Motion Picture Credits

Two things to say about this right off the bat are (1) if you’re not bound by any union/guild contracts, present your credits however you see fit. And (2) I’ve somewhat reverse engineered this so if someone can add clarification or note something here that isn’t accurate, please do and I’ll revise the article.

That being said, here are some general guidelines for the presentation of your movie’s credits. If you are left with any questions, pop in one of your favorite movies and analyze what they did.

OPENING CREDITS
The order of credits is often determined by guild rules — SAG-Aftra, the DGA, WGA, etc. The order in which credits are billed generally follows their importance to the film, but not linearly so. First, is usually the motion picture’s distribution company who is presenting the film, followed by the producer or production company that facilitated its making, then the ‘a film by’ credit attributed to the director. Then, we see the Title followed by the cast. From there, you could say we reverse gears on the whole “order of importance” guideline and work backwards to the director…

  • DISTRIBUTION COMPANY presents
  • a PRODUCTION COMPANY production
  • a NAME LASTNAME film
  • “TITLE”
  • Lead Cast
  • Supporting Cast
  • Casting Director
  • Music Composer
  • Costume Designer
  • Associate Producers
  • Editor(s)
  • Production Designer
  • Director of Photography
  • Executive Producer
  • Producer
  • Writer(s)
  • Director

Now, understand that guild and union rules often don’t allow for this sort of thing (and sometimes they do), but if it was a non-union production and the writer and director are the same person, or the director was also a producer, you could hold their earlier credit and pair it with the more prestigious one. So you would place “Written and Directed by” or “Produced and Directed by” or “Edited and Directed by” where the director’s credit resides.

CLOSING CREDITS
Closing credits do not have any hard and fast rules that dictate how they should be ordered. But there are conventions that have been established. If you intend to have no opening credits (something George Lucas left the DGA over) you more or less put the Director, Writer, and Producer credits first, then go down the line for the closing credits:

  • Director
  • Writer(s)
  • Producer
  • Executive Producer
  • Lead Cast
  • Supporting Cast
  • Director of Photography
  • Production Designer
  • Editor(s)
  • Associate Producers
  • Costume Designer
  • Music Composer
  • Casting Director

If however, you credited the above in the opening, your closing credits begins with…

  • Unit Production Manager
  • First Assistant Director
  • Second Assistant Director
  • Full Cast / Character List
  • Stunt Dept
  • Production Departments (Grip, Electric, Camera, Sound, Wardrobe, etc)
  • Post-Production Departments (Assistant Editors, Visual Effects, Colorist, etc)
  • Song Credits
  • Caterer
  • Title Designer
  • Special Thanks
  • Camera, Lenses and Equipment Makers
  • Location of Final Sound Mix (“Recorded at…”)
  • Copyright ©
  • Disclaimer(s)

Special consideration is given for stars and name actors. Often they are credited just before the title comes up. And again, you have a lot of wiggle room with closing credits. Sometimes a recognizable name actor has been cast in role with limited screen time and have negotiated a “with…” credit that follows the principle cast. Some films credit the entire cast first, before the director. You have options here.

THE DISCLAIMER
Here is a standard motion picture disclaimer…

“PERSON’S NAME OR PRODUCTION COMPANY” is the author of this motion picture for the purpose of copyrght and other laws.

This motion picture is protected pursuant to the provisions of the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any unauthorized duplication, distribution and/or exhibition of this motion picture may result in civil liability and criminal prosecution.

Characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

No animals were harmed in the making of this film.

PRODUCTION LOGO
If you have an Animated Production Company Logo, place that at the very beginning, before your credits. it’s the first thing we see. Some distributors/studios/production companies will tag the logo on at the very end too.

BREVITY ON SHORT FILMS
Now, it’s important to note that on a short film, many of the roles you see above were handled by a small crew wearing many hats, or sometimes even by a single person. This is just my dumb opinion, but something that really kills the momentum of a short film block at a film festival is a tedious string of credits between each 3 to 10 minute short — made even more tedious if the same names keep popping up on-screen.

The best advice I can give here is that if you and your team fulfilled many roles, go with the most prestigious credits and drop the rest. Also, incorporate your opening credits into your opening sequence so the storytelling can be on its feet at the same time. At the end, consider cards that condense credits and share screen space. On very short films, I’ve even begun using a single billing block like those that you see at the end of a trailer or on a poster.

Do what you feel you must obviously, but be mindful of the amount of screen time that your credits occupy relative to the total running time of your movie.

  • Nice post! I also believe credits can be a part of the storytelling with fonts, music, etc. Not in an overt way, but I always think about the things I’d like my audience to be sitting with after the film and tend to nudge the music and font in a way that might support that.