Monday, October 31, 2011

The Possessory credit

One of things I dislike most about making films is what is called "The Possessory Credit". And while it's hardly worth noticing for most people, it certainly bothers screenwriters. 

What it is is this;  a title at the beginning (or the end which is becoming more fashionable) which reads: A Film By Harvey Glick". And who is Harvey Glick? Well, I made up that name but this credit is becoming more and more common. And it is always taken by the director.

There's others too, A Film by Martin Scorceses, A Spike Lee Joint, A John Ford Production, A Steven Spielberg Film and many others.

And what the credit suggests, is that the director is totally responsible for every element of the movie. So why does this bother writers so much?

Well, for one thing the director is rarely there when the writer spends days, months and longer to write the screenplay, especially if it's a spec, than have the hired director enter and say it's all his idea.

But then, there's also another factor to take in.

Personally I don't mind the great directors taking this credit, mostly because they have proven to have a unique style unlike your average director. Can you tell the difference between a film by someone you've never heard of, and a film by, say, Robert Altman. 

There's a huge difference. Altman's style is unique and therefore he is entitled to "A Film by". So is Warren Beatty and Brian DePalma and Coppola. They have earned their strips, so to speak and have established a unique style from movie to movie.

And which writer wouldn't want a great director to make his movie, credit and all. 

But where it bothers me is when someone makes his/her first film and uses the credit there. They just don't deserve it as very few of them have any style at all, rather they are copying ideas they've seen from the great directors.

In other words, you gotta earn that "Film by" credit.

But the new directors coming up are demanding the credit even on really bad movies that nobody sees until they end up on Netflix. While usually it's the gorilla on the film (most often the director) who can negotiate the credit, it's also been give to writers (Neil Simon) and producers (David O. Selznick). And who would deny Alfred Hitchcock taking the credit?

And some directors feel that giving the credit to newbies or hacks demeans the intent of the credit. Other directors feel it discredits the writer and the crew, all of whom "made" the movie.

I even had a chance to put a possessory credit on the 3 movies I directed, but two of them were direct to video and hardly the quality of an Altman film so I said no. On Ghostkeeper, a film I wrote, directed and produced through my company, I chose to use the credit as "A Badland Picture Film" as it was truly a company film.

There's an element of me that gives away credits all the time. On Cooperage, the short film I filmed and co-produced in 1976, I had to leave production for a week and let a newcomer cameraman take my place. I gave him first standing because he needed the credit while I was more established.

You know us Canadians, we just want to be liked.

So watch for those "Film by..." credits and see if that director has done anything remarkable that gives him/her the right to take credit for the entire production.


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