Re: In TV and movie credits, what do "star," "co-star," "guest star," etc., mean?

What about producers, executive producers and associate producers? Are there other types of producers? What does each of them do?

Link to the column in question (from 1982):

Related column from 1981:

I don’t think anyone knows what producers do.

There are several sorts of “producer”.

A) A sort of half executive and half artist who was the top boss. This was the classic meaning of “Producer” in Hollywood, but ever since the director became the big boss in movies, these classic producers have pretty much disappeared. The title of “Executive Producer” was created in the era when they were fading away.

B) The guy in charge of keeping everything running on the production end. Often referred to nowadays as the “Line Producer”.

C) The show runner (the person in ultimate charge of all artistic choices on a TV series) is usually given the title “Producer” or “Executive Producer” nowadays. The title “show runner” is intentionally a little goofy sounding and is intentionally kept off the show credits so that the same thing doesn’t happen to “Show Runner” that happened to “Producer”, because it’s important to have one and only one show runner, so that the series doesn’t become a shambles.

D) A business guy who doesn’t pretend to know much about art, but who’s good at keeping the business end clean so that the creative people won’t be bothered is also an “Executive Producer”.

Other than that, a “producer” or “executive producer” is anyone whose agent insisted on the extra credit.

ETA: Gaah. I misunderstood the question. I see now that billing for actors was addressed in the linked column. Oh well.

If you see the credit “Starring” on a TV series, it usually refers only to the regulars (actors who appear in every or nearly episode).

Guest stars are actors who play important characters in a particular episode, usually appearing in more than one scene. Co-stars are every other speaking role, usually functionary characters with just a couple of lines who often aren’t even given names in the script, just titles like “Cop 1” or “Doctor 3.”

But there’s no clear bright line between “Guest Star” and “Co-star.” Billing for a role often depends as much on the clout of the actor and agent as on the number of lines.

Can’t it also be anyone who is putting up substantial money for the show? I guess that fits in your last category, but I wanted to cover it.

All roles, including star, co-star, also starring, and producer are part of extensive contract negotiations. There is sort of a idea what they mean, but it all comes down to ego size and placating those egos. These can be delicate negotiations. Actor “A” and Actor “B” both want to be “stars” and mentioned first, but Actor “A” hates Actor “B” and doesn’t want equal billing with Actor “B”. Sometimes the main actor is billed as the producer or director even if they didn’t really produce or direct anything.

One of the most interesting cases of this was Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space. The plot was of a typical American family lost in space fighting evil aliens.

However, the original pilot that showed the Space Family Robinsons getting lost did poorly. It was decided that the main reason was the lack of a good villain. The pilot was reshot with Jonathan Harris as the role of Dr. Zachary Smith acting as a saboteur and accidentally getting stuck on the ship. Also added to the mix was a robot. History was made.

The original idea is that Dr. Smith would get killed off once the show was up and running with actual evil aliens. However, the writers (and the public) loved Dr. Smith so much, it was decided to keep him as a comic element.

The problem was the all the billing was already negotiated – who were the stars, the co-stars, the also starrings, etc. And, most of the rest of the cast grew to hate the character of Dr. Smith. They signed on to do a serious show with a well known science fiction producer (Irwin Allen also did “The Time Tunnel” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”.). And, they did not like becoming mere straight men to the comical Dr. Smith. No way they’d allow that scene stealing Jonathan Harrison equal star billing.

Thus, for the entire shoot, Jonathan Harris was billed on the credits after everyone else as a “Special Guest Star” despite the fact he starred in practically every episode.

For those who are curious, you can see the original pilot (No Place to Hide) and the reshot pilot (The Reluctant Stowaway) on Hulu. Warning: The original pilot is quite tedious.

It’s not merely ego. What sort of billing you got on your last job can influence how much you get paid on your new job. Sometimes it can even make the difference as to whether you get the next job.

And note that being billed at the very end is better than being billed in the middle of a large cast. For example, these are the credits for the first year of Babylon 5:[ul]
[li]Starring[list][/li][li]Michael O’Hare as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair[/li][li]Claudia Christian as Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova[/li][li]Jerry Doyle as Security Chief Michael Garibaldi[/li][li]Mira Furlan as Delenn[/ul][/li][li]Also starring[ul][/li][li]Richard Biggs as Dr. Stephen Franklin[/li][li]Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters[/li][li]Stephen Furst as Vir[/li][li]Caitlin Brown as Na’Toth[/ul][/li][li]With[ul][/li][li]Andreas Katsulas as G’Kar[/ul][/li][li]And[ul][/li][li]Peter Jurasik as Londo[/ul][/li][/LIST]

“Starring” is better than “also starring”, but “with…and” is better than “also starring”, too.

A device used when there are two equal stars is to display than per bend sinister:


That way, one is on top (better than underneath), but the other is on the left (better than the right).

Another way to deal with that is to change it up. Since you already mentioned Babylon 5, Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik alternated places from season to season (i.e., in season 2, it was "with Peter Jurasik as Londo and Andreas Katsulas as G’Kar).

I remember that the original Giligan’s Island episodes, the theme song didn’t mention The Professor and Mary Anne (with the pictures and name of the actors underneath). They were simply billed “And the rest”.

I can imagine the intense behind the scene negotiations by the agents that took place to make sure that their stars were given better billing in future episodes.

Here are definitions of some of the various types of producers:

It appears to me that, although the title “associate producer” is vaguely a courtesy title, such people do have some important involvement in a movie. It just tends to be all done before the production starts. The associate producer may be the person who finds the source material and prepares it for the producer, or they may have bought the rights to that material.

Actually, according to a reunion/documentary, the agents didn’t do the negotiation–Bob Denver did. His minimally credited costars felt that they had too large a part to be ignored, and he agreed. So he used the fact that he, being the titular star, had negotiated the right to have himself credited however he wanted. So he gave the producers (or whatever those people are rightfully called) an ultimatum–either put Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells in the opening credits, or he would be credited under “and the rest.”

I guess that finally answers THAT question. Now the only question remaining is “Mary Ann or Ginger?”

Producer: Maxwell Sheffield

Associate Producer: C.C. Babcock

Watching seven seasons of The Nanny has finally paid off.

Huh, sounds like Bob Denver is a great guy to have as a friend.

Ironic that Bill Mumy wasn’t credited in Season One, even though we were just talking about Lost in Space. =)
Powers &8^]

My mistake. He goes between Furst and Brown.

I just watched the first season’s third show credits:

Staring Bill Guys…June Lockhart…
Co-starring Mark Goddard…Marta Kristen
Bill Mummy and Angela Cartwright as “Penny”
Special Guest Star Jonathan Harris

The third and final season had the same billing. They were shooting 30 of these each year. I know plenty of shows that only shoot maybe 15 episodes per season.