as the result of a lawsuit financed by the WGA West, which represents writer-producers even though it doesn’t bargain for them as producers. That case was known as Knopf vs. Producers Guild of America, and its lead plaintiff was Christopher Knopf, a former president of the WGA West.

The main issue was whether the members of the PGA were employers, and thus not eligible to unionize. The appellate court ruled that “The uncontradicted facts showing that the overwhelming majority of all PGA officials having any power or authority with respect to the negotiation of the collective bargaining agreement were ‘employer-producers,’ establish as a matter of law that PGA was ‘interfered with or dominated or controlled’ by employers within the meaning” of the state’s Labor Code.” (via You can read the Knopf ruling HERE

To simplify, the officers of the PGA at the time, were also present at the AMPTP negotiating table, therefore would be negotiating against themselves. From that point forward, producers were told that they could not unionize because they were considered employers.


Producers of 1974 are not the independent producers we have today. As reference points in history, The Weinstein Company was not formed until 1979 and it wasn’t until 1989 that Sex, Lies, and Videotape (considered one of the seminal turning points in birthing indie film) won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. And despite the second P in AMPTP standing for “producers,” we are not present at the AMPTP table in negotiating with Hollywood’s unions. 

There were two routes to consider: 

  1. Despite the 1974 Knoph ruling, producers could attempt to take the traditional route of unionizing. If we were shut down again because we are perceived as employers, we could challenge the ruling with the National Labors Relations Board (NLRB) to be reclassified as labor. This could be a very lengthy and expensive route with a precedent of not being successful. However, if we were successful, it would be the best outcome in the long run for producers to have equal and enforceable protections like our collaborators OR
  2. We could proceed as a supervisory union, which is not recognized by the NLRB. 

Even if the NLRB ruled that producers aren’t employers, they could still argue that producers are supervisors, and under the National Labor Relations Act, supervisors are excluded from the protections of federal labor law. However, the right to self-organize and select a bargaining representative are fundamental rights predating the existence of any labor relations laws. 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 NLRB, we have an independent right to form a union.

A union recognized by the NLRB works like this…
Once co-workers have rallied enough support within a company, workers sign union support cards indicating that they would like to be represented by the union for the purposes of collective bargaining. The union representative then files the union cards with the NLRB and the NLRB determines which workers can vote and then holds an election. If a majority of workers vote ‘yes,’ the employer has to recognize the union and bargain with employees. (Employers can also challenge the eligibility of workers to form a union, as with the Knopf case.)

A supervisory union skips most of these steps, as it is not recognized by the NLRB. A supervisory union rallies co-workers together and then takes their demands directly to the employer to ask for voluntary recognition. There is no signing of cards or election with the NLRB. If the employer says ‘no’ there is no recourse, no NLRB to make an appeal.
If the Steering Committee decided to go the supervisory union route, we would need complete solidarity amongst producers to convince financiers and studios to recognize the union. We would need to be willing to use our relationships and withhold our work and our projects to make it happen. There would be no NLRB to back us up. Success was 100% on our shoulders and the cooperation of the studios. (This point is very important as you continue to read this story). 

From a legal standpoint, to make the best argument that producers are labor, we need to be willing to fully give up owning or managing Limited Liability Companies (or the company in which they are making their film). I was open to this route with the view that if we were going to make this happen, we had to be open to big systematic changes in how we make our films – the way we’ve been doing it thus far has not been working for producers. However, after much deliberation, we did not have consensus amongst producers (on the Steering Committee or from conversations with producers outside the committee) that they were willing to let go of the owning the LLC model to pursue an attempt to reclassify producers as labor. One argument was that on low budget films, no financier is putting in enough money to take on the liability of the LLC so the producer has to own it. Another point was that owning the LLC meant greater ownership/control of the IP.
If we wanted to hold on to the ability to own/manage the LLC and still pursue producers as labor, another route to take was to challenge the Directors Guild of America. We could argue that on independent films, directors are often owners or managers of the LLC as well, yet they are represented by the DGA. We could argue that directors are supervisors on an equal level as producers, therefore producers should be able to be represented by a collective bargaining organization. We didn’t have to aggressively challenge the DGA, but you can’t ignore the hypocrisy in saying directors (and unit production managers), who are also supervisors, can be protected by a union, but producers cannot be. However, the consensus with this approach was that we should first try to engage directors as our allies rather than attack their union.   

