How ‘Better Call Saul’ Created ‘Messed up’ Opening Titles
As Better Call Saul comes to an end, some fans still have questions about the very beginning. Namely, the opening titles that precede every episode. The twangs of the theme song accompany images of a pay phone and the Statue of Liberty, in low grade video as this was still the VHS era.
Assistant Editor Curtis Thurber was on Better Call Saul when they devised the opening title sequence. He appeared on the July 5 episode of the Better Call Saul Insider podcast to discuss the topic with Chris McCaleb. Better Call Saul Season 6 airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. on AMC.
The ‘Better Call Saul’ opening titles began with ‘Breaking Bad’
Since Better Call Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad, the creators wanted to draw on some familiar imagery. It’s the story of how Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) became Saul Goodman, but they began with images fans might associate with Saul.
“My recollection is that the imagery was all discussed in the room and it was sort of a brainstorming approach in terms of figuring out what the most iconic Saul Goodman imagery was or could be,” Thurber said on Better Call Saul Insider. “Things that would immediately take you back to that character from Breaking Bad.”
‘Better Call Saul’ co-creator Vince Gilligan encouraged them to ‘f*** it up.’
The Better Call Saul opening titles are a bit unsettling, and that’s on purpose. It makes a lot more sense once you start watching the shady mechanics that led Jimmy astray. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan wanted that for Better Call Saul.
“The directive was kind of a nebulous idea,” McCaleb said. “I remember you really zeroing in on that sort of f***ed up staccato weird quality and then Vince especially seeing that and going, ‘Go further. Make it more messed up. Speed the footage up. Spin it around and f***it up.’”
They used outdated technology
Better Call Saul took place in 2002 at the beginning. There were already advanced digital video effects in 2002, but Jimmy McGill would be a little further behind the curve.
“That was the fun part was we knew Saul as a character from Breaking Bad and pulling at those threads by itself was fun,” Thurber said. “Obviously we had some sort of inspiration in terms of his videos, the Saul videos that were made for Breaking Bad were always very much in that same style where they were low fi, low production value. So that was a starting off point.”
Better Call Saul used AVID video effects, which is at best the top of the line software that Jimmy could’ve used.
“There are a number of effects that we had access to just in the AVID,” Thurber said. “Normally for a main title, you’d go to a lot more advanced graphics software. But the idea all along was why would we do that when Saul wouldn’t have that ability? We kind of kept everything in house partly for that reason. So it was just throwing the kitchen sink at it. Really? You want to push it this far? It’s this awesome memorable thing that came out of that.”