Where Credit is Due. Film Credits Order Hierarchy (with Free Film Credits Template)

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

Congratulations! You’ve survived pre-production, production and most of post-production on your film. You’ve worked with dozens, maybe hundreds (or thousands) of people along the way. Now it’s time to give them the billing they deserve in your film’s end credits. In this post we’re going to review standard film credits order hierarchies, and share our “Feature and Short Film Credits Template” to get the job done even faster.

How do you decide film credits order? Download this Template

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, you can download our free film credits worksheet template to help you structure film credits like a breeze.

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:

And here’s the opening credits from Forrest Grump:

Credit roll order for people with multiple 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 credits 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.

For example, notice how the Supervising Animators are featured in the opening credits for The Incredibles:

Common opening film credits order:

  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

End Credits Order: The Wild West of Motion Picture Billing

Let’s face it, most people don’t bother to sit through the end credits past the first few names, so 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

Here is an example of the closing crawl sequence from Drive:

A note about using 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. If they are not required it’s possible that you’re actually not allowed to include the logos in your end credits.

Here is an example from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa:

Credit roll order is an art…

…And the best way to learn art is to copy the work of other artists!

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, and look at its end credits as a guide.

Just make sure to find a film that matches your genre. If your film is a sci-fi horror flick, don’t look at the film credits order of a rom-com (they probably won’t give as much priority to their makeup and effects people as you would want to).

That should do it. We know every case is slightly unique. 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 here.

Download Free Film Credits Order Template and Worksheet

Wrapping Up

We hope these tips were helpful. We so often focus on the actual call sheet creation process, that it is easy to forget about all the logistics that go into the distribution process.

Did we miss anything?  Have any other tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.

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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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