The Ultimate Guide to Film Credits Order Hierarchy (with Free Film Credits Template)

Film Credits Order Hierarchies - with Free Film Credits Template - StudioBinder

How do you decide film credits order? Do you always have to put the director first? Do you list in order of celebrity? Do you pull names out of a hat?

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This is a common and complicated question because, frankly, there’s no real answer. There are industry “traditions” about credit roll order, but they’re fluid. There are occasional union and guild requirements on billing as well.

Luckily, we’re breaking down the standard film credits order hierarchies, some helpful tricks, and our “Feature and Short Film Credits Template” to get the job done even faster.

Bucket your film credits early

Knowing how to do film credits is a lot like owning a file cabinet. You can have all the information, but unless you carefully organize it, you won’t be able to pull names when you order your movie credits.

Whether you’re using a film credits template or sticky notes, bucket your contacts into lists that you access at a glance. “Above The Line,” “Talent,” “Executive Producers,” whichever labels you prefer, make sure your extensive list of names are organized.

Make sure you spell your contacts right the first time. As you lay out movie credits, this mistake can take hours to fix. Unless you’re using StudioBinder, which automatically applies contact changes across your call sheets, schedules, and reports.

The Ultimate Guide to Film Credits Order Hierarchy (with Free Film Credits Template) - Custom Film Crew List.

StudioBinder lets you drag contacts into custom lists

Opening movie credits order: The easy part

Typical opening credits are fairly straightforward, especially if your film is signatory to guilds and unions that specify billing order.

The fundamental structure of opening credits in a film

  1. The credit roll order typically starts with the major companies involved.
  2. Then go to the “top billing,” those you are contractually obligated to credit before anyone else (usually the stars).
  3. After that, the opening credits proceed through a list of the most important contributors to the film, starting from the least important, ending with the most important.

For example, here are the opening credits from Back To The Future:

Common opening film credits order

While every production differs, the most common movie opening credits order is:

  1. PRODUCTION COMPANY presents (distributor)
  2. a PRODUCTION COMPANY production (producer)
  3. a FILMMAKER film
  4. Film Title
  5. Lead Cast
  6. Supporting Cast
  7. Casting Director
  8. Music Composer
  9. Costume Designer
  10. Associate Producers
  11. Editors
  12. Production Designer
  13. Director of Photography
  14. Executive Producer
  15. Producer
  16. Writers
  17. Director

Credit roll order for people with multiplte positions

If you have an above-the-line individual on your team who performed multiple roles (such as a writer/director), don’t list the person twice. Merge the credits into one, and place by the credit roll order of the more “important” position.

For example, a writer/director would be credited as such in the “Director” slot of the opening credits lineup (i.e. scrub to 2:48 in A Scanner Darkly video below).

Genre affects the film order

It can be a challenge to determine “importance” in opening film credits order. In some cases, a particular credit might be considered more important because of the type of film. For example, a choreographer might get an opening credit in a dance film with lots of musical numbers, or a supervising animator in an animated film.

End credits order: The Wild West of motion pictures billing

Let’s face it. Most people don’t bother to sit through the end credits past the first few names.

You could almost do anything here and get away with it…

But the purpose of film credits is not to entertain an audience. It’s to publicly acknowledge the people who contributed to your cinematic work. While there is technically not a “wrong way,” certain traditions have evolved around the closing credits order in which this gratitude is expressed.

Closing credits order: Above-the-line (ATL)

End credits start with above-the-line (ATL) individuals first, and are often presented as standalone cards. Here’s a common ending credits order for above-the-line:

  1. Director
  2. Writers
  3. Producer
  4. Executive Producer
  5. Lead Cast
  6. Supporting Cast
  7. Director of Photography
  8. Production Designer
  9. Editor
  10. Associate Producers
  11. Costume Designer
  12. Music Composer
  13. Casting Director

As an example, check out the ending credits for Star Trek Into Darkness. Note: Though it is becoming more common to see some of these credits repeated in both the opening and closing of a film, it’s not necessary (unless required by contract).

Closing credits order: Below-the-line (BTL)

Today, the end credits crawl typically begins with the Unit Production Manager:

  • Unit Production Manager
  • First Assistant Director
  • Second Assistant Director
  • Full Cast/Character List (including lead and supporting cast that have already been credited separately)
  • Stunt Department
  • Production Departments (often listed as “Crew”)
    • Production Personnel
      • Production Supervisor
      • Production Coordinator
    • Art Department
    • Camera
    • Grip
    • Electric
    • Sound
    • Wardrobe
    • Hair/Makeup
    • Set Operations
    • Transportation
    • Special Effects
    • Etc.
  • Post-Production Departments
    • Editorial
    • Visual Effects
    • Colorist
    • Etc.
  • Song Credits
  • Caterer
  • Title Design
  • Special Thanks
  • Logos
    • Guild logos (SAG, DGA, PGA, etc.)
    • Camera, Lenses and Equipment Makers (RED, Adobe, etc.)
  • Locations
    • Shooting Locations (sometimes required by filming permit)
    • Location of Final Sound Mix (“Recorded at…”)
  • Copyright
  • Disclaimer

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When do I use logos in the closing credits?

Sometimes companies or guilds require that you show their logo in the end credits where their equipment or members were used.

Remember to check if these are required by your contracts, and note them in your film crew database. If they are not required it’s possible that you’re actually not allowed to include the logos in your end credits.

Take a look at this example from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa:

How do you decide film credits order? Grab the template

Our free film credits worksheet template makes structuring film credits like a breeze. Click to download our free feature and short film credits template / worksheet. Just save a copy!

Credit roll order is an art...

And like all art, it doesn’t hurt to copy from the best!

If this credits guide hasn’t answered all your questions, I encourage you to try something that I do with most of my indie film credits ordering. Find a recent and similar film of the same genre, and look at its end credits as a guide. Art of the Title is a great resource to study great title sequence designs that spans television and films.

Getting your film credits in order takes an eye for detail and a brain for organization. If you’re knocking out your movie credits correctly, you can generate your call sheets at the same time.

What other practices do you follow when structuring your movie’s credits order?

Share your thoughts with us below, and don’t forget to download our free feature/short film credits template / worksheet.

 

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Arnon Shorr
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Arnon Shorr

Filmmaker, New & Traditional Media at OxRock Productions, LLC
Arnon Z. Shorr was born in Haifa, Israel, and grew up outside of Boston, where he developed a passion for filmmaking. Over the years, through stints in Boston, Baltimore and Los Angeles, Arnon directed and produced over 100 shorts, web series episodes, corporate videos and indie features. His shorts have appeared in festivals from coast to coast, and have literally crossed the country as in-flight entertainment. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
Arnon Shorr
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