I picked movies and mini-series for my judging category for the upcoming 2011 Emmy’s. This is the most time-consuming category to judge since you’re required to watch the entire show but I wanted to see Mildred Pierce and a few other shows that I’d missed. I’ll blog about the show I chose for best editing and why I voted for it in the future but for now, I’d like to riff about titles and credits as I viewed some outstanding ones.
What’s in a title and opening credit?
The opening title and credits can do much more than display a show’s name, players, producers, director, and crew. If created thoughtfully, they serve as an introduction to a movie, kind of like a welcoming committee, greeting you and pulling you in. If created artistically, opening (head) credits can add even more to a picture and stand out on their own. Often, combined with music, they set an emotional tone to the movie, a pace, and an expectation of the type of content to follow i.e. nail-biting thriller, fast-paced comedy, reflective drama, etc.
Credits can be fun (remember the animated ones in the Pink Panther series) or weave in the show’s theme (like Breaking Bad’s periodic table of elements) or thrilling, (like those set to Bernard Hermann’s taut music in North by Northwest) and much more. Here’s a unique example from Too Big To Fail, one of the Emmy-nominated shows I judged, which inserted the credits into Wall Street’s electronic ticker tape and boards.
Title designers and credits
There are many famous self-described “type geeks” who live and breathe graphics (GFX) and title design. One of them, Kyle Cooper, title designer on Rango, Tron: Legacy, Ironman, and Spider-Man 2, explains, “Type is like actors to me. It takes on characteristics of its own. When I was younger, I used to pick a word from the dictionary and then try to design it so that I could make the word do what it meant…”
Many filmmakers believe credits shouldn’t stand apart from the movie but should blend in and be a part of the story’s exposition. Susan Bradley, title designer on Wall-E, Up, The Motorcycle Diaries, Ratatouille, and An Inconvenient Truth observes that titles, “can do very much or very little; but really shine when they live within the story and reflect an important quality driven by your director.”
Credits and story
Additionally, credits can clue the audience into the film’s plot, location, time period, style, and characters. The split screen credits at the start of 127 Hours give insights into the film’s risk-taking hero as he determinedly drives through the night to escape the city and set off on his fateful desert hike.
Head credit from 127 Hours.
End credits are usually more utilitarian. Networks routinely cram them to one side of the TV screen to make room for promos, a practiced referred to as the “squeeze and tease.” But sometimes they can be entertaining and extend the movie such as those tailing Ratatouille or Spider-Man 2.
Tail credit from Spider-Man 2.
Just plain credits
Budget, as with any factor in a film, plays a role in determining how fancy credits will be. Some directors stick to plain credits, even though they could pay for more: Think Woody Allen’s standard white on black credits.
So think about credits the next time you place them in a show you’re editing or view them on tube and screen and clue Joy in on your conclusions.
Awards, Editing practices, Editor’s role, Television