In another piece last week with the PGA Presidents on the picket line, Stephanie Allain said to The Wrap, “We’re artists, we’re labor, just like [SAG-AFTRA and WGA] and we’re not going to stop.” However, my takeaway from all the conversations I was having with producers was that the biggest factor in not pursuing a traditional union under the NLRB was that producers did not want to be perceived as labor.
Realizing that there was no consensus on pursuing producers as labor, we voted to take the path of a supervisory union. 

And so our first big decision was made. 


We’re now entering the fall of 2020, already a year since I began talking with Chris, and we needed to draft a constitution. The majority of the constitution was easy to piece together and would cement our name as the Producers Union, our goals, as well as outlining the Executive Committee and their responsibilities, the election process, meetings structure and other housekeeping items. 

The hard part of drafting the constitution was determining membership eligibility, which ultimately was us trying to define the role of the producer. In a time when a film has dozens of “Produced by” credits claimed by not only the day-to-day producer, but also financiers, actors, managers, lawyers and anyone else deemed necessary to get the movie made, this felt impossible. 

The original goal was to be able to define the role of the producer so every project would need a union producer and the union could enforce the hiring of that person on every project like a teamster captain or director of photography, regardless of if the producer generated the project. The argument being that the role of the producer is unique and necessary in order to deliver a high quality film on budget and on schedule. That this was a role separate from the line producer or studio executive. A producer oversees the creative execution alongside the director and the person who is fiscally responsible.
There are a lot of people who take a “Produced by” credit, but who don’t want to take responsibility for managing talent, being on set every day, running cost reports, handling the film incentive, overseeing post production and delivery and so on and so on. The pitch to studios would be, ‘if you are a signatory to the Producers Union and pay minimum salaries and health insurance contributions, in return, you will have a qualified producer overseeing the film and know exactly who the responsible producer is at any given stage of the process.’ 

Points greatly debated by the Steering Committee when considering who would be eligible to join the union:

  • What determines eligibility, number of credits or hours on set?
  • If credits, how many “Produced by” credits on feature films does a producer need to have in order to be eligible to join the union? 
  • Do these credits need to have received the PGA mark?
  • Do these credits have to be on films that were theatrically distributed?
  • If not theatrically distributed, is any distribution required? How do we define distribution?
  • Do these credits have to be films produced in the United States?
  • What determines if it was produced in the United States? Did all or some of production have to be in the U.S. or does the film have to receive some or all of its financing from a U.S. company? 
  • What if the producer hasn’t produced a film in over 10 years because they had to take a “job” because producing isn’t sustainable or they took time off for personal reasons such as to start a family or take care of a loved one?
  • How would qualifications for teams differ from individuals?
  • What about documentary producers who also need protections?
  • What about television producers?
  • What about emerging producers who also need protections?  
  • What about line producers who sometimes fill the producer role, but don’t get the credit?
  • What about producers who only package and handle development on a project?
  • What about producers who can’t be on set, but do everything else?
  • What about producers who also act as the financier? 
  • What about producers who also work as executives for directors and actors?
  • What about producers who are also managers? More specifically, managers who rep the director or actors on the film?
  • What about director/producers or actor/producers?

At this point, every conversation started with, “what about…” and was focused on an individual experience and specific needs.

