January signals the peak of Hollywood’s awards season.
It’s the time for recognition and credit: for the work itself, and for the talent both above and below the line making the work happen.
Of course, credit also comes from the credits themselves.
First, it’s worth being aware that some just don’t make the cut. The offshore sub-contractors cranking out edits and tweaks for the overstretched VFX studio; the substitute chef covering for the caterer when they’re out sick.
Then there are the dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of names that appear in the small print of the long end credits, deep into the movie’s closing piece of music. Many may only get their moment just before it’s made clear no animals were harmed in the making of this production – when the audience has already left the auditorium, and the streaming viewer is onto the next one.
Others may make it onto the promotional poster, or maybe even the billboard. The select member of the supporting cast, the rising associate producer.
There are the main scene players, the casting director, the music supervisor. Opening credits as the story begins.
And there are those presented right up front, before the title. Main attraction, bona fide lead. The project is the vehicle, and everyone else is the chauffeur tasked with taking the star exactly where they wanna go.
On the flip side, maybe you’re told you can’t be included: the script doctor who has to stay behind the scenes to avoid embarrassing the screenwriter, or the disgruntled lighting director who got the boot.
Last of all, you choose to opt out, disown the project. You become Alan Smithee.
The decisions and the dancing that comes from being credited aren’t just for Hollywood cast and crew.
They’re a challenge in all kinds of work – whether we’re founders, team members, solopreneurs, independent consultants or freelancers. Music, art, technology, advertising campaigns.
Credit becomes even more challenging when we are the principal: when we’re creating our own work, our own projects.
There’s a fundamental question:
How do we position ourselves in and around the work?
Is the work a vehicle for us?
Is it something for us to stand on to move ourselves ahead? Maybe it doesn’t matter if no one engages with it – we just need our face on the billboard to get us the awareness and leverage for the next one.
Or are we making it more about the project? We’re there to shepherd it through, talk about it in the marketing rounds we know we have to make. We’ll add it to our portfolio, but we’re not the face, nor should we be.
Is it about building our production company? The outfit connected to us by association, but not our personal brand.
Or is it something else?
There’s tension here.
Can the work speak for itself?
Do we need to speak for it? How do we feel about doing so?
If we speak, how do we do it best?
Where do we place ourselves in our own credits?
And is this the kind of credit we even seek?