Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Who needs Opening Titles?/Other stuff...

Sorry this posting is late, it’s been a bit crazy here. I am trying to do too many things at once. I’ll be better next week.

Your Angry Filmmaker Tip.

Who needs some big opening title thing? Start the movie!

- - from The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide (coming really soon)

This is something that really drives me crazy. All of these filmmakers who put these long and elaborate opening title sequences in their movies that have nothing to do with their story, and we have never heard of them, or any of the Actors.

I have judged student film festivals where I have seen “A Film By…” credits, with a fancy animated logo for a company that they just made up. We don’t know who you are, what we do know is that you’ve got an ego.

In Hollywood “A Film By…” is the credit to have for a director. Their agents negotiate to get that credit. And many directors don’t deserve it, unless they have written, directed, and produced the film. Film is a collaborative medium filled with huge egos.

I don’t really want to talk about that credit too much, what I want to talk about is head titles in general.

Why not just start the movie? A friend of mine, when we were making The Gas Café basically said, “Who cares about another Kelley Baker Film, besides your family?” And he’s right. Unless you have written an opening title sequence that tells us something about what your movie is going to be about, don’t show us a bunch of people’s names that we don’t know, and may or may not see again. Jump to the first scene. Get us in to your movie.

In Birddog I did do an opening title sequence. One of my characters is singing Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Sixteen Tons, (which cost me a lot of money). As you are watching the scene you start noticing that something isn’t quite right. As a friend of mine said at an early screening, “I thought, poor Kelley, his opening scene is out of sync! And then I realized, wait a minute, it’s supposed to be out of sync. What is going on?” That scene pushed him in to the movie. It is finally revealed that this character is lip syncing the song at a nursing home. That is important to the story. I am telling you something important about the main character (who isn’t even on screen until the following scene). I also used Sixteen Tons for a reason. Listen to the words and you will know what the movie is about. It’s about a guy who no matter how hard he works, (he’s a used car salesman) he still owes his soul, “to the company store”.

There was a reason for that scene to exist in the movie, so I integrated it with the title sequence. In my last two films I haven’t done opening titles with cast and crew. The Gas Café has no opening credits. Kicking Bird has the Angry Filmmaker name and my name at the head, and the film title during the opening sequence. Do I have an ego? Of course I do. I also co-produced, wrote, directed, edited, sound designed, and was one of two re-recording mixers on the film.

I am still not a fan of having my name on screen before the movie starts, my title designer and my marketing friends insisted on it. In building the Angry Filmmaker name, they want to make sure that my name is associated with it. They know more about that crap than I do, so I said okay. Would I have preferred not having my name at the beginning? Yes.

I decided against putting a lot of titles at the head of my movie because I work with lots of really talented people, whose names are not well known. By not using opening credits I am forcing the audience to watch people they are unfamiliar with who may or may not be actors. Maybe they are the characters they are playing? I want the audience to identify with the characters and not think about whom is playing who. I want to get the story started. I want to get the audience involved.

Most opening title sequences are vanity as far as I am concerned. Very few are used to advance the story. It is why I like (and teach) films like The Conversation, and Once Upon A Time in the West. Both of these films introduce important elements to their plot in their opening titles. I think that’s great. You have to watch the opening to start to understand what the story is going to be about. Both Leone and Coppola lay it out for you, and they do it visually, and with sound, not with words scrolling across the screen. I don’t have a problem with that; I find those uses of opening titles interesting.

So next time you are thinking about your opening credits, ask yourself are they really necessary? Can I tell the audience something about the plot, story, or characters through the opening titles? If you can do that, go for it. If you’re just doing it so you and your friends can see your names on screen just like the “big guys”, then wake me up when the titles are done and the movie actually starts. Until your movie starts, I really have no interest in seeing people’s names.

Other stuff.

My Masters Class, Making the Extreme Low Budget Film has been re-scheduled for August 18th thru September 5th in Franklin, Indiana. More info will follow. Check out for more information as it becomes available.

I am still looking for Fall Tour Sponsors, if you know anyone at a company that you think might be a good fit for the Angry Filmmaker Fall Tour please let me know.

Check out my site and look at The Angry Filmmaker Work Books. They are packed with lots of good info and are a real bargain at a mere $10 each or the set of three for $25 (plus S&H).

As always, feel free to link to my site and you can subscribe to my blog. So what are you waiting for?

Talk later.



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