In addition to answering all of the above questions, which we did, we put together a checklist of 20 “producer responsibilities” for scripted, feature-length films and said that in order for a film to qualify as one of your eligible credits, you had to perform at least 80% (later changed to 75%) of the producer responsibilities in order for the credit to count.
It wasn’t hard to determine what those 20 responsibilities would be, the tasks assumed by a producer were clear to everyone. What was challenging was getting everyone to agree that you had to do 80% of the responsibilities to be considered a producer on a film.
On one hand, producers wanted to define the producer role as unique and necessary, while on the other hand, remain flexible in the amount of work they would do on any given project. However, in order to demand minimum salaries, we needed to present the job qualifications to studios. We couldn’t go in saying, ‘Universal, give producers $3,000 a week, but we’re not exactly sure yet what work they will be doing and they probably won’t do the full job.’ That would never work. Like any job, there needed to be a clear set of responsibilities in exchange for salary and benefits.
There was a brief conversation about coming up with a new title for the producers who take a project from beginning to end, but there was little to no traction on this idea. In reality, there are actually very few producers who develop a project and handle every producer duty throughout the entire process, which presents a conundrum. In order to be a union with leverage, you need a large enough membership where a strike would have an impact. Why did the DGA add assistant directors and unit production managers to their union? To get more members without having to dilute the directors’ position.
The counter argument to this was that producers have to take on a slate of projects and play various roles on them because we have to have several projects to cobble together just one salary, especially given that we are almost never paid for the development stage of a film. Perhaps if one film actually paid a living wage, a producer could take on all the responsibilities and not have to spread themselves thin on a big slate.
Alternatively, we could have taken the path of breaking up the producer role into different categories i.e. a development producer (someone who is mostly just involved in development and packaging) vs a “soup-to-nuts” producer who is handling day-to-day tasks through to the bitter end. With this approach, we would then have to break out the union benefits based on what work was being done, but this was not an idea supported by the greater producing community we were consulting with throughout this time.
While I recognized all the different types of producers who needed protections (throughout my time leading these efforts I was getting inquiries from documentary producers, line producers, post producers, VFX producers, production assistants etc. about wanting to be included) I was steadfast in keeping our work focused on scripted feature film producers. My thought was that if we could figure it out for this one particular group of producers, and actually get to the point where we had signatories to a basic agreement, we would then have the knowledge and leverage to bring more types of producers into the Union and start different branches. The first draft of the WGA’s basic agreement wasn’t the almost 800 pages it is today. Each different sector of producer would need different eligibility guidelines and would have different needs. If we decided to take everyone on now, we would be in an endless debate on issues and never move forward.
In looking back, keeping this focus was one of the hardest parts of leading these efforts. I knew that any decision made on eligibility was going to alienate a certain type of producer. Once we made the constitution public, this was confirmed by the many emails, texts and phone calls I received from frustrated producers who felt we got it all wrong. Producers wanted a one-size-fits-all approach while also articulating in all the “what abouts” that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all producer. A first in what would turn out to be many big contradictions. But our lawyer encouraged us to make some decisions and put them on paper for the sake of progress. No decision was going to be perfect and we could always go back and revise. 

Side note: During this time in the Fall of 2020 into 2021, Chris and I continued to speak every Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Simultaneously, I was drafting the Dear Producer Sustainability Survey, which would eventually be released in March of 2021, revealing that producing is in fact, not sustainable. 


On February 3, 2021, the Steering Committee voted to approve the final draft of the constitution and move forward with the election of the Executive Committee. As outlined in the constitution, the Executive Committee included: President, Vice President, Vice President of Emerging Producers, Secretary, Treasurer and 6 At-Large Officers, for a total of 11 producers.
Not all members of the Steering Committee stayed involved to this point. Some left because they did not have the bandwidth, others left because they felt they were not the right person for the job, but most producers volunteered to continue the work and we recruited a few others to fill the remaining seats.
We set a meeting with our ad-hoc members, (the 572 who signed the Letter of Intent) to elect officers and vote to ratify the constitution and on March 6, 2021, the Producers Union was made official: 108 producers unanimously ratified the Producers Union’s constitution and elected the first governing Executive Committee, made up of both veteran and emerging producers. I was voted in as the President.


You might ask yourself, if 572 producers signed the Letter of Intent, why did only 108 vote to ratify the constitution? A few reasons…
Per our lawyer’s recommendation, we did require producers to attend a virtual meeting to vote on the constitution, there was not a mail-in or electronic vote, so there was certainly a drop-off factor as a result of requiring people to attend the meeting. The bigger reason is that when we circulated the Letter of Intent, it was a much more broad approach than the constitution. The Letter of Intent simply asked if people supported a collective bargaining organization for producers and did not outline eligibility.
In drilling into the eligibility requirements to join the union, many people who signed the Letter of Intent realized they would not be eligible to join. This included producers who had only made short films, documentary producers, unscripted producers, line producers and so on. I assume that when producers realized they were not eligible, they decided not to be involved. That said, we had held town halls and articulated that while we were focused on the scripted feature producer at the moment, the goal was to expand into different branches if we were successful.  

