How do you decide film credits order? Do you always have to put the director first? Do you list in order of celebrity? Pull names from a hat?
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.
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.
StudioBinder helps you drag contacts into custom lists
This is super helpful for a lot of different reasons, so don't limit yourself.
FILM CREDITS 2.0
Opening movie credits order
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 film
The credit roll order typically starts with the major companies involved.
Then go to the “top billing,” those you are contractually obligated to credit before anyone else (usually the stars).
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:
Back to The Future - Opening title sequence
COMMON OPENING FILM CREDITS ORDER
The most common movie opening credits order is:
PRODUCTION COMPANY presents (distributor)
a PRODUCTION COMPANY production (producer)
a FILMMAKER film
Director of Photography
FILM CREDITS 3.0
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).
The end credits crawl typically begins where the individual end credit title cards leave off. Often, the first credits that appear in the crawl are production department personnel, such as the Unit Production Manager.
The entire cast is often listed next.
Then, departments, such as Camera, G&E, Hair/Makeup, Wardrobe, Art Department, etc. Departmental lists begin with the department head, followed by the rest of the department, with departmental assistants listed last.
After production departments come post production departments and personnel:
To break down the exact closing film credits order that you should follow, look below:
Unit Production Manager
First Assistant Director
Second Assistant Director
Full Cast/Character List (including lead and supporting cast that have already been credited separately)
Production Departments (often listed as “Crew”)
Guild logos (SAG, DGA, PGA, etc.)
Camera, Lenses and Equipment Makers (RED, Adobe, etc.)
Shooting Locations (sometimes required by filming permit)
Location of Final Sound Mix (“Recorded at…”)
FILM CREDITS 6.0
When do I use logos in the 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:
Our free film credits worksheet template makes structuring film credits easy.
Click to download our free feature and short film credits template / worksheet.
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After learning about proper film credit ordering and hierarchy, it's time to apply this to your own video! Download our FREE, worksheet to track all of the opening and closing film credits you should include in your video project. Just enter your email below and we'll instantly send you a copy!
FILM CREDITS 8.0
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. Your job will be easier if you keep track of credits data early in production, especially when you are organizing your contact lists or generate your call sheets.
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 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.