Have you ever wondered why there are credits at the end of movies and TV shows? Maybe it’s obvious to you, as there have always been credits, but not to me. Sure, I wouldn’t mind knowing the names of the cast and perhaps the director, but why do they insist on telling us the names of the Gaffer, Best Boy, and the caterers? Does anyone really want to know this information?  Ford certainly don’t provide buyers with a complete list of all the factory workers who built their new car.

Credits are almost always displayed at the end of movies and TV shows, but are increasingly shown at the beginning, in order to force feed them to us, knowing full well we would leave the room, turn over, or otherwise switch off at the end.  Consider TV shows like Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, and Homeland, which can take over 5 minutes at the start of every episode to inform the viewer of every single person involved in the production, before then beginning to convince us with the verisimilitude of the performance.  You could say that the stage is being set, and that the viewers are themselves getting into character, but how can the credits help in this process?

Frankly, I see show credits as the very height of vanity, pandering to not only performers, but also technicians, and sundry studio delivery boys, with only the merest tenuous connection to the production. Of course it’s clear that a credit is a form of payment in kind, thereby allowing for lower wages in exchange for permanent celluloid flattery.  Workers on even the most obscure of filmed work surely don’t actually need the validation, but they probably want it all the same.

However, as viewers, who amongst us relishes the opportunity to read through the credits at the end, only to find the name of the company and person who actually designed the credits?  I can see why film companies do it, but I have no idea why TV channels bother to show them, if it weren’t for pressure from acting and technical unions.  With TV screen time in limited supply, surely this is valuable real estate which could either be profitably filled pleasing viewers or, more relevantly, selling adverts? TV schedulers know only too well that viewers are prone to switch channels, leave to room or switch off as soon as their attention is lost; and what could be more boring that a black screen with scrolling white text? That’s precisely why entreaties to watch the upcoming shows are displayed on a half-screen, “Coming Up” messages are shown in bottom screen panels, and even that credits are speeded up themselves. Clearly TV channels are contractually compelled to do so, as a condition of playing the movie or show, despite it being of no service to the average viewer.

Personally, I would restrict credits to only the on screen cast members and those in roles whom The Oscars, BAFTA or The Golden Globes deem so important that they could be considered for awards.

So why must they insist on doing it, and why do we tolerate it? You may well say “Get a life, and find something less trivial to moan about”, but almost all life is comprised of elegantly assembled trivia, and this is an employment issue in my eyes. It’s a serious question, and I’m looking for a serious and informed answer.

The entertainment industry is famous for taking advantage of those who will work for next to nothing, just to get a foot in the door.  How many other employers use this tactic, by flattering the ego’s of staff as a substitute for hard cash?

Interesting sources:

http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2012/12/bbc-latest-to-pledge-to-screen-improved-credits/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closing_credits