There was also a large group of producers who were skeptical of our efforts and whether or not being involved would be detrimental to their relationships with financiers and studios. Then there was another type of producer who couldn’t see the bigger picture. For example, in one town hall, I had a very prominent producer ask, “but how does this benefit me?” While I understand this question, I explained that it’s not just about one producer. The work we were doing is also about the next generation and ensuring that they aren’t exploited in the same ways we have been. It’s about preserving the role of the producer in the future.
In my opinion, these views were shortsighted. We had to start somewhere, gain momentum, build on success and use our collective leverage. But regardless of giving this pitch over and over again, there were a lot of producers who only cared about how the union would work (or not work) for them in the immediate moment. Producers wanted relief now.
I do want to acknowledge the Documentary Producers Alliance at this stage in the story who I was in touch with throughout these efforts. The DPA has been leading the charge in fighting for documentary producers since 2016 by setting “standards for inclusive, sustainable and equitable business practices.” If we were successful in organizing scripted producers, documentary producers were the next obvious branch in my opinion. While documentary films did not qualify for eligibility just yet, the leaders of the DPA supported our work regardless and expressed an understanding of why I wanted to take a focused approach. I was very grateful for their ability to see the big picture and play the long game with us. 


Our first Executive Committee meeting was on March 31, 2021. With the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine and production picking back up, producers were starting to become less available. We changed our weekly meetings from once a week to twice a month. I aimed for 90 minutes per meeting, there was still a lot of ground to cover, but inevitably people always had to drop off after an hour.
The first few tasks of the Executive Committee were to create a logo, build a website and launch a “hearts and minds” campaign to tell our story, as well as housekeeping duties, such as securing liability insurance for officers, filing paperwork with the Department of Labor, registering for an EIN and setting up a bank account and fiscal sponsorship for donations. In addition, with eligibility solidified in the ratified constitution, we began getting ready to open up for membership by creating an application, onboarding documents, a code of conduct and an internal review and notification process.

We drafted a press release announcing the ratification of the constitution and hired MPRM to handle our publicity. The press release was circulated in May 2021 and almost all of the major publications interviewed us including The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline Hollywood, IndieWire, The Wrap, Los Angeles Times and others. There was great interest in what we had started. 

Meanwhile, as all of the above was happening, I was in New Mexico shooting my first television pilot for Amazon.


When I got back from New Mexico, I started drafting our basic agreement by reading through the thousands of pages of basic agreements of the DGA, WGA and IATSE. Believing that the role of the producer ran most parallel to directors, rather than writers, actors or below-the-line crew, I used the DGA basic agreement as my north star.

The steps that needed to be taken were:

  1. Draft a basic agreement proposal; 
  2. Have the Executive Committee vote to approve the proposal;
  3. Present the proposal to members (who we didn’t have yet);
  4. Have members vote to ratify the basic agreement; 
  5. Share the ratified basic agreement with financiers and studios (aka potential signatories) and ask them to voluntarily recognize the Producers Union by becoming a signatory to the basic agreement.

If you remember from my earlier explanation, because we decided to take the supervisory union route, we needed to take our demands directly to studios/potential signatories and convince them to voluntarily recognize the union. Knowing this, my strategy was to create a basic agreement that read very much like an amped-up producing agreement. I wanted it to focus on the things that were most important to us at the moment, namely minimum salaries and employer health insurance contributions, and hold off on tackling the points even our legacy sister unions struggle to negotiate, such as residuals. Like pitching any project, I wanted to write our basic agreement so they couldn’t say ‘no.’
Points greatly debated by the Executive Committee when drafting the basic agreement:

