For me, one of the most difficult things about teaching film is to convince students to not only sit through end credits, but to actually pay attention to them. Marvel seems to have found the trick to this (at least the sitting-through-the-credits part, and probably only in theaters): exploit the franchise’s extended narrative by putting some hint of forthcoming events or extraneous narrative Easter eggs at the very end, or sometimes just the middle, of the credits. What really blows my mind, however, is the reluctance I witness in many people to even sit through older films’ end credits—they last maybe a minute or two, if even that!
Perhaps it’s my own research interests that prompt me to stay seated while the credits roll for almost any movie I watch. A lot of my current research pertains to production studies and film history. I study the people who helped make Hollywood films, and very often were not recognized for the work they did. For the longest time, Hollywood film histories focused on the “creative” few: directors, producers, actors and actresses, and sometimes screenwriters. All the rest, up until about a couple decades ago, for the most part got shoved aside or ignored as simply Hollywood’s “workers.” They were people like cinematographers, secretaries at the studios, writers who went uncredited, etc. With increasing interest in this “behind-the-scenes” work both in the academic and the public realms, histories as well as movie credits have more and more covered wider ground—hence, the end credits that go on and on sometimes. But I still love to watch them and see the different production roles and peoples’ names scroll by. Here are some of my favorite film production roles:
- COSTUME DESIGNERS AND MAKE-UP TEAMS
They may seem fairly self-explanatory, yet, during the Hollywood Studio System these jobs, perhaps often envisioned as individual roles, evolved into the work of whole specialized production departments. I particularly love watching films with costumes by Edith Head (as my previous post indicates); but I also find it interesting to pinpoint those films in which the make-up work of the famous Westmore family can be found. (Here’s a piece on the Westmore family, and their influence in Hollywood across multiple generations.) I’ll admit that I don’t usually pay as much attention to these credits in the current movies I watch. Instead, I tend to focus more on other, quite different, roles.
- GAFFERS, GRIPS, AND BEST BOYS
Gaffers, grips, and best boys among others, often seen as performing the non-glamorous (or as some would say, grunt work), are incredibly crucial for the success of American movie production. The gaffer is the head electrician, involved in lighting (and so, an important player for cinematography). Like the gaffer, grips often work with the DP (or director of photography). They deal a lot with the rigging of cameras and lights (however, they don’t do the electrical work); and so, quite a bit of coordination takes place between these two roles, gaffer and grip. To help them out, both have their own assistants, the best boys–one for gaffers and one for the key (or head) grip.
Once upon a time I wanted to work in film production. In fact, that was what I began working towards during my undergraduate career. I soon learned I would rather be in front of a screen than behind a camera. Yet, knowing the amount of work that goes into the making of films I love to see the names of those who do a lot of the specialized and rather technical labor as gaffers, grips, and best boys.
- STUNT WORKERS
Stunt workers in film have been around from the very beginning. Many early Western stars were actually skilled horsemen and -women as well as acrobats who performed in rodeos and circuses when not making films. Even so, stunt work for American film and television took a long time to be recognized as a significant and specialized industry all its own—the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures was founded in 1961 and The Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures in 1967. One of the simplest explanations for this is the myth of “movie magic” and its related idea that in order to enjoy a film one must practice a “suspension of disbelief.” This idea inherently erases stunt people from the final image, despite it being their body that we so often see performing the work that amazes us so. Most of us know the stars don’t actually perform their own stunts, but how many stunt workers do we know by name?
Maybe if we sat through the end credits more we might know quite a few.
Here’s a very brief look into some of the behind-the-scenes work for Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER (2018):
The IU Cinema is a perfect place to sit through end credits on a regular occurrence. Screenings will begin again in August 2018.
A PhD Candidate in Communication and Culture, Katherine studies film and media, genre (particularly the Western), gender, and performance. She has a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has been fascinated with film since she could remember.