he Producers Guild Awards did a little to clarify a wide-open Oscar race on Saturday night, but mostly the event made plain the mood of Hollywood right now. Outsiders are in. Protest is prize-worthy. And old rules about who wields the power in the entertainment industry are being smashed.
Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water won the top honor at the P.G.A.’s awards show held at the Beverly Hilton, solidifying the fantasy romance as the closest thing this fluid awards season has to a front-runner. With the director in Mexico at the bedside of his ailing father, the film’s producer J. Miles Dale spoke on The Shape of Water’s timeliness as a fairy tale for a troubled age, on a day when the federal government was shut down due to political impasse and some 600,000 people filled the downtown Los Angeles streets for a Women’s March protest.
But it was a speech by writer-director Jordan Peele, on hand to accept the P.G.A.’s Stanley Kramer Award for his social thriller, Get Out, that best captured the current activist energy of the industry. “It feels like we’re living in the Sunken Place right now,” Peele said, evoking his movie’s metaphor for “the system that silences the voices of black people, women, all other minorities.” Peele explained the idea of the Sunken Place further, speaking to a ballroom packed with cultural power brokers and fellow honorees including Universal chief Donna Langley, Wonder Woman producer Charles Roven, A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay, and television super-producer Ryan Murphy.
Producers Guild of America Awards
Date: January 20, 2018, 8:00 PM PST
Other ceremonies: 2017
Country: United States of America
“[The Sunken Place] is the system that has prevented representation of certain types of voices in movies and television,” Peele said. “It’s where we are relegated to when our screams for justice in the face of police brutality go ignored. The Sunken Place is the voice that silences the cries for clean water in Flint, for basic disaster relief in Puerto Rico, and for basic dignity and respect for Haiti. I don’t usually go dark, I’m usually pretty light and I like to make my statements through my art, but this is a time where it needs to be said. The Sunken Place is the president who calls athletes ‘sons of bitches’ for expressing their beliefs . . . and the homelands of our most beautiful immigrants ‘shitholes.’ It is the systemic suppression of our voices.
“Though I am hurt and it feels like we are taking steps backward as a country, this year, led by that racist man in the Oval Office, I’m encouraged because finally unique voices are breaking through. The voice of the outsider is increasingly louder, more celebrated and stories from and by those who have been marginalized are now being embraced and that is because of everybody in our room tonight . . . We won’t be silenced. We won’t be suppressed. Art is not just our hope, it’s our weapon to help fight. We will tell our stories, we will show how diverse and honest storytelling opens eyes and hearts. If we hear the support and amplify voices, we can break out of the Sunken Place together.”
The evening included other signs of a changing wind in Hollywood, particularly in response to the sexual misconduct allegations that have roiled the industry since October. In their opening remarks, P.G.A. co-chairs Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary revealed that Roven was negotiating with DC Films to make Wonder Woman 2 the first international production made under the guild’s newly unveiled guidelines on sexual harassment. “Our productions must now and forever more be safe places to work for everyone,” McCreary said. Writer-director Judd Apatow introduced Langley with a nod toward the man whose career implosion started the recent revolution in the industry, Harvey Weinstein. “There are no meetings in robes,” Apatow said of working with Langley. “She is a dream.” Langley acknowledged that she was only the third woman to receive the P.G.A.’s Milestone Award and said, “But if we do this right, I’ll be far from the last.”
Murphy, on hand to accept the Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television, said that 60 percent of the director slots at his production company are now filled by women, surpassing a goal he set in 2016 to reach 50/50 parity and far exceeding industry averages. The creator of shows such as Glee, American Horror Story, and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story described the alienating experience of breaking into television as a gay man in the late 1990s, saying, “My mannerisms and my voice were mocked by executives in notes meetings.” He now employs 40,000 people a year, Murphy said.
Among the evening’s winners in television, another kind of outsider emerged triumphant: streaming services, with Hulu taking the top dramatic prize for Handmaid’s Tale, Amazon the top comedy prize for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Netflix the long-form television prize for Black Mirror. In non-fiction television, Leah Remini won for her series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, and her remarks about the group she left expanded to include other entities in Hollywood. “There’s an awakening going on,” Remini said. “The days of abuse,