  • Would we put a budget cap on projects that would be covered by the Producers Union? 
  • Would we use a tier structure as other unions do? What would those tiers be?
  • Should producer fees work on a percentage or weekly rate?
  • If percentage, what would that amount be?
  • If weekly, how do we define the workweek knowing producers do not work normal hours? 
  • Would we have minimum staffing requirements?
  • Should we tie the producer fee to the director or UPM fees?
  • Knowing a producer works for years on a project, how do we divide up pay? Over the life of the project or over the course of actually making the film (prep, production, post)?
  • Should producers get a fee for development work before a film is financed? How would that work be quantified? When would it get paid out?
  • Should producers get paid separately if they handle delivery to a distributor?
  • Should producers get a bump for being on location?
  • Do producing teams split their fee and responsibilities?
  • Should we prohibit a producer from deferring any of their fee?
  • Should we guarantee back-end participation?
  • What health insurance contributions should signatories make?
  • Should we stipulate that producers are tied to derivative rights or leave that to individual producing deals?
  • Should producers be guaranteed holiday pay, sick days and bereavement leave?
  • Should we include safety guidelines?
  • Should we prohibit signatories and other unions from forcing personal guarantees (for example producers having to take on personal liability for residuals)? 

There were a lot of decisions to make and this work took the majority of 2021.

In early December of 2022, we invited over 30 producers to read a draft of the basic agreement proposal and we put together three focus groups to give us feedback. We implemented the notes from these focus groups into the basic agreement and on February 9, 2022, we held a town hall to receive feedback from the wider producing community.

One of the most contested questions at hand was whether or not we would regulate the “Produced by” credit in the basic agreement. Every producer I’ve spoken to feels that the “Produced by” credit has become abused, however, there was a lot of hesitation with the Union getting involved in regulating the credit. While producers articulated that it pains them to give the “Produced by” credit to those who aren’t actually doing the work, they also wanted the option to give it away because they felt they often needed that card to play in order to get their movie made. If a financier or actor asked for a “Produced by” credit, the producer would rather say ‘yes’ then take the risk of not getting that money or that actor. Another big contradiction.
Everyone wants the “Produced by” credit because that is how you win an Oscar. If a project is successful, everyone wants to be seen as the person who made the film possible. But the “Produced by” credit is already monitored by the PGA in step with The Academy. If we were going to say only Union producers could receive the “Produced by” credit, we would have to get both the PGA and The Academy on board and I knew that would take years to orchestrate.
I took the stance that for now, we should stay away from regulating the “Produced by” credit. As mentioned earlier, my strategy as President was to stay focused so that we could set attainable goals and build upon our achievements. I believed that getting into the credit debate would suck all of the energy out of the room and slow us down tremendously. While I too am frustrated with how many people receive the credit, I am more worried about how producers aren’t properly compensated and how they have no health insurance contributions from employers. I wanted to tackle those issues first.
Where consensus landed on the credit was ensuring in our basic agreement that the Union producer on a film would be guaranteed a “Produced by” credit, but we didn’t limit other people from also receiving the credit.

While I was focused on the basic agreement, other members of the Executive Committee were researching and engaging with health insurance options.
There are limited situations where producers can opt into MPIHP (Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans) if you are working for a company that is an AMPTP signatory or if the project you’re producing is signed to the IATSE basic agreement. There are strict requirements in order to be eligible though, such as the company hiring you must be based in Los Angeles, you need to be credited with 600 hours (10 weeks) of work within a six-month qualifying period and there is a specific window to elect coverage. Given these restrictions, it was essential that we find a health insurance option for our members.

We learned about various laws that make group health insurance very challenging, but eventually, we found our way to the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan, which was created in 1985 and provides health insurance to more than 31,000 entertainment union members throughout the United States. The Flex Plan was a great option for the Producers Union because it was not contingent on working a certain number of hours per year, producers could get started with only $200 in employer contributions and the plan allowed producers to pay into their own plan in-between projects during times when there is no employer to pay benefits. All to say, you wouldn’t be worried about losing coverage if you had a slow year. This felt like a win. We looked into being able to set up a health insurance plan for our members while we were still organizing, but we needed to have a basic agreement ratified by members and at least a few signatories to the basic agreement before we could offer benefits.
Side Note: With long standing pension plans going bankrupt, many advised us not to get into a pension plan at this time, as it could take up to a decade to establish. 


We needed to have a basic agreement to pursue a health insurance plan, but before we could ratify a basic agreement, we needed members. 

