Why do films & TV programmes have credit sequences?
February 25, 2005 4:26 AM   Subscribe

Why do films & TV programmes have credit sequences? I don't get a list of nut & bolt technicians, headlamp designers or airbag testers when I buy a car, so why do I need to be told who pulled the focus, who was an electrician, who swept the floor when I am watching a film or TV programme?
posted by ajbattrick to Media & Arts (13 answers total)
It's probably because what films they've worked on is important to getting more work
posted by lunkfish at 4:51 AM on February 25, 2005

I read somewhere that it's basically the way to keep people from lying about what they've done. People work a zillion short term jobs in the industry, and having all the credits as part of the film makes it possible to check them on demand. Could that now be done better with a central database that's a little better maintained than IMDB? For sure.

But now there are industry people who like seeing their names up there, and there are movie fans who like reading credits and there are post credit easter eggs added to films.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:30 AM on February 25, 2005

Dr. Wu's comment in a thread from yesterday might also shed some light.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:38 AM on February 25, 2005

If this had only started recently, I'd say that it was a ploy by the industry to remind you how many people you were ripping off by stealing the film, but as it's a phenomenon I've seen for a while now, I'm inclined to think that jacquilynne has it right. It does seem excessive though, when scientists publish a paper they don't include the name of every tech who helped along the way in the author list...

On a somewhat related note, anybody know when the extensive credit list phenomenon really started to take off? Older movies (think Bogart) had very short credit lists, although I'm sure there were more people working on the film than were listed. How long ago did it become necessary to start listing the assistant director's hairdresser's bobby-pin wrangler?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:41 AM on February 25, 2005

Perhaps that was because of the studio system. If you worked for Warner Brothers as a makeup artist, you just went to whatever movie you were assigned to for that day. It wouldn't make much sense to give a credit for each one.
posted by smackfu at 6:47 AM on February 25, 2005

I remember watching a TV programme about ten years ago where they said that it was demanded by the unions in TV world, and so when they started showing films on TV, they had to do it for films too. Whether that is true or not I don't know, but it may help you Google the definitive answer.
posted by chill at 7:08 AM on February 25, 2005

Here's a couple of links that give a bit more background on end credits...
posted by chill at 7:19 AM on February 25, 2005

At least on TV shows, they don't seem as important as they used to be. A number of the shows I watch have taken to placing the closing credits on the side or bottom of the screen to make room for promotional material. And if you watch Law and Order on TNT, they scrunch the closing credits down to the bottom tenth of the screen so they can show the beginning of the next episode. At this point they become completely illegible.
posted by boymilo at 7:55 AM on February 25, 2005

The phenomenon that boymilo describes is something that the various creative unions in the TV industry don't like, and have taken to complaining about, BTW.
posted by yankeefog at 8:14 AM on February 25, 2005

I think the short answers would be that Unions required it.
posted by drezdn at 9:18 AM on February 25, 2005

Adding to yakeefog's comment, it's the networks that squeeze the credits to the side, not the production companies that make the shows. This is true even when it's not a brute-force squeeze, but a more elegant re-design.
posted by nobody at 10:35 AM on February 25, 2005

It has a lot to do with the structure of the movie industry. Craft people are often contractors or short-timers (especially in movies), and don't have a long-term employer-employee relationship with the production company. Hence, the importance of a "professional" reputation is much more important; credits are a way of acknowledging that.
posted by curtm at 11:09 AM on February 25, 2005

Not everyone who works on a show or movie gets screen credit, btw. For example, at Warner Bros., production staff (i.e. anyone with "assistant" in their title) won't get screen credit.

Additionally, staff-level writers on television series may or may not get credits. It's at the discretion of the studio producing the film.

Short -- but not entirely encompassing -- answer to the credits sequence would be that it's a union thing. Most guilds have rules as to who does and does not get screen credit. Guilds even specify *how* the credit will be presented (for example, the DGA negotiated for "a film by..." as one of its credits for directors, so you could write and produce a film, but if you don't direct it, you'll never be able to have "a film by..." credited to your endeavor). Unions even spell how the order to which credits must appear on the screen (that's why "directed by" will be the last credit in a project's opening sequence).

Some people disagree with the credit structure as the major trade unions have negotiated them and have severed their relationships with their respective guilds as a result. For example, Tarantino prefers to have his credit appear not at the start of the film, but at its end, and in a non-DGA approved manner. DGA said "no." So QT isn't a member of the DGA.

As for non-union shoots, they likely employ credits for two reasons:
1) it'd look odd not to.
2) the crew would be unhappy and likely not to work on a similar project (or with the same producers) again. It's kinda industry standard to get screen credit for your work (unless you're a writer of a film, but that's a whole different, thorny issue), and people expect their credit as a result.
posted by herc at 7:31 PM on February 25, 2005

« Older How to get over food phobias?   |   Linux on an OLD Mac Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.