In one of the few non-Murdoch pieces in today’s Guardian, critic Peter Bradshaw asks, “Why are closing credits full of nicknames?”
Grips, wranglers, animators, all kinds of below-the-line employees opt for their contractual credit to include the nickname by which they’re known within the industry. Why? Mainly it’s the internet. Crew members choose to be known by unique nicknames for the same reason that new businesses hire consultants to create compound or invented words, so that they’ll stand out in database searches. It didn’t used to matter; now it does. Ask the owners of Syfy, the former Sci-Fi Channel.
Few of us may hang around to watch an entire credit roll but it’s the only permanent embedded proof of each project’s workforce, and often the only way to verify a technician’s CV. Production companies fold, studios clear out paperwork, negatives are lost, but as long as one complete print exists then prospective employers – and, later, historians – have a reliable record.
But Bradshaw concludes,
Real stars don’t get nicknames. The nickname is for the little people: it’s a nice thank you to the legions of supporting players and humble crew members essential to movie-making. It’s well intentioned, of course, but if an American actor or second grip asked me for some career advice, I’d say lose the nickname. Do you want to get to the top or not?
Peter, I know your tongue is probably in your cheek at this point (or I hope it is) but I doubt those ‘little people’ will be beating a path to your door to pick up career wisdom.
A credit isn’t a ‘thank you’, it’s a contractual right. Unless it’s a ‘thanks to’, in which case it’s a usually substitute for money. If you’re ever on a set visit, and you find yourself at the craft services table alongside any of those hardworking little people… it might be handy to get a nickname or a middle initial so you can blame all this on some other Bradshaw.
Meanwhile, those ‘real stars’ don’t have any need to distinguish themselves. Never wondered why Equity doesn’t allow any two actors to register with exactly the same name?