I was watching an old film over the weekend, Captain Horatio Hornblower, (imdb link) and at the start of the film with the credits rolling and the images of a beautiful 1800 warship being shown I noticed something strange.
The main credits were of the Main Actor, Gregory Peck, and the stunning Virginia Mayo in massive letters, then followed a couple of names followed by 1 sound person and then the composer and finally the director, Raoul Walsh.What, I thought, no mention of the producers and executive producers. At the end of the film the producers were mentioned but not in glittering lights or anything, just as people working on the films.
Well then, what has changed the industry to having the producers at the top of the billing (example here) as we currently seem to indulge in, is the work of a producer far far more important to our enjoyment of a film than the director? (another example here)
Hang on a minute, why do we feel that the people in charge of the money have anything to do with the quality of the product? Next time you go to the cinema I bet you won’t see the directors name until the assistant non-executive director’s dog has been accredited with the making of the film.
We are bombarded with adverts “from the producers of xyz film“, but not the director? But the director surely is in charge of the artistic vision of the film, that’s their job.
Happily this is not the same in theatre-land – we value the work of the director as being the major contributor to the success of the show, not the producer.
Although the producer does a very important job, well they pay my wages and give me a production budget to spend, amongst other things, but they don’t have an artistic input in the rehearsal room.
I can’t imagine what artistic input a producer could have on a theatre show … hmm maybe they decide on the actors expressions, no that’s the director’s job, hmm maybe they decide the lighting of a scene, no that’s the director’s job, hmm maybe they decide on the make-up design of the baddie, no wait that’s the director’s responsibility.
It’s like your wallet deciding what you want for lunch, and not your brain. Yes, you may get a lunch that is cheap and filling but your wallet will never let you eat anywhere nice. And you then don’t go bragging to your friends that you took your hot date to a cheap lunch at a greasy-joe cafe do you, you tell them about the amazing restaurant that your brain chose instead. Unless you are a scaffolder where there is street cred in eating like an animal.
Whilst at the RSC two people came up to me and personally thanked me for helping for all my hard work making their show special (I highlight the word ‘their’). When they left I had to ask who they were and was told they were the producers! I had never seen them before, they were never in rehearsals but they got a billing higher than me!
However, money does make the film, without the money a top notch director would not be employed, the amazing actor with the whitest of teeth, while playing someone in a post nuclear age, wouldn’t work. Speaking of which, did you notice how all the actors in Les Mis the panto film had perfect teeth and nails, odd for a country that even now doesn’t use soap or has heard of fluoride?
So perhaps we need these producers so much that we allow them to bombard us with their ego film credits, there have been a few films I have been to that probably were made by the producer and not a director, they were that bad. Perhaps they feel if they over-hype an actor then that actor would demand more money or move to a different studio taking the film’s reputation with them.
I am not sure whether this is a good thing for theatre, it sure is a bad thing for film.
At Spotlites though we are a bit special, our director is also our producer, which means we get the best of both worlds and our shows are never compromised by decisions from one camp. Also our producer buys us pizza if we work hard!