The Producers Union opened up for membership on January 12, 2022 with a simple application. This was not the Sundance Creative Producing Lab where you had to answer essay questions. In fact, we learned from our lawyer that we actually could not ask essay questions. Entry into the Union had to be based on the eligibility we laid out in the constitution and not on someone’s leadership style, future goals, or how well they could write an essay. It also didn’t matter if the films being submitted for eligibility were deemed “good.” Eligibility was based on fact, not opinion or preference. We also decided to not charge any membership fees or dues (aside from a $50 application fee) until the Union had signatories. We were not yet offering any benefits, therefore, we should not be asking our members for money.
There was a strong influx of applications at the start, mainly from those producers who had been with us from the beginning. However, as producers were applying for membership, eligibility became front-and-center and debates I thought we had put to rest, were stirred up again. So, we picked up the eligibility conversation within the Executive Committee, debated a bit more and then slightly revised the constitution so that more producers would qualify.
Per the constitution, At-Large Officers of the Executive Committee were up for re-election (the seats serve only a one-year term). We set a membership meeting on March 14, 2022 to elect the At-Large Officers and vote to change the eligibility language in the constitution (any changes to the constitution had to be voted on and approved by members).
We had also planned to vote to ratify the basic agreement at this March 14 meeting. However, as March rolled around, we only had about 100 members and felt that we needed more producers to ratify the basic agreement in order for potential signatories (financiers/studios/streamers) to take us seriously. Specifically, we needed the “name” producers we felt would be influential and would have leverage when approaching potential signatories. We needed the producers who were working with the directors everyone wanted to be in business with, the producers who had IP that studios wanted. 

I put together an outreach list of prospective members and asked the Executive Committee to start calling who they knew on the list. We needed to find out why producers were not applying for membership and answer any questions they had about joining. If there was a reason for the hesitation, we needed to know what those concerns were, and attempt to remedy them. We had to be a united community in order to make this work.

In having conversations with “name” producers who were not yet members, we learned that they felt the Union was not addressing their concerns and were only focused on the struggling low budget producer. Points that this group felt the Union was not addressing:

  • While these producers are upset that their fees are being squeezed, they are earning above our minimum salary requirements (on a Zoom one lamented on how their 1mil fee has been cut down to 750k). It’s important to note that all union basic agreements only regulate minimums. Tom Hanks and Reese Witherspoon are still SAG members even though their fees are in the 10s of millions.  
  • They are frustrated with the decision-making power and approvals they are accustomed to being handed over to studio executives and/or actors who receive a producer credit. 
  • Development fees are very important to this group, as they are producers who are packaging valuable IP on spec in a way that the low budget producer is not. Yes, low budget producers are developing on spec, but not the IP typically sought after by studios, no bidding war situations on best-selling books for example. (We did include a development fee structure in the basic agreement, but it was not a priority over salary minimums and health insurance contributions.)  
  • Some producers felt that requiring minimum salaries and adding health insurance contributions for producers would increase the budget in a way that would make the film unable to be financed. They argued that the market to finance and sell a film was hard enough without upping the budget to accommodate producers (these were producers who were also complaining about being forced to defer their fees).
  • These producers very much cared about regulating the “Produced by” credit, which we had decided to punt for the moment.  
  • Most producers had a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. While they saw the need for a union, they wanted to see if we would be successful before they would join. Problem was, we needed them to join before we could be successful. 

During this membership window and speaking with prospective members, I was in Minneapolis shooting a new film. I continued to lead our meetings, but could feel the energy from the Executive Committee waning. We had a few more producers apply for membership, but there was no hard push to recruit new members and so I moved forward with a vote to ratify the basic agreement to keep the ball rolling. We held an electronic vote from May 24-27, 2022 and 87 members voted ‘Yes’ to ratify the basic agreement. 

We went from 572 signing the Letter of Intent, to 108 ratifying the Constitution, to 87 ratifying the basic agreement. 


