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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Credits

Over on the forums, there’s recently been a discussion of credits in movies. It originally started off as a discussion about mods and commercial projects, but gradually drifted into the issue of whether everybody who’s contributed on a movie should get a credit.  This is something I’ve talked about several times - I remember discussing it on-air with Phil Barton on a machinima podcast many years ago, and writing a guest post for machinima.com back when it was still owned by Hugh Hancock.

The short answer, in my opinion, is no.

The slightly longer answer is that while it’s good practice to credit and/or thank people who’ve made a contribution to your movie, it’s not absolutely essential to do so, and it’s certainly not necessary to name everyone in the on-screen credits of the movie itself.

Before I explain any further, let me start by dispelling one persistent myth about movie credits. As one forum poster put it, “In real cinema productions, even the boy who makes the tea gets a credit.”  That’s simply not true.  Movies don’t credit everyone.

Blockbuster films often have extremely long credits (which few people actually watch). Even so, they don’t credit most suppliers of props or costumes, unless there’s a specific product placement agreement for which the supplier actually pays, such as a car manufacturer in a Bond film. They mostly only credit people who worked on the movie directly. They certainly don’t credit, say, the fabric manufacturer who supplied the material for the bridesmaids’ dresses in the background of the wedding scene, or the paint supplier.  And while the catering company may get a credit, the people who actually serve the meals sure as hell don’t. It’s also extremely rare for all the extras to get credited. When George Lucas gave a credit to all the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, this was highly unusual - and you’ll notice he doesn’t credit all the stormtroopers. So even being on screen doesn’t guarantee you a credit.

Lower budget films generally have fewer credits, usually focusing only on the heads of department or the most significant people in the cast and crew. TV shows generally have even fewer credits. Short films have the credits stripped to the minimum, often reduced to just a few people.  So let’s dispense with the idea that you have to have enormously long credits if you’re doing it properly.

You should keep the length of your credits in proportion to your movie. I’ve seen one-minute movies with ten minutes of credits. Frankly, who wants to watch that? Nobody is going to sit through that, let alone remember who did what. As a rule of thumb, I’d suggest making your credits sequence no more than 10% of the total duration of your movie. If you’re making a 2-minute movie, that’s just 12 seconds. That’s not long at all. You may want to spend the next two minutes listing everyone who worked on the movie, and all the software you used, but here’s the catch. Your viewer will already have moved onto the next movie. And, importantly, they’re less likely to comment or give you feedback if they move on before the movie has completely finished.  (And don’t try putting an extended credits sequence at the start. That just turns people off before your movie’s even begun. Apply the same 10% rule to your title sequence too.)

Obviously, if you’re going to compress your credits that much, you have to be really ruthless about who gets a credit, and not everyone’s going to make it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t thank them. You just do it somewhere other than the actual movie: list them on the Web site or YouTube page, for example. This often works much better, as you can put links in so people can get the actual mod, or whatever. Then put a general thanks to everyone who helped out, and refer people to your Web site. You can name people

Thanks to all the modders, especially FrankenStone for the churchyard, and everyone else who helped out.
See http://www.mysite/movie/castcrew.htm for details of mods, software, etc

Oh, and in passing, resist the temptation to credit people many different times in different roles. It just looks silly. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen credits like:

A Mongoose Movie
Story by Mongoose
Based on an idea by Mongoose
Script by Mongoose
Directed by Mongoose
Produced by Mongoose
Set Design by Mongoose
Set Dressing by Mongoose
Mods by Mongoose
Sound recording by Mongoose
Sound editing by Mongoose

It’s far more effective to put something like:

Written, directed and produced by Mongoose

That gives the viewer the exact same information in much less time, and actually looks more impressive.

 

 

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/18 at 08:20 PM

Matt

For 35 years I Supervised and Produced Motion Pictures and Television product.  Credits were generally given on a Studio controlled product by what was contractual.  Foremost, Key Players and Union contracts dictated who or what got a credit.  Some suppliers would get a credit because of a contractual agreement (such as Panavision or Kodak).  If something was featured in the film such as a copywrite piece of art or product, they would require a clearance for the use of the item and sometimes that would also require an end credit.  As for the “thank-you” credits, they might be given in lieu of payment, but rarely out of the goodness of the Studio’s heart.

I have in recent years gone overboard in credits on my own live film projects, but only on the DVD release of the film, where Theatre time and TV time for sponsors didn’t matter.  If this seems heartless, when I used to attend dinners with the Heads of Feature Production for the seven major studios, there was a general agreement that the end credits would not exceed a certain time length (very short) since the cost for film stock and lab fees required for each theatrical print was just that much more cost to the Studio.  Today the length of some end credits are so long that I am sure it would make an extra showing of the film per day impossible.

As for your citing the example of the endless Mongoose credits, as I recall, that may be from the fine tradition of Thomas H. Ince, who’s name appeared frequently in his films.  Of course, that may have been the reason for his untimely death (rather than Hearst’s jealousy for Marion Davies). 

One thing for sure is that credits will be an issue for years to come.  Great idea for using the Internet to give credit to the balance of the production.



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