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Circumstance Producer Karin Chien Takes on the Producers Guild

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by Melissa Silverstein
December 19, 2011 11:15 AM
3 Comments
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There has been a bit of a controversy last week over the Producer's Guild nominees.  Karin Chien, the producer of Circumstance learned that her film was disqualified from the PGA Awards because the film is not in English.

The PGA says that at this time they do not accept foreign language films at all for consideration.  They do not distinguish between foreign produced films and foreign language films produced by people in the US.  To me there is a big difference.  This is an organization where a producer can qualify to join based on the work you do on any film no matter what language it is, but you can't get any awards unless the film is in English.  

Karin Chien decided to speak out because it made no sense that her film which was produced by American producers and financed mostly with US money and also by the way qualified to be in the US competition at Sundance (where it won an award) was not eligible for the PGA Awards.  And to add insult to injury Angelina Jolie's film In the Land of Blood and Honey which was filmed in English and in Serbo-Coatian (and will be released in Serb) will be recognized with the Stanley Kramer award for illuminating issues of social justice.  No offense to Ms. Jolie cause her film is really great, but that my friends is bullshit.  They are not releasing the film in English.  It is a foreign language film and according to the PGA's own rules, should not be eligible for any awards because as the PGA says they find it too arduous to confirm all the necessary paperwork on films that are in different languages.

So Chien penned an open letter to the PGA asking these questions.  This is the first time I have heard about this issue and clearly, from the response she got from the PGA she touched a nerve.

Women & Hollywood asked Chien why this was an important issue for her.  Here is her response:

It's important to me for several reasons. One, it's about creative freedom. Directors and producers should have the creative freedom to allow their fictitious characters speak whatever language they want. Two, it's about broadening the definition of American cinema to include films spoken in a foreign language. Why can't an American film be subtitled? As I pointed out in the letter, over half the households in LA speak a language other than English. Three, it's about opportunity. There are only two "producer" awards I know of - this one and the Independent Spirit Awards. Think about how many directing, writing, acting awards are out there. If this represents 50% of any producer's chance to be recognized individually, then I want that opportunity open to all American producers. Producers who choose to film in a foreign language should not be discriminated against, just because the PGA has a hard time communicating with people in other countries (this is their justification, not mine). 

'Circumstance' Producer Pens Open Letter To PGA Condemning Their Foreign Film Rules (Indiewire)

PGA Responds to 'Circumstance' Producer, Says Rules Will Be Revisited (Indiewire)

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3 Comments

  • Guest | December 20, 2011 12:22 PMReply

    This seems pretty clear-cut to me. Ms. Chien discovered rules that she objected to and notified the Guild via an open letter. The Guild responded that her objection is reasonable and will consider changing the rules in the future. End of story. Ms. Chien doesn't realistically expect the Guild to reconsider the rules for this year so that HER film can be considered, does she?

  • Karin Chien | December 21, 2011 1:36 PM

    I don't expect that. I just want the rule changed. Melissa is pointing out that in the same week the PGA disqualified my film for its foreign language, they gave an award to a foreign-language film (Angelina Jolie's). Then the PGA justified why they disqualify foreign language films. Their actions seem to be in conflict. Thanks for reading.

  • VictimOfCircumstance | December 19, 2011 7:45 PMReply

    This would be all well and good if the PGA Award actually honors producing. It (stupidly) doesn't. The DGA votes for the best directed film and the WGA votes for the best written film, however PGA members vote for their favorite movie of the year. There are no guidelines, and the Guild will not issue any. So apologies to Ms. Chien, however good a job she may have done producing her film, no one in the PGA would be voting for it anyway.
    -A PGA Member

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