WATCHING THE CREDITS

Whether you loved the movie or didn't, it's still the product of many people working many days, usually anonymously.

Whether you loved the movie or didn't, it's still the product of many people working many days, usually anonymously.

 

All those names. They roll on and on, a long list of names moving too fast and too dense to read. It’s almost impossible to even read all of the job titles next to the names. The big credits near the front are easier of course: director, producer, writer, leading actors. But get down the list and you encounter the greensman and ADR recordist and matchmover. Things get complicated quickly.

I always stay for the credits. I want to see where the production crew filmed the movie, what they used for the soundtrack, who gets a special “thank you” at the end. Part of my interest is a bizarre, absurd reverse engineering obsession from whatever absurd molecular view I can glean about what it took to make the movie in the first place. Part of it has to do with some sort of respect paid to those many people who spent substantial portions of their lives creating something that didn’t exist before they touched it.

Most of the people listed in the credits did the job because it generated a paycheck for themselves. Many of them are happy to have had the work, without a shred of intimate investment in the final product. Of the many names rolling past, many got the job by carefully watching their own email and voice mail for glimmers of opportunity. The calculation goes something like this: “Job op? Good to go!”

For many on the unsung crew the decisions were pretty simple: raunchy rom-com aimed at millennials? Sure, it’s eight days work as a stand-by set painter. Low-budget domestic drama shot mostly indoors needs a dolly grip? Okay, that makes sense. Big budget movie in town for a few days needs a standby painter while the 2nd unit director gets some insert shots? Uh-huh, sure, whatever.

Most of the time the jobs are not interchangeable, of course. The best boy isn’t the caterer generally speaking, except on the lowest of low budget productions. That’s not the point. What matters is that a whole lot of people needed to do a whole lot of things to create something that usually comes out as a relatively quick, easily consumed, sometimes entirely disposable creation.

I watch the credits and read the names. On the bigger movies, the credits read like a United Nations committee, with multinational teams mixed together across time zones and job titles. But even on smaller productions, I can’t help but wonder about the paths that these diverse names took to find themselves digitally immortalized on screen. Parents long ago gave them names as babies; now those names shine out in the darkness as closing music swells and people head for the exits.

But the lives necessary to make those things? They’re not disposable. That’s why I stay. Someone ought to appreciate their effort.

@michaelstarobin
facebook.com/1auglobalmedia

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