The Art of the Title in Philippine Television. Part 1

A brief history on the creation of title credits in Philippine Cinema and Television
A brief history on the creation of title credits in Philippine Cinema and Television

As I child I remember sitting in front of the television, waiting for my favorite T.V. show to start. As the show begins, my heart starts raising as I hear the first notes of the intro song from the Television. I see the opening credits being displayed, showing the name of the actors, the title of the episode and the name of the show. My face then breaks into a smile because I know that this would be another great weeknight because ghostbusters was on TV.

Growing up while watching these shows on TV, I noticed that opening credits, even though they do not have to do anything with the story, always sets the tone on what to expect from the upcoming episode. If the show’s genre is a comedy, the intro visuals are usually colorful, flamboyant and playful; if the show’s genre is a drama, the intro credits colors are usually monotonous and the animations are more precise and metaphorical; if the show’s genre is a Horror or Suspense Thriller, the visuals are usually ominous and foreboding; and if the genre of the show is about Action, the visuals are more masculine and usually involves slow motion explosions.

This gave me the realization that opening credits may have a more important role in storytelling besides just displaying the names of the creators of the TV shows.

As Julia May of Smashing Magazine once said. “Film titles can be great fun. In them we see the bond between the art of filmmaking and graphic design — and perhaps visual culture as a whole. They have always served a greater purpose than themselves: to move the overarching story forward.”

From this quote, I believe that good opening credits help make the whole story telling experience complete. From its visual representation, it not only aims to present the makers of the show/movie but also tries to translate the emotion of the story from the beginning thus making the narrative introduction more memorable.

History of opening titles abroad.

Early title sequences where used by Thomas Edison to mark/label the start and end of the film. Eventually these “labels” evolved with more elaborate in design and eventually was incorporated in today’s movies.

Before investigating on Film/TV Titles  created in the Philippines from ABS-CBN during 1986, I first wanted to know how it began.

At the beginning of my search, finding articles related to film titles in the past proved to be difficult because it has never been considered as a significant part of TV and filmmaking history.

Luckily, two professors from BTK (Berliner Technische Kunsthochschule) ; Christian Mahler & Daniel Wangen also shared my curiosity on this subject . To narrate the evolution of title making, they have made a short video documentary that on which described the humble beginnings of this art form. Here are some of the things they said from their documentary.

The Film before the Film by Christian Mahler & Daniel Wangen

“In 1897, Thomas Edison began using a text board to show the company name and the copyright notes. Due to the similar appearance of all film rolls, filmmakers marked the first meters of the films with their names. With the advancement of the films, opening titles soon became hand written text boards that introduced the films themselves. Sometimes they were even put into decorated frames thought they were primarily included just to insure that no contract duties were violated.”

Films before  didn’t have the capability of recording the dialogue while shooting. Most of the movies shown relied on the actor’s exaggerated actions thus coining the term “Silent Movies”. To help guide the audience on continuity from multiple scenes, title cards were used to describe what happened next.

Julia May’s article,The Art Of Film Title Design Throughout Cinema History: Titles in Silent Film, added to this incite. She wrote that “Words and lettering played an enormous role in films of the silent era…these cards

[helped]  create a narrative continuity…[to aid] audiences…follow what they were seeing”.

She also said that “[after the incorporation of dialogue and sound]…slowly, title sequences evolved to become more elaborate pieces of [the] film.

This was also true according to professors Christian Mahler & Daniel Wangen short video documentary on “The Film before the Film”

From their documentary they said that: “With the development of sound film, opening titles also changed…soon actors and auxiliaries started to make appearances in the beginning of films… the opening titles had more and more gate keeping function on films…”

“In the 1950’s, these film titles became miniature films themselves and did more than just introduce the actors and their auxiliaries.”

One of the most renowned and influential title designers in the 1950s was Saul Bass. He was one of the early artists that pushed the innovation of creating title cards. Most of his works include some of hollywood’s most prominent film directors namely: Alfred Hitchock from his movie Psycho (1960) & North by Northwest (1959); Martin Scorsese from his movie The God Father (1972), Good fellas(1990) and Casino (1995); Otto Preminger from his movie Anatomy of a Murder (1959); Billy Wilder from his movie  The Seven Year Itch (1955); and Stanley Kubrick from the movie The Shining (1980).

