Mattias Frey on the history of film credits on Scala Radio

Mattias Frey, Professor of Film and Media, was interviewed by Simon Mayo last week on Scala Radio, on Classical Music for Modern Life, broadcast on 7 February 2020. The interview posed the question: why do so many people get credited on the end of films?

‘When you sit through 20 minutes of credits you should know it was not always the case. For the first 20 years of cinema there were no credits, and people didn’t know who were in these films,’ explains Mattias in the interview, ‘[A]s people became cinephiles – in the 1910s people were go to the cinema twice a week on average – they starting noticing that there were these actors and actresses who kept reappearing, so they wrote in asking “who are these people?” And that was the very beginning of credits, but really only of actors and actresses.’

Mattias goes on to pinpoint the tradition of extensive film credits originating in the 1960s and 1970s: ‘Through the then-increasingly powerful trade unions who wanted to put their works – the production guilds, such as the Writers Guild of America – on the same footing as these actors and actresses.’

You can hear the full interview here, from 1 hour, 46 minutes into the programme: