Monday, March 12, 2018

"... Where Credit Is Due"

Let’s begin with this balancing perspective:

Most people receive no credit for their everyday job performances.

“And the winner for ‘Best Deli-Made Kasha Varnishkes’ is…”

With the majority of undertakings, you do what you do, and you get what you get.  What you do not get is your name scrolling showily over a screen.

What I am saying here is,

Receiving credit for your laborial accomplishments in highly unusual.

But not in show business.

In show biz, everyone gets credit.  From “Writer” and “Director” to “Studio Accountant”, and – my all-time favorite onscreen acknowledgment – the “Standby Painter.”

“I have stood by, painting nothing for some of the greatest movies ever made.”

Kudos, for being readily available in case an actual painter drops dead.

Somebody’s childhood ambition.

“Not to paint, actually.  Just to stand by.”


Show biz has always provided credits.  And if they are available, you want one.  Credits are not necessarily about ego.  They often have meaningful consequences.

A “good credit”, meaning your name attached to a worthwhile production, can mean more jobs – which means more money – an enhanced reputation, leading to further assignments – which means more money – possible awards recognition, upping your demandable “quote” – which means more money – or impressing your date – which may not mean more money, but there are other tangible rewards.

There is also the issue of “justice.”  (See:  Who really wrote All The President’s Men? And who never got over the unearned credit allocation.  Answer:  Everyone.  Dead and alive.  Word is, some of those dead guys are still bitching.)

Let it be stipulated: 

Credits are an inescapable reality.

Okay, now what?

(Pausing for a brief but relevant digression...)

During a filming of an episode of Major Dad, a studio executive sidled up to me, offering a hypothetical question.  How would I feel if, while Major Dad was being broadcast over the air, the “Energizer Bunny” skittered across the bottom of the screen?

My response:

If it’s okay with the star, it’s okay with me.  Knowing it would not be okay with the star, and certain that, aware of his inevitable reaction, the studio executive would never dare approach the show’s headliner.  (The guy was – startlingly – frightened of me.)

Anyway, that “Trouble Spot” went away.  For me.  But not forever.

I watched a network hour drama recently where the show’s “Opening Credits” continued into the seventeenth minute of the episode’s broadcast.  The victim was already dead and the police were harassing the wrong suspect before the “Opening Credits” – thankfully – wound down.

Seventeen minutes of “Dueling Distraction.”  (The show distracts you from reading the credits; the credits distract you from the following the story.)

And I “Kiboshed” a peppy bunny.

Running them extendedly through the broadcast?  That’s a good day for credits.  It goes downhill from there.


Here’s the thing about this.

There are some credits you can’t touch because they are contractually mandated.  Others… I don’t know what some of the other ones are doing there.  I do know that since the “Studio System” days, the list of attributed credits has exponentially increased.  Now everyone’s a freelancer, and apparently every minute contribution is deemed worthy of acknowledgement. 

“And the winner of ‘Best Skywriting Canister Installer of 2018’ is…”

PRODUCER:  “That skywriting was integral to the picture.  Besides, she nearly fell out of the airplane.”

The producer is generous.  He adds the “Canister Girl’s” name to the lengthening litany, and takes magnanimous credit for doing so.

PRODUCER:  “You see?  It’s right up there on the screen.”

Yes it is.

The problem is…

You can’t read it.

Meaning, the generous producer accorded acknowledging credit, and simultaneously, effectively did not.

Here’s what you get.  (And, if you’re me, you wonder what the heck is going on.)

– The credits, radically reduced in size, are allocated to a “box” in a corner of the screen.

– The credits roll at the speed of maddening unreadability. 

– The credits are arranged in paralleling columns, making it impossible to make out specific names in either of them.

Or a combination of all three.  Paralleling columns, scrunched into a corner of the screen, tumbling so fast the names themselves are suffering “Shortness of Breath.”

ON-SET NOSE HAIR TRIMMER:  “Slow down, will ya?  My mother can’t read it!”

“Ranting Conclusion” about “discretionary” credits:

You either do them, or you don’t.  Or, arguably, do less of them if you do.

But however you handle things,

You do it respectfully.

If you do credits in a way where they are impossible to read, there is a better way of describing that:

You did not do credits.

Grievously insulting the people you promised you would.

Good luck meeting them later on the street.

When you also can’t remember their names.

If you ever knew them in the first place.

Pomerantzian Verdict:

Credits are either important, or they’re not.

If they are,

The credits’ providers should be dutifully obligated to act like it.




Tom said...

I'm an odd duck in that I like to leave my TV's "closed captions" switched on, in case some of the dialogue I'm hearing is difficult to understand. Usually captions appear in the bottom part of the screen. But during the 17 minutes at the start of the show when that lower area is intermittently occupied by credits, the closed captions are relocated to the upper part of the screen. There they are superimposed annoyingly directly over the actors' faces. Hmmph.

angel said...

Former Chyron Operator (thankfully in Television). It annoys me no end to see "disappearing" credits. Do them, or don't do them, I say.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I'm an even odder duck: I stay in my seat at the movies until all the credits have completed.