Screen Credit for Musicians

Screen Credit for Musicians

Take a look at the opening titles and end credits of the great film, Chinatown.

You’ll hear a sad, haunting trumpet solo that sets the tone for the entire movie. You’ll see that the music was written by film composer Jerry Goldsmith. You’ll read through dozens of credits. But nowhere will you find the name of the trumpet player, Hollywood music studio great Uan Rasey.

Why? Because musicians—unlike actors, technicians, and nearly everyone else who works on movies—do not receive screen credit.

In the years since Chinatown, screen credits have grown exponentially and now include everyone from the star’s hair stylist to the director’s masseuse. But still the musicians, who create the canvas on which others paint, remain nameless.

Notable exceptions are Spike Lee films, whose credits list every musician on the session, and movies produced by Pixar.

It turns out that screen credits are largely determined by the union contracts. Over the years, in difficult negotiations, the AFM (American Federation of Musicians) has traded screen credits for better pay and working conditions.

This seems reasonable, until you realize that somehow other unions have won concessions without giving up credits.

Ultimately, of course, it shouldn’t be a matter of union contracts. It’s a matter of fairness.

As Spike Lee might say, do the right thing.