It is said that if you open up a casting agent (after they are dead, obviously) you will find the word ‘billing’ engraved on their heart. But will it be above the title? Left side, or right? Percentage of the title’s type size?
This may also apply to agents for the creative team now, too. The list of credits grows longer, and everyone gets a contractual agreement that they must have their name wherever the one above them appears.
One of the great things about working backstage is that this was not an issue. Of course, we want our names in the programme. Indeed, the current trend for production managers, stage management, re-lighters and wardrobe supervisors to be on the cast page is a reflection of their contribution to the production and is to be welcomed.
It’s sensible to press for a full list of production and backstage staff on a show’s website. It costs the producers nothing, the recognition is there and can be seen by people who are going to give us our next job
Posters are a different matter. Posters are there to sell tickets. They need to illustrate that this is a show you want to see, and tell you where and when it is on. The playwright, the star and – just possibly – the director are the only ones who will attract sales.
In this regard, many of our friends in stage management are delighted that some of their number have their names on the poster outside a West End theatre. Well, before opening, and without reviews to quote, the space has to be filled up somehow. Will the billing survive the producers’ understandable temptation to fill every inch of front of house space with the selected comments of the critics?
The fact that their heart is not in this innovation is shown by the fact that they fail to credit the stage management on the show website, although the casting director makes the cut.
A pity, too, that the two acting stage managers are ‘acting’. Surely the long battle to establish stage management as a skilled job in itself, with remuneration to match, is more important than impressing your mum with a poster credit?
Well, stage managers are more than capable of looking after themselves and good luck to them. But as the inflation of creative credits has shown, if this turns out to be more than a one-off then the rest of us will feel the need to get there, too. Production managers, wardrobe supervisors, production electricians – who would be willing to say which of these jobs was not creative? The whole point about putting a play on is that the supportive roles are more than just support. Why else do designers like to choose their production manager or wardrobe supervisor? Will a lighting designer be happy with any old production electrician or programmer?
Okay, so let’s assume that stage managers are right and we should all be on the poster. Look at what happened to television credits. Over the years more and more of those working on a programme got the right to an on-screen credit. As a result, the writing is now so small and the credits scroll so fast that rather than increasing the number of those identified, fewer than ever can be read.
Or film posters. The names are all there along the bottom, but barely legible.
Much more sensible is to press for a full list of production and backstage staff on a show’s website. It costs the producers nothing, the recognition is there and, most importantly, it can be seen by the people who are going to give us our next job.