Maybe the Film Credits Are the Best Lesson

August 22, 2015 — Leave a comment

Twice this summer, I found myself thinking that maybe educators are not taking advantage on how we could show films  in class.

We seldom, if ever, show the film’s credits.

Perhaps the lack of attention to film credits is because there is not enough time already for what many educators might consider a passive activity of sitting and watching. I have worked for administrators who have limited or banned films entirely from curriculum because they perceived that a movie shown in class was merely a babysitting tool. In these situations, I would try to convince them that film is artful storytelling, one that engages the visual and audio learner very effectively.

Films and the Job Market

This past summer, after watching Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) and the last broadcast of The Daily Show (8/6/2015), I considered a different argument: films should be included in schools as part of career development.

Consider first this annual entertainment (film) ticket sales graphic over the past 20 years from Research and Market Reports:

Screenshot 2015-08-22 13.52.06

The explanation that followed:

The global movie and entertainment industry is expected to reach an estimated US $139 billion in 2017 with a compound annual growth rate of 4.2% over the next five years. This growth is likely to be driven by the acceleration of online and mobile distribution of movies, lower admission prices, and government policy initiatives in developing countries.

Or, read the report from The Motion Picture Industry Association on its website:

In the process of producing video content for today’s audiences, the American motion picture and TV industry contributes approximately $40 billion per year in payments to more than 330,000 local businesses across the country, according to the latest economic impact figures.

Credits for Pixar’s film Inside Out

Screenshot 2015-08-22 13.44.47Pixar’s film Inside Out was a 94 minute animation on the “headquarters” that managed the emotions of a 12 year old girl, Riley, during a particularly difficult time in her life. After the resolution, the first set of film credits (producer(s), director, actor/actress credit) ended with a montage of emotional centers running the lives of supporting characters in the film: Riley’s teacher, a pizza girl, a bus driver, a dog and (hilarious) a cat.

Then, another six full minutes of credits ran after the montage, a listing of all those who had contributed to the film. These credits scrolled listing teams of people involved in creating this animation: visual effects creators , sound designers, animators, editors, artists, etc. (an abbreviated listing is on  Internet Movie Database- IMDB page). Six minutes listing the names of people employed in a film that was very profitable:

  • Budget: $175,000,000 (estimated)
  • Opening Weekend: $90,440,272 (USA) (19 June 2015)
  • Gross: $335,390,545 (USA) (7 August 2015)
Jobs in the Film Industry

Educators are confronted with preparing students for employment in this 21st Century economy that is far more diverse domestically and internationally than any before it. The names of those who had worked on the film Inside Out  had been employed in creating a product for the Walt Disney Company, a major corporation which held assets worth a total of 74.9 billion (US dollars) in 2012.

Perhaps, instead of limiting the showing of a film and asking students about the message or information, we should slow the credits down and ask them to find out answers to some important questions:

What are the kinds of jobs we see in film credits?
How much does one of these positions get paid?
What skill sets do you (students) need to have to get each of these jobs?

There is a great amount of talk about teaching students to be collaborative, and any film can be an example of collaboration.  Unlike a poem, essay, or novel, a film has multiple authors who each bring a particular skill to its creation. The six minutes of credits illustrated how enormous this collaboration had been in Inside Out.

Giving credits-The Daily Show
Audience on the last night of "The Daily Show" as part of the final walk-through

Audience on the last night of “The Daily Show” as part of the final walk-through

I found myself thinking about showing credits again when, on the night of his last broadcast, Jon Stewart offered a backstage look at those who had worked on his show to make it successful. In one section of the show, there was an extended hand-held camera walk-through of the offices and studio taken from Stewart’s point-of-view. As the camera moved through the hallways and onto the set, Stewart rattled off the names of those who had worked in every aspect of The Daily Show‘s production: writers, designers, researchers, editors, make-up and costumers, and even his family.

The sequence took 6:46 minutes in total, culminating with the contributions of the viewers and studio audience. After the clip, Stewart repeatedly praised the members of this collaborative team as a positive experience.

Maybe that particular clip will never be shown in a classroom, but the walk-through raises questions educators should consider. What skills did these people have in order to get a job with The Daily Show? With The Daily Show as part of their resume, where will these people now find employment? How many in the television audience watched this walk-through and envied those who had a hand in creating this show?

Film and entertainment is a major industry in the US and international economy, and educators should make students aware of the possibilities. When showing a film in class, we might let the credits (slowly) and explain that these jobs could be something they would be interested in doing as a career. At the very least, teachers may have students do a little research and find out what the Gaffer does in a film.

The last part of the credits in Inside Out listed the names of the children born to the entire team during the six years of production. Following the names, there was a dedication from the entire collaborative team:

 “this film is dedicated to our kids. please don’t grow up. ever.”

But our role as educators, is different. Educators prepare them [students] to grow up….and maybe develop skills that could be featured in a scrolling film credits.

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