Monday, January 23, 2012

Critic's Cafe: Are Movie Credits Unnecessarily Too Long?

Bill: Ever notice how long movie credits seem to be? I think they systematically get longer every year. The question is: Who deserves to be listed in the movie credits? Personally, I believe that anyone who’s work is visibly or audibly represented in the film deserves credit. That means caterers and their staff, drivers, personal assistants to the actors should be excluded.

Scott: Interesting. So you think too many people are being listed in the movie credits, huh? Well, I’ve got to say, I agree with you in part. It does seem silly to credit folks who are basically unskilled laborers. But you’re not saying they don’t deserve any credit, are you? They still perform important jobs without which the film would not be able to be made. You’re just saying that they shouldn’t receive written credit in the scroll at the end of the film... right?

B: That’s a loaded statement, “the film would not be able to be made.” Surely if John Doe didn’t fetch Mr. Spielberg his bear claw and coffee, someone else would have. It would not have impacted Schindler’s List in the slightest. So no, he does not deserve a movie credit. However, if John Doe was an assistant prop guy who placed a coffee mug on the table that was in frame during the shoot, than yes, he deserves to be in the credit.

S: I’ll concede the point, but I’ll maintain that the workers on the film that produce no visual or auditory result still perform important functions - think of them as grease between the wheels. By your standard of who should receive credit, film credits may actually not be inclusive enough. I was just examining the credits for Captain America and, although the credits list is quite comprehensive, I noticed that it doesn’t list every extra who appears in the film by name.

B: I think in terms of extras, there is a legal reason. Since extras work for free, the studios are not obligated to credit them as they are not on the payroll. Surely a movie like Rudy isn’t going to name 20,000 fans at the stadium.

S: Hey, I’ve been an unpaid extra before (Major League 2) - I got paid a hot dog and a soda for an entire day’s work of cheering! But specifically to Captain America, I don’t believe that the soldiers at the USO show in the crowd or the many extras in the lab were unpaid volunteers - there is such a thing as a professional extra. If the guy who places a mug on a desk gets credit, why not the scores of extras whose faces actually appear in the film?

B: So, are you arguing for LONGER credits?

S: Not necessary - perhaps just a refocusing of priorities. It seems odd to me that Tom Hank’s assistant gets into the credits but not some of the people that actually appear in the film. The same can be said of the musicians who play in the orchestra - they go uncredited but they serve a critical function to the film. In my opinion, ditch the accountants and janitors in the credits and use that same space to actually credit the folks who make a difference on the screen.

B: I see your point, but since the goal is to reduce credit length, it seems you’re in favor of omitting a credit and replacing it with 20. For example, you bring up music. So, in Star Wars, who’s responsible for the dramatic theme? John Williams? Sure. He composed and conducted it. I don’t need to know the name of every oboe, tuba, and violin player during the production.

S: Let’s agree to disagree on that point. I was just taking your earlier assertion to the logical conclusion. I actually think that credits should be WAY shorter... perhaps “Wizard of Oz” short. There are only 37 people credited in the Wizard of Oz (the cast and the major creative supervisors such as the producer, director, costumes, etc.).

B: Well, maybe not THAT short, but I get ya. In today’s cinema, special effects are a huge contribution to movies that weren’t around then.

S: Wizard of Oz had a special effects credit!

B: Right, but in today’s world, what is a special effect? Is it CGI? Animation? Horror make-up, etc? To simply say “:Special effects by _____” isn’t specific enough. In Star Wars, if they credited Phil Tippet with “Special Effects,” what special effect? Did he build the model star destroyers, or create the visual effect of the lightsaber?

S: Well, hence the slippery slope that has gotten us where we are today. I think it’s actually very difficult to draw a clear line in the sand and say, “These people directly contributed to the film and these people didn’t.” Are there clear examples of both- sure (director, caterer). But there’s a big, fat grey area in the middle as well.

B: Every journey begins with a first step. So, let’s first weed out the obvious ones. Who are they?

S: Well, I’d definitely say anyone who is pushing paperwork behind the scenes needs to go. Personal assistants, food services, tutors for child actors, and nurses as well. Agree? Got more to add?

B: I agree. Who would I add to that list? Production assistants. Like personal assistants, they are essentially errand boys...oops, errand persons. Also, security.

S: Ha... that’s funny! I’m actually surprised how many of the job titles have the word “Man” or “Boy” in them still. I also noticed when I was examining the Captain America credits how many supervisors, directors, producers, executives, coordinators, and managers are listed! It’s literally SCORES - probably a few hundred. That’s sick! Now wonder these movies cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make!