While COVID protocols were still eating up our budgets, in 2022, work was busier than it had ever been. As a leader, I struggled with getting people’s time and attention and found it impossible to get producers to raise their hand to take the lead on important pillars of organizing. Producers told me they couldn’t participate because they were in prep or production or were traveling or were at a festival or had press… There was always something more important.
A few examples in addition to recruiting… 

If you remember back in 2021, I mentioned forming a “hearts and minds” committee. This committee was tasked with coming up with a strategy to tell the producers’ story, to write our narrative. To explain to the industry what it is we do, how little we’re paid and why the industry should care if the role of the producer becomes obsolete. This could include more press interviews or producers writing first-person essays I could publish on Dear Producer. We could start an Instagram account for producers to share their experiences (similar to what IATSE members did during their strike) or rally directors who have been proven allies to speak out publicly on behalf of our efforts.
However, despite “hearts and minds” being a topic of conversation at every committee meeting, town hall and member meeting, it never gained traction, no initiative was made to put a plan into motion. There were a few producers who used their individual press moments (producers don’t get many) to advocate for the Union, which I was grateful for, but these opportunities were too few and not part of an overarching plan.   

Granted, no one was a PR expert, but we had to start somewhere and we couldn’t hire a PR company because fundraising also fell by the wayside. We had put together a budget in the early stages of organizing and a few committee members chipped in to cover hard costs, specifically Chris Moore who generously paid our legal fees. We did one initial ask for donations and we had funds from the application fee, but there was no fundraising strategy conceived. Given producers are skilled at raising money, the lack of effort in this area was not something I anticipated. 


While I was on location filming in Minneapolis, I worked hand-in-hand with Chris to put together a strategy for approaching potential signatories. We broke the list into four different categories:

TIER 1 (major financiers and distributors) Amazon, Apple, Disney, Netflix, Paramount etc.
TIER 2 (boutique financiers and distributors) A24, Focus Features, Lionsgate etc.
TIER 3 (major financiers) Blumhouse, FilmNation, Legendary etc. 
TIER 4 (boutique financers) Black Bear, MACRO, Tango etc. 

I went through our member roster and down an IMDB blackhole to figure out which of our members had worked with the companies on our potential signatories list. We then scheduled about a dozen one-on-one meetings for Chris and I with specific producers/members who had meaningful relationships to ask them if they would help us start the process of meeting with potential signatories. 

Because we had to get companies to voluntarily recognize the Union, we first needed to know who the producer-friendly executives were at each company on our list. Once we identified them, we needed to convince them to meet with members of the Executive Committee so we could pitch the Union and get them to champion us internally at their company. We needed to lean on our members who had existing relationships to make this happen.
Chris and I had one-on-one meetings with producers and a handful offered to make calls, but most did not follow through. We had two meetings with companies on our list that members of the Executive Committee orchestrated using their relationships that seemed promising, but one meeting wasn’t going to be enough, one or two producers calling wasn’t going to be enough. We needed multiple producers following up with these companies, explaining why the Union was important and pushing for meetings with the decision-makers. This was no different than trying to get a film made and we needed the persistence producers have when pursuing a financier to be put into action to move the Union forward, but that energy was not there. 


I tried unsuccessfully for months to convince producers to help us get in touch with potential signatories and this is what I learned:

  1. Producers did not want to rock the boat. If the Producers Union was perceived negatively, they did not want their name associated with the efforts. 
  2. Producers did not want to approach companies they were currently working with and jeopardize their position on their film. 
  3. Producers did not want to use their own “currency” to push the Union efforts when they needed to save that currency for their own projects.
  4. Producers wanted the approach to come from a collective of producers and not an individual. 
  5. Producers wanted someone else to do the asking for us such as The Academy or PGA stepping in or getting one of the legacy unions to take us on.

While I understood the above positions some producers were taking, what was so discouraging for me at this stage was that producing has become so unsustainable largely because we always put our projects and directors before our own needs. Yes, there are bigger forces at play, but we are the ones who make the choice to sacrifice to get our films made. The unwillingness from producers to have skin in the game when it came to the Union was another example of this. 

Side Note: Over the years of organizing, we had several conversations with old and new leadership of the PGA who made it clear that they have no intention of becoming a union and leadership at The Academy did not engage with us in a meaningful way.