Other renowned designers during the 1950s included Pablo Ferro,whose movies included Psycho (worked with Pau Bass, 1960) and Dr. Strange Love (1964), and Maurice Binder (He created most of the intro titles for the James Bond Films since 1962).

As films transitioned into television in the 1950s-1960s, the same narrative formula was adopted, including the use of these more elaborate film title card designs.

Professor Christan Mahler & Daniel Wangen stated on their documentary video, “with the invention of television, more and more people stayed at home instead of the cinema. This pushed filmmakers even more to reinvent the film media.”

Television was now made available to a great number of homes in the 1960s-1970s, and the demand to entertain became mainstream.

“The advent of television was a pivotal moment for title design because it forced the major film studios to invest in making cinema more attractive in order to win back a diminishing audience”. — Julia May, The Art Of Film Title Design Throughout Cinema History.

“For many years they, Saul Bass, Pablo Ferro and Maurice Binder, set the standard in film title design; until new technical developments produced a second renaissance of opening titles.”

This second renaissance of opening titles would then move from film movies to Television shows.

Introduction of Television in the Philippines.

The television in the Philippines was first introduced in 1953. Antonio Quirino, whose family owned the Bolinao Electronics Corporation thought of importing this new technology from America. He planned to use this new technology to help in his brother’s, re-election. He saw it as their secret weapon to win.

But Antonio Quirino’s plan to get votes was ineffective due to the lack of television sets in the country at that time.Ramon Magsaysay then replaced his brother, Elpidio Quirino, and became the seventh president of the Philippines.

After failing the election, he still saw the potential of television as a tool to communicating information and entertainment to a wider public. So he continued to purse its development.

The television station was called Alto Broadcasting System. It was then managed by an American expatriate named James B. Lindenberg. The programming of the channel was mostly dominated by American canned shows such as I Love Lucy, which starred by real-life couple Desi Arnaz & Lucille Ball; Candid Camera, produced by Allen Funt; and Highway Patrol, a police adventure series starring Broderick Crawford;

In 1957, the Alto Broadcasting System sold its shares to the Chronicle Broadcasting Network of the Lopezes. Now under a new management, the network was called ABS-CBN, and it became the premiere network in the country.

In the 1960s, more stations started broadcasting. These include: Rob Stewart Republic Broadcasting System, Channel 7, which today is now GMA7; the Associated Broadcasting Corporation, Channel 5; the Manila Broadcasting Company on Channel 11; and the Inter-island Broadcasting company on Channel 13.

Although there was a spur of new competition among the industry of television in the Philippines, most of the content they air were from American canned shows.

Locally produced programs had to compete with these foreign shows. In order to do so, some copied the production styles from American canned shows which included putting opening titles in the beginning of their shows.

Most of the actors and actresses of these locally produced shows crossed over from Philippine film movies. The production style and techniques on creating these tv shows were highly influenced by how Philippine film movies were made. So that is why I also did some research regarding the Filipino artists who made opening titles in the 1940s. I believe that by looking back at some of their designs, I can find a connection on how opening titles for TV are made.

Opening film titles in the Philippines (1940-1973)

From the archives of Video 28 at Quezon City, I was able to recover three movies from LVN pictures. These are Ibong Adarna (1941), Flourante at Laura (1949) and Haring Cobra (1951). All of them were directed by Vicente Salumbid and all of their intro titles we created by Teody Carmona.

Other movies which he was also involved with were Aladin (1946), Sa Tokyo Ikinasal (1948), Mutya ng Pasig (1950) and Ang Mahiwagang Daigdig ni Pedro Penduko (1973).

According also to his mini biography profile from IMDB which was written by his son Vint Carmona:

“Teody Carmona started working for LVN Studios in 1946. His brother-in-law, Richard Abelardo[who also directed films for LVN pictures], helped him to land a job as an Art Director for LVN Studios.“

His biggest achievement was when he won Southeast Asian Film Festival Best Art Direction for Anak Dalita on June 16, 1956 followed by Famas Best Art Direction on March 30, 1957 for the same movie. In his spare time he wrote stories. One story he made (Anak Ng Berdugo) was made into a movie. In 1961, LVN Studios decided to close, and that ended his work after fifteen years as an Art Director.”

Teody Carmona might have been the closest thing we have from a Philippine’s version of Saul Bass in terms of designing opening titles. He died from a heart attack on March 1, 1993.

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