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Friday, September 21, 2007

A few days ago, Craig Mazin blogged that he's not taking a possessory credit on his new film, which he's writing and directing. Because, as he points out, the film isn't "by" him. It's by him and everyone else who worked on the film.

The "A Film By" credit has become meaningless. It doesn't mean you did something special beyond directing. It's part of the DGA contract -- you can choose not to take it, but they have to offer it to you for directing. So everyone takes one, except a few really cool directors who don't need the ego boost.

If you think about it -- and the WGA agonizes about it -- the possessory credit is an insult to everyone else who worked on the film. Either the writer or the producer started with an idea. The writer invented characters and story. The editor shaped it. The production designer gave it a look. The composer gave it a sound. The actors interpreted the characters and gave them life. At a minimum, any film is "by" all of these people. Unless you did all of those things, it's not a "film by" you.

But no one really thinks about it. (Except the WGA, which agonizes about it.) Directors get to have their name on a picture twice for doing the same job. Whoo hoo. They can pee higher on the stick, because they brought an egg crate to stand on.

Bravo to Craig for skipping the credit. Boo on the directors who take the credit after they're brought on at the last minute by a producer who developed the project with three writers and another director who had to take another gig.

UPDATE: Craig differentiates between "A Film by [name of director]" and "A [name of director] film." I think that's fair. The film is not "by" Craig Mazin. But the "A _____ Film" sounds to me like it is a film "from" Craig Mazin, which it is, if he had a major hand in it. The latter credit isn't exclusive -- it doesn't imply it can't also be a [name of producer] film as well.

On the other hand, I still think it's an unnecessary credit. You direct the film, you get a director credit. You wrote and directed the film, take both credits. What's the problem with that?



The "A Film By" credit has become meaningless.

Meaningless, but not useless. It's a branding tool, just like the other possessory credits: "A ***** Film" and "******'s TITLE". And while it's stupid and wrong it's not going anywhere. And I totally understand directors using it to get their names out there. While you may convince them it's immoral, you won't convince them to give up the money/influence that being well branded brings.

By Blogger Whaledawg, at 5:13 PM  

I agree the directors won't give it up. But I don't understand why directors would think it "gets their names out there." It is EXACTLY THE SAME CREDIT as "Directed by." There is no distinction.

Do you really think anyone is thinking, "Oh my god! I totally missed that it was directed by Ron Howard! Thank God he gave himself an A Film By credit so I could figure out who directed it!"

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 5:26 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger lb, at 8:24 PM  

Alex: Whaledawg is right. You are in the business and you pay attention to writers, DPs, whatever.

The average person does not. Whether seeing that director's name a second time, or whether they wouldn't notice the director credit but do know the 'film by' credit, it is not the same thing... legally, financially, sure ... but in the real world, it makes a difference. If it made no difference, if it didn't take credit away from person X, if it didn't draw attention to the "film by ..." person, no one would care.

By Blogger lb, at 8:25 PM  

I doubt ANYBODY outside of the industry reads the contractual credit block. They read newspaper articles and watch ET. ET does not care whether someone gets A Film By or not. They care who directed it.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 8:49 PM  

Maybe writers should start asking for a "Created by" credit along with a "Written by" credit. After all, the writer creates the characters, right?

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 8:49 PM  

ET does not care whether someone gets A Film By or not. They care who directed it.

I believe that the 'A Film By' credit gets different placement then 'Directed By'.

Maybe writers should start asking for a "Created by" credit along with a "Written by" credit.

The writers have their own possesory credit, it's the "*****'s TITLE" one.

"Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere"

By Blogger Whaledawg, at 10:05 PM  

Every time I meet a director who wants an "A Film By" credit. I tell them they can have it if they'll give me their take on my script entitled "The Auteur Theory" which consists of 120 blank pages. That usually ends the negotiations.

By Blogger jimhenshaw, at 11:13 PM  

Craig mentions that he feels there's a difference between `A Film By...' and "A [name] Film'. I really don't understand the difference, despite his explanation. Personally, I think `A Film By...' sounds much more awkward. If given the choice, I think `A Tim W. Film' sounds better, anyway.

By Blogger Unknown, at 4:32 AM  

I agree about the ego involved in the "film by" credit. We could all immediately name ten or twelve directors who are real hack simpletons but just love to use that credit.

There was a time, though, when it was controversial to talk about what, say, John Ford or Howard Hawks brought to the films they made. Auteurism was NOT a theory that the director was the true author of a film. It was a suggestion that there were certain directors who exerted a tighter control over their films and that the films they made tended to be more visionary and have more personality than other films.

Now of course the whole notion has been blown out of proportion and the "film by" credit has lost any real meaning. It's a idea who's time has passed.

By Blogger Mama's Boyfriend, at 10:28 PM  

This is just like the most recent Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which Larry David and Ted Danson both donate wings to some new environmentalist project, but Larry takes the "Donated by" credit, and Danson chooses to go "Donated by Anonymous". Of course, everyone knows that Danson = anonymous, so he gets praise for being such a great guy, while poor Larry gets none.

My point? Aren't credits kind of meaningless, except to those who are earning them?

By Blogger Jane, at 4:00 PM  

Take a look at how the stage treats writers in comparison.

Marketing material for a theatre will generally say the play is 'by' or 'penned by' the writer. Often this will be the first credit that appears, or at least be in the same sentence as the big name stars in the play.

Is the Crucible really 'by Arthur Miller'?

A play needs a director, actors, sets, makeup... there's a whole host of things that goes into bringing the play to life in the form of a performance.

Yet in theatre marketing material, the Crucible is still 'a play by Arthur Miller'.

Because the STORY (characters, action, theme, setting) is by Arthur Miller. Without that, there is no play.

Equally, without the cast and crew, there is no play. But the role of cast and crew is primarily to interpret the play.

And that's why, when the title of a film appears on screen, it should be immediately followed 'by [name of screenwriter'.

One day...

By Blogger Unknown, at 11:43 PM  

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