"The Shape of Water" Wins Producers Guild Award
Sally Hawkins (l) and Doug Jones in a scene from the film “The Shape of Water.” (photo by Kerry Hayes/courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Film's theme of giving voice to "others" is prevalent throughout awards ceremony
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Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical romance The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight) won the Producers Guild’s coveted Darryl F. Zanuck Award, topping 10 other nominated features at a gala ceremony on Saturday (1/20) in Beverly Hills. While the Guild honor has a history of being a harbinger of what’s to come at the Academy Awards, that hasn’t been the case the past couple of years when PGA Award winners The Big Short and La La Land failed to garner the Best Picture Oscar. Still overall, in the Guild competition’s 28-year history, the Zanuck Award winner has matched the Best Picture Oscar recipient 19 times.

The Shape of Water director, producer and co-writer del Toro was not on hand to accept the Producers Guild Award. Coming on stage were cast member Richard Jenkins and producer J. Miles Dale. Jenkins read a note from del Toro explaining that he was in Mexico at the bedside of his ill father. Dale then talked about bringing a film to life which had the improbable romantic leads of “a mute cleaning lady (Sally Hawkins) and a fish (Doug Jones).”  Yet those odd protagonists, said Dale, represent “outsiders who found their voice and their power.” He observed that being able to tell a story with “outsiders” helps to promote tolerance, inclusion, understanding and love--and in doing so, underscores the power of film “to affect social change” and specifically to foster “empathy for others when we are told to fear them,” which has become increasingly important in today’s divisive climate.

Giving voice to those who aren’t fully heard due to their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and/or socio-economic status was a prevalent theme during the course of the Producers Guild Awards ceremony. Coco (Disney/Pixar), for example, the tale based on the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), won the Guild honor for best produced Animated Theatrical Motion Picture. Producer Darla K. Anderson accepted the award, saying her experience on the film was gratifying in that the story engendered empathy, celebrating “the beautiful people of Mexico.” She noted that the film brought people together, connecting them with a bridge rather than “building walls” that separate us. Anderson affirmed that “keeping families together matters” for all people, including those who have ever felt like outsiders or “others.”

Similarly director/producer/writer Jordan Peele accepted the Guild’s Stanley Kramer Award for Get Out (Universal), the lauded film which provides food for thought on racism. The Kramer kudo honors a production, producer or other individuals whose achievement or contribution illuminates and raises public awareness of important social issues.  Producer/director Stanley Kramer created some of the most powerful work in the history of American motion pictures, including such classics as Inherit the Wind, On the Beach, The Defiant Ones, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Peele noted that without Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, there would have been no Get Out. Kramer’s film, said Peele, inspired him, sparking the idea of doing a horror film version of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

Peele said that in terms of horror, what scares him most is silence--namely the silencing of voices, including those of African-Americans, varied other minorities and women. All this resides, he said, in the “sunken place” depicted in Get Out. He said that there’s been a concerted systemic effort to silence the voices calling for “clean water in Flint, Michigan” as well as “disaster relief in Puerto Rico,” and “decency and respect for Haiti.” Still, despite all this, Peele said that people are pushing back, with the voices of outsiders starting to be more widely heard. Peele affirmed that the arts can serve as “a weapon” to help us break free from the “sunken place.”

Inclusion was also prominent in the acceptance remarks of Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley who was presented with the Milestone Award (for historic contributions to the entertainment industry), producer Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Feud, American Crime Story, The Normal Heart), recipient of the Guild’s Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television, and Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle In Time), winner of the Visionary Award.

Langley noted she was just the third women to ever receive the Milestone Award but that if “we get this right, I will be far from the last.” Murphy said that his priority is to open up opportunities for new voices which have traditionally been silenced. In that vein, he cited his ongoing The Half Initiative which calls for 50 percent of all directorial slots on his shows to be filled by women. This past year, he said, female directors accounted for 60 percent of his series opportunities. And DuVernay affirmed, “Don’t think of diversity as a good thing to do. Think of it as a must. An absolute must.”

Rounding out the special honors winners was producer Charles Roven (Wonder Woman) who received the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures.

Other category winners
Joining The Shape of Water and Coco in the feature categories winners’ circle was Jane (National Geographic), which earned the Best Documentary mantle for producers Brett Morgen, Bryan Burk, Tony Gerber and James Smith. Jane explored the life and work of famed scientist Jane Goodall, known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees.

The Hulu television series The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1) and its producers Bruce Miller, Warren Littlefield, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Ilene Chaiken, Sheila Hockin, Eric Tuchman, Frank Siracusa, John Weber, Joseph Boccia, Elisabeth Moss, Kira Snyder, and Leila Gerstein won the PGA’s Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama.

Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 1) and its producers Daniel Palladino, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Sheila Lawrence, and Dhana Rivera Gilbert won the Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy.

Netflix’s Black Mirror (Season 4) and its producers Annabel Jones and Charlie Brooker earned The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television.

Here’s a category-by-category rundown of the 2018 Producers Guild Award winners:

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:
“The Shape of Water”
Producers: Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:
Producer: Darla K. Anderson

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Motion Pictures:
Producers: Brett Morgen, Bryan Burk, Tony Gerber, James Smith

The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Season 1)
Producers: Bruce Miller, Warren Littlefield, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Ilene Chaiken, Sheila Hockin, Eric Tuchman, Frank Siracusa, John Weber, Joseph Boccia, Elisabeth Moss, Kira Snyder, Leila Gerstein

The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Season 1)
Producers: Daniel Palladino, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Sheila Lawrence, Dhana Rivera Gilbert

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:
The Long-Form Television category encompasses both movies of the week and limited series.
“Black Mirror” (Season 4)
Producers: Annabel Jones, Charlie Brooker

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:
“Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” (Season 1, Season 2)
Producers: Leah Remini, Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Myles Reiff, Adam Saltzberg, Erin Gamble, Lisa Rosen, Grainne Byrne, Taylor Levin, Alex Weresow, Rachelle Mendez

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (Season 4)
Producers: John Oliver, Tim Carvell, Liz Stanton

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:
“The Voice” (Season 12, Season 13)
Producers: John de Mol, Mark Burnett, Audrey Morrissey, Lee Metzger, Chad Hines, Amanda Zucker, Kyra Thompson, Jay Bienstock, Stijn Bakkers, Mike Yurchuk, Teddy Valenti, Carson Daly

The PGA does not vet the individual producers of short-form programs, sports programs, or children’s programs. The winning programs in these categories are:

The Award for Outstanding Short-Form Program:
“Carpool Karaoke” (Season 1)

The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:
“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” (Season 23)
The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:
“Sesame Street” (Season 47)


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