On being the last one left at the movies
by JO FRENCH
8th April 2019
Films take us places we have never been, even if it’s for just a few moments, offering us a window into the wider world, opening our eyes to new wonders.
They entertain us, they offer hope and inspire us, they challenge us and broaden our perspective.
Films take us inside the lives of people different from ourselves and take us to places different from our everyday surroundings.
Why, only recently, I was flying over rooftops in London, transported back to 1935.
I had been dropped into a world of beautiful costumes, fabulous music and dance and some clever lines delivered by handsome actors at just the right moment.
Along with the beautiful sets and a chance to revisit a classic, watching Dick Van Dyke dance up a storm again at aged 91 was sheer brilliance.
Going to the cinema, sitting in a darkened theatre, we are left alone to travel to those places, until often, all too soon, it’s over.
The transition is often abrupt as lights come on and people start to move.
They murmur and stretch and turn on their phones, they scratch around in bags looking for keys and stand up, dusting the popcorn from their laps and loudly share their opinions.
Meanwhile, the music invites us to linger on the edge of where we have been, and the long list of names and acknowledgments continues down the screen.
First, of course, are the names of the stars of the show, appearing in a fancy font, one by one, as does the director’s name and a few other special people.
Then the long list of names with job titles rolls while the music continues and the theatre empties.
But I stay seated, often to the frustration of my other half.
I am not quite ready to go back to my ordinary, I like to stay and I like to read that long list of names.
To find out where it was filmed, and how many units were set up in different locations and which townsfolk need to be thanked.
To see just how many people worked in the art department, on costume design and make-up, and how many stunt performers, camera crew and lighting technicians made the leads look so good and by the way, what even is a ‘grip’?
And then there’s the production babies.
In the credits of Toy Story, Pixar began the custom of listing the names of babies born to anyone involved in the film during production, paying homage to the length of time a crew spends together and the personal relationships established over the period of production.
What we consume in under 120 minutes takes years and a multitude of people to produce, and the credits are the signifier.
Let’s go back to Mary Poppins.
It took over 500 people to bring us that single opportunity of simple escapism.
There were the usual stars and of course a few street urchins, 26 leeries (lamplighters) and one ‘handsome man’, there were 32 in the make-up department, over 130 in the art department and I lost count on the camera and lighting crew.
And though filmmakers often add in a little reward for those that choose to watch the credits, I know that as I read those names I am, in just one small way, acknowledging the work of a large group of talented artists and craftspeople.