I: On Opening Credits

by David Cairns

In the beginning, watching our first films as children, everything is strange. A lion roars listlessly through a hole, searchlights scan some implausibly monumental lettering. The logo having done its inscrutable thing (what is a twentieth-century fox, anyway?), we are subjected to lists of personnel before the story can begin. It seems a strange way to grab your public’s attention, as if this article began not just with the name of author, but editor and typesetter and paper manufacturer and where the trees grew.

In the beginning, as the credits drip by, filmmakers have found they can serve up almost anything: an abstract film that sums up the mood of the feature to follow, a humdrum series of events establishing the main character’s routine, documentary shots of the city where the action is laid. Things that would be rejected by audiences if they happened later, when the story’s begun, are cautiously welcome at the start, with a typographical alibi.

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David Cairns is the writer/director of several films, including the award-winning short Cry for Bobo. When not making films, he sees them, thinks about them, teaches about them, and writes about them. He runs an eccentric film blog called Shadowplay, and lives in Edinburgh.

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