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A look at the evolution of Hollywood end credits

September 14, 2015, 10:40 AM

By Richard J. Leskosky In the beginning, Hollywood end credits were simple: "The End" or simply "End" and then a blank screen. Sometimes, a would-be classier film might end with "Fin," the French word for "end." Then cast lists began to show up at the end of movies to let you know who played whom. Then the industry's technical guilds began demanding recognition for contributions, and getting your name on the screen became a bargaining chip in contracts and union negtiations. Now that most movies are shown theatrically in digital versions and not on film, the actual cost to studios of adding names to end credits has diminished to near zero, so virtually everyone employed on a film can get his or her name in the end credits: the drivers (Teamsters) who chauffeur the actors, the honey wagon driver (who pilots the catering truck), the standby painter (who does not paint bystanders but handles any last-minute paint jobs on the set), the guy in charge of shipping stuff, all the various computer special effects people. The purely business end of show business makes some end crawls look like an annual financial report with credits such as "head of marketing," "clearances," "product placement," "tax credit financing." And, of course, the company that makes the end credits (usually not the company that made the rest of the film) gets its own credit. If you ever did anything related to the making of the film (including inspirational writings the director might have read), you'll get a "thank-you" credit. And Pixar's "Toy Story" (1995) became the first film to list "production babies" — babies born to Pixar staff during the making of the film — a habit picked up by other animation studios. The end credits of "The Expendables 3" (2014) ran a little over 101/2 minutes (with no production babies roster) for a 126-minute film or one-twelfth of the film's running time. (In some shorter features with lots of CGI, the credits can approach one-sixth of the total running time.) That would be one reel (around a thousand feet) of 35mm motion picture film stock. That would increase the printing costs of each 35mm print of that film (and its shipping weight) by more than 8 percent. Multiply that by the 3,221 screens on which the film opened, and you've got a pricey list of names. The much lower cost of digital prints makes that 101/2 minutes inconsequential. But you can't have just a long credit crawl on the screen, so various ploys to keep audience interest while all those names scroll past bump the costs back up a little bit. (OK, most people head for the exits as soon as the credits begin to roll, but some studios like to reward fans who stick it out to the bitter end.) So one or more songs will play during the credits, often music not previously heard during the film. Some productions adopt a practice that Jackie Chan instituted in his Hong Kong films. Chan would include thumbnail outtakes of his stunts that went wrong, and now many comedies and action films will include outtakes of the actors flubbing their lines. The James Bond franchise early on began ending its credits with the announcement that "James Bond will return in (whatever the title of the next Bond film would be)." In more recent years, filmmakers will add an extra scene (either a gag scene or a teaser for a possible sequel) at the end of the end credits. Features in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have doubled down on this practice with one often humorous scene in the middle of the end credits and then an extended (that is, composed of several shots) teaser for a sequel to the film just seen or else for some completely different production in the MCU. "Ant-Man," for instance, has a mid-credit sequence that introduces The Wasp, another superhero; a sequence at the credits' end with references to the next Captain America film; and a final reassurance that "Ant-Man will return." It's gotten to the point where a film reviewer might well feel obligated to alert readers whether or not the latest blockbuster offers a post-credit sequence; and audiences can feel cheated when there isn't one. Hollywood also loves to include assurances of the moral nature of the film production process. Studios have long been insisting that the persons and events in their films are fictitious and any similarity to actual persons and events is "unintentional"or "coincidental." Some studios — no doubt with more cautious lawyers — extend their disavowals to actual persons, places, buildings, products and firms. Even when the film is based on real people and events, disclaimers will stress that some characters and events have been combined or invented for the sake of the story. The familiar ending notation that "Animal action was supervised by the American Humane Association. No animal was harmed in the making of this film" generates nice, warm feelings in pet owners and animal rights activists. But then what is one to make of this occasional variation: "American Humane Association monitored some of the animal action. No animals were harmed in those scenes"? Did the AHA watchdog (as it were) call in sick one day, or was some little old lady walking her Chihuahua in the background of a crowd scene and no one caught it until editing, or did Fluffy actually take that jump out the window? Just before the end credits warn you the studio will take your money and throw you in jail if you try to pirate their film, they will list all the sports teams they paid off for their logos and other images, all the image archives they bought stills from and every movie poster they paid to hang on some character's wall. Conversely, they now also disavow any taint from tobacco: "No person or entity associated with this film received payment or anything of value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of tobacco products." Some filmmakers will even include statements relating to certain health issues. For example, Aardman's clay animation feature "Shaun the Sheep Movie," currently in theaters, deals with the flock's dilemma when their shepherd develops amnesia after a blow on the head. Its end credits include the logo of Headway Worcestershire, a United Kingdom charity that works to improve the lives of head injury victims and the warning, "Getting a bang on the head can be serious." Probably the most egregious self-pat on the back and grab for audience sympathy, though, is the end credit that tells you how many thousands of people were employed in conjunction with the film production (presumably beyond the five to 10 minutes of names you've just sat through). Is this maybe really for tax purposes or simply to assert the social value of even films with inconsequential messages? Or did someone just forget that a good deed you brag about loses some of its luster? "End" note: The 1960s influx of foreign films on art house screens occasionally led to some end-title confusion. "Fine" at the end of an Italian film might have had some viewers thinking for a moment that the filmmakers were blowing their own horns but, like "fin," it just means that the movie is over. And I can remember my college friends back in the 1960s being puzzled and titillated when a Danish movie with a serious sexual theme ended with a black screen displaying the single word "slut" — really just Danish for "end" as it turns out. Original article can be found here:

In the beginning, Hollywood end credits were simple: "The End" or simply "End" and then a blank screen. And then things changed. Drastically.

#film#production#postproduction#credits#end credits
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