Opening Credits: Why I think we should bring back credits at the start of the movie.
If there’s one thing I think we can all agree on when it comes to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis is that this unprecedented virus has exposed the festering rot beneath our Capitalist society. Whether it be the underfunding of the NHS and other key public services, the mistreatment of public funds by a corrupt political elite, or the clear wealth inequality running rampant across the country, there’s plenty out there to be angry about. Fear not, though, this isn’t an angry political rant – at least not in a targeted, aggressive way – and I am going somewhere with this.
When compared to the very real issues of public health and safety, my topic today may seem somewhat small or even insignificant, but it is something that I have thought a lot about recently. At the beginning of the crisis, back when the Government allowed Cheltenham races to go ahead and were failing to lock down properly, there was an outcry from the arts sector, which was shut down despite low risk and told they were no longer allowed to continue carrying out their business.
This is a stance the Government has never really moved on from. The arts across the country are in a very dark place right now. Cinemas are shut and some may never reopen, likewise theatres and music venues. While filming can technically continue, to do so is difficult and costly, meaning that thousands of independent and no-budget filmmakers have been left unable to work (myself included in that).
But perhaps the thing that upset and frustrated me the most about all of this – other than not being able to make films, of course – was the reaction of those people who don’t work in the arts to all of this disruption. It seemed, to me at least, that there was a near-total dismissal from the thousands of people outside of the sector of those who had or have been left without their work and their passion as if a job in the arts is somehow “lesser”.
This is an attitude I have encountered before, even pre-pandemic. It reminds me of those people who would continuously tell me to “get a proper a job” when I first started working, or that my time spent making films isn’t “real work”. What has always baffled me about this attitude isn’t so much the negativity of it – people are negative in general – but rather that often those who hold up this strange concept of art as lesser are also the same people who argue over the newer Star Wars movies, bang on about how “music was better in my day” and talk about modern comedy as being “too woke”.
These people use and benefit from the arts every day. In fact, everyone does. If you watch TV, listen to music, go to the theatre, look at a picture, or use social media, then you’re benefiting from the arts. Hell, if you were a T-shirt with a design on it you’re benefiting from the arts.
Now, I have absolutely no clear idea why this strange disconnect between enjoying art and appreciating those who work in the arts happens, but there we go. If I had to venture a guess, at least when we’re talking about film, I’d lay the fault at a simple lack of understanding.
As someone who has always been interested in filmmaking, I have a fairly good understanding of the work that goes into producing a film. Those people I know who don’t care about the craft of filmmaking don’t know anything. Often, to them, it is as simple as getting a camera and pointing it at the subject. They take little consideration to the editing, the music, the make-up, the visual effects, the stunt work…
And look, you may be reeling in horror at this thought, but there it is. If we’re being reasonable for a second, there is a strange sort of complimentary slant to this disconnect. They don’t consider it because they don’t notice it, and that’s sort of the point of those roles. Aspects of filmmaking such as make-up or editing or music are there to enhance the story, and they shouldn’t be noticeable. Strangely, I guess one could argue that they’re their own worst enemy. The success of all the hard work is, in part, that they have gone unnoticed by the general movie-going public.
Of course, not that it makes it right. These people should be recognized for their hard work and appreciated. Often, they have spent years learning their craft, going through education, and then working their way up through an industry that is as brutal as it is rewarding. Fighting off competition and putting themselves out there, pushing through rejection and heartache and personal difficulties to follow their passion and their dreams. Believe me, I speak from experience, working in the arts is fucking hard.
So, I have a call. It may not resolve all the problems, here, but I think it could go some way to helping build a little more awareness and a little more appreciation from audiences for those whose hard work and long hours go into producing a movie solely for the viewers' enjoyment; let’s put the credits at the beginning of movies again.
Credits at the opening of films used to be the norm. You look at any film from the earlier years of cinema through to the 60s and some even in the 70s and you’ll find that all the credits are right there, upfront, for all to see. Of course, filmmakers would often use this opportunity to set the tone of the piece, and we’d wind up with some great and iconic opening credits sequences – Hitchcock was especially adept at this – but I do wonder if this went some way to ensuring that audiences understood just how many people it takes, and how much effort goes into making a film.
It could be of benefit here and now to maybe bring back this practice. People leaving the cinema as the credits roll, or people turning off the TV the moment the screen cuts to black is a pretty common occurrence, and placing the credits back at the beginning of a movie would mean that people would be unable to simply walk out or switch off while the titles are running. Whether you consider this a sort of forced appreciation, I don’t know, but I think it’s a good idea. Perhaps somewhat contradictory to that point, it’ll also cut down on the annoyance of people entering the screening late. A credits sequence gives people a chance to settle in and prepare for the film they’re about to watch.
Secondly, it shows an appreciation of all those people who do work in the industry. It’s not hyperbole to say that without them there wouldn’t be a film, so why wouldn’t we start by celebrating them?
My final point comes in the form of bringing back the somewhat lost art form of the opening credits. This has become very much a television thing these days, but I always liked a decent credits sequence. There’s something fun and enjoyable about it. Whether it be simple titles on a background accompanied by music, or something more complex, like the aforementioned Hitchcock movies or Bond’s iconic theme song, nothing manages to get you in the mood and ready to watch a film quite like a credits sequence.
Some modern movies do this already, think of the excellent opening credits to Fincher's Seven, Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can or Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn... there are examples, but these are by no means the norm, and although there is a growing trend for end credits, at least the first bit of end creds (often the bit before the post-credits sequence when it comes superhero films) to try to throw in some visuals, these always feel a little tacked on and underwhelming. What's more, they've become somewhat generic. Whacking them at the front sort of forces filmmakers to be a little more creative. After all, this is the first impression, so you'd better make it a good one.
So, let’s bring back putting the credits at the start of movies. It celebrates the work that goes into filmmaking, helps audiences maybe appreciate that work and those artists a little more, and allows filmmakers to create a sort of scene-setting moment that can be a little movie within the main movie. That might be nice.