In some cases, it makes sense. With the number of people that have some hand in any given feature, it's just not possible to follow, recognize, or note every name. But we take it so much farther than that -- most specifically and notoriously with writers. They might come up with the story, craft the words that will either make a film soar or sink, but their importance is minimized -- not just in the industry, but also in the public-at-large. We demand good cinema and entertainment, but do we do anything to insure it? Do we as fans do anything to help or support the writerly source?
I'm guilty of it myself, most notably this year where Up in the Air is concerned. Did you know that the WGA ruled that Jason Reitman isn't the sole writer of the film? Did you ever think or wonder why the name Sheldon Turner is included when Erik Childress mentions the film in his awards coverage?
Let's back up. If you followed early press for the film, you might have read interviews like this one between NPR and Reitman. It talks about how he developed the story over six years, created two new characters, and includes quotes like: "When I started writing this screenplay, we were in the midst of an economic boom, and by the time I was finished we were in one of the worst recessions on record." There was no reason to believe there was information missing.
But as the LA Times pointed out last week, that's not the whole story. Walter Kirn's novel was in development for years, first as an indie and then settled in at Fox, and "Sheldon Turner wrote an entire draft before Reitman put pen to paper." That NPR interview stated that he created the additions to the story, but Anna Kendrick's character was dreamed up by Turner (as a man, before another writer -- not Reitman -- changed him to a woman), the lay-off/suicide came from Turner, and the writer was responsible for the line about founding an empire.
Reitman fought that it was his and he shouldn't have to share credit, but the Writers Guild ruled that Turner should receive a credit. And he's got one ... not that it let him speak at the Critics Choice awards, or get recognition beyond the listing of his name, which as I said -- most of us don't pay attention to or wonder about.
Sadly, it's not even just Up in the Air. As the Times piece points out, there are similar issues with Nine and Avatar. It's no one baddie in the business, it's just part of this overarching attitude and habit. We don't challenge it, and we don't seem to really care, but maybe we should. If we can't support the writers who come up with the original and engaging fare, how can we expect or demand it?