B: What about concept artists? Those that paint concepts of characters and scenes, many of which don’t actually make it into the film.

S: See, that’s a big grey area, isn’t it? I would personally include these folks. I’d rather include the person who conceptualizes the things on screen than the electricians and plasterers who make it come to life.

B: Yeah, I’m going to disagree with you there. Those that bring it to life are more deserving IMO than those that conceptualize it. Not that concepts aren't important, but neither is crediting those who don’t make the cut. The guy who conceived Jabba the Hutt as a 6-legged crab-thing shouldn’t be in the credits, should he?

S: Wait until the next special edition... lol.

B: Also, when it comes to music, recording, etc., I’d be fine with differentiating between direct and indirect hires. For example, let’s take music. If Elton John writes and performs a song in the film, he gets a credit as he lends his unique talent to the film. Where as an entire orchestra does not need to be individually credited. Unless a particular musician is brought in for a solo piece or what have you. Now, extrapolate that concept. If you contract an audio studio to do the recordings, the company, and maybe manager/director gets a credit. But any “in-house” staff should not. Again, same applies to all areas of special effects, etc. Unless someone is specifically brought in because of a unique talent.

S: Okay, but how would you answer somebody who says, “What does it matter? There are no negative consequences to having a longer credit sequence!”

B: Actually there is. I generally make it a rule not to pay for a movie ticket unless the run time is 90 minutes or longer. That is the definition of a “feature length film.” Since credits are included in a films run time, I don’t want to see an 82 minute movie cause the credits ran an additional 10 minutes. Also, those pesky PCS, or Post Credit Scenes that fanboys wait for at the end of, well, Captain America in this example, to get a tease for the next film. It traps people into essentially sitting through nine minutes and 800 people you will never remember or care about.

S: I agree. I also think that in the mentality of crediting everyone, you actually deny people credit because the names become just a big blur of small font. Compare Wizard of Oz and Captain America again - WoZ has really big font letters up on the screen for seconds at a time so you can actually read the entire page. To read the credits for Captain America I needed to pause the movie over and over again. So I think all-inclusive credits are actually harmful.

B: Lol, just wait till Captain America hits cable television. The 9 minute credits will be reduced to 11 seconds on a condensed screen as the next show/movie begins.

S: True dat. So let’s wrap this up. Although we seem to disagree on the specifics, we both agree that movie credits need to slim down and trim the fat. Any final thoughts?

B: Yes, Jessica Alba is hot. :)  

S: The movies should credit God for that! lol

B: Got to thank God for a (insert favorite body part) like that. Seriously though, too many credits only serve to create a disservice to the artisans and craftsmen who make the movie happen. I, as a movie goer, will see a film based on who directed it, and/or who stars in it, who wrote it, or even the music score. Flashdance anyone? I don’t see films because Tony’s Food Service catered the production.

S: Agreed. Maybe that’s a good rule of thumb: Credit only those job titles that attract moviegoers.

B: Agreed.

This conversation was brought to you by...

Bill - Himself
Scott - Himself

Conceptualization - Bill
Scheduling Coordinator - Scott
Font Scout - Scott
Casting - Bill
Score - Bill
Location Scout - Scott
Lead Editor - Scott
Assistant Editor - Bill
Stunt Coordinator - Bill
Assistant to Mr. Scott - Scott’s wife
Assistant to Mr. Bill - Bill’s wife
Dialogue Coach - Scott
Continuity Director - Scott
Stand In - Bill
Best Boy - Bill
2nd Unit Director - Scott
2nd 2nd Unit Director - Scott
Caterer - Taco Bell

Microsoft Windows XP Production/Crew
Co-Founder Of Microsoft Bill Gates
CEO of Microsoft Steve Balmer
Brad Silverberg
Bob Muglia
Paul Maritz
Jim Allchin
Orlando Ayala
Mike Maples
Chris Smith
Jim Grey
Gordon Bell
Bernard Vergnes
Rick Rashid

No animals were harmed during the production of this blog

Any similarities to persons living or dead, locations, names or titles is purely coincidental, and not to be inferred

Based on a true story

Special thanks to:
Al Gore  - for inventing the internets (yes, internets)
Macho Man Randy Savage - for his tireless pursuit of perfecting his craft and inspiring generations of colorful characters. May you R.I.P.
Arial - For being the default font on most major document programs.

George Bush hates black people

Michael Moore is right, about everything... EVERYTHING!

And now, the Post Credit Scene...enjoy.