It was now nearing the end of 2022 and after months of what felt like me begging producers to help us rally signatories, I felt like an ineffective leader. I dreaded our Executive Committee meetings, as I’m sure the committee members did as well. The strategy we had implemented was not working and there was no alternate strategy presented. We had hit a wall that I didn’t know how to tear down. I was not able to hide my frustration and morale on the committee was at an all-time low.
Up until this point, I didn’t mind being the person who was doing the bulk of the busy work, but I had always assumed that once I was done, other producers would jump in to help. They would see how far we had come, how much of the heavy-lifting had been done and be ready to push us over the edge. I didn’t feel that asking producers/members to make calls on behalf of the Union was a big ask. More importantly, I did not see another way forward. How were we going to get companies to voluntarily recognize the Producers Union if producers themselves weren’t going to advocate for it?

On the Deadline Strike Talk episode I referenced at the start of this piece, Todd Garner says, “Our job still takes two minutes to explain by one of the greatest writers in the business (referring to Billy Ray).” Billy counters back with, “Here’s my point. If you can’t define what it is (the role of the producer) in less than two minutes, down from 9, how do you organize it? How do you unionize it? Can we collectively define it in such a way that people understand what it is, that producers understand what it is, so that producers can be organized?” 

Ultimately, Chris and I mutually decided that the answer to Billy’s question was ‘no.’ The role of the producer, as it is today, can not be collectively defined. And we’d go even further to say that producers don’t actually want it to be collectively defined. Producers see themselves as entrepreneurs. They want autonomy and flexibility. They want to make their own deals and be their own boss.

All Officers of the Executive Committee, including my role as President, were up for re-election in March 2023. Whether or not I should continue on the Executive Committee was heavily weighing on my mind and it was at the Sundance Film Festival’s 2023 Producers Brunch where I realized I couldn’t continue leading the efforts. You’ve heard producers say, ‘I can’t care more about the film than the director.’ and that was how I felt about the Union. Chris and I couldn’t care more about the Union than the producing community. I chose to sacrifice time I could have put into my own career to attempt to launch the Union and now it was time to refocus that energy back to myself. I decided to not run for re-election, as did Chris and the majority of Officers of the Executive Committee. 

I felt a great deal of sadness after I decided to step away from the Union, a project I poured my heart and soul into. I knew though that if producers weren’t going to put themselves on the line and join in the fight, I couldn’t take the efforts any further. Unions are built by a group of workers with shared values and common interests who believe without doubt that they deserve better. What I learned was that producers have too many different individual agendas and are too fractured as a group to be able to unionize. 

I do not regret the time I spent organizing the Producers Union. I learned so much about the role of the producer and how different we all are. My leadership skills were constantly tested and improved over time. I met so many producers I would have never had the opportunity to connect with otherwise. And the friendship I formed with Chris is priceless.


I want so much better for producers. I greatly admire all the work that you do and I believe the role of the producer is essential to creating great films and television. But, in order for us to build a sustainable future, we have to stand up for each other and not just look out for ourselves. Stop saying that your issue is more important than another producer’s issue and stop what Chris calls “producer-on-producer” crime by ending the competition between us for the bigger fee and better credit. And we need to stop talking in separate silos with different agendas and find common ground to advance progress. We have to work together and make concessions for the greater producing community. We need to stop asking, ‘what’s in it for me’ and fight to make things better for the next generation.   

And we can start making progress today. We don’t need a union to say ‘no’ to reducing or deferring our fee and demand equitable pay. We can collectively decide that we are going to start requiring health insurance contributions in our deals and start a new precedent. We can walk away from projects that exploit our talents and goodwill. We can decide not to sacrifice our own livelihood for the sake of a project.  

The Producers Union elected a new Executive Committee in March of this year. If you truly believe that we need and deserve a Union, then you need to call up one of the officers, pledge your support and offer your time and relationships to move the efforts forward. Change is not going to happen without you. 

Lastly, I want to thank all the producers who volunteered time on one of the many committees, who shared their experiences and brought their point-of-view to the conversation. You were essential to getting us as far as we did. Thank you also to the producers who showed up to town halls, shared their opinions (whether I agreed with them or not!) and eventually became members. More needed to be done, but the truth is, producers have never come this far in organizing as a collective, which is something we all should be proud of and continue to build upon.