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Organizing Your Opening Film Credits

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/1/2011

Opening credits for feature films often go in a traditional format, which follows a specific order.

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    A Real Movie

    One thing that you may have identified in professional looking films growing up is that they have a very standardized way of showing credits. The white letters scrolling on a black background has become synonymous for the opening and closing of feature films, especially on the silver screen. Today many opening credits take a more creative approach, employing computer graphics and visual elements that reflect the aesthetic and expository styles of the film. Either way, the order of credits has stayed the same for most of this history.

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    Opening

    In a traditional sense the order of the opening credits starts with the distribution company or main studio backer. Since this will most likely be an independent distributor that did not finance your film it will appear on its own. It usually is listed as “Distribution Company Presents," followed by the name of the production company. The production company will most likely be established by you, and can range from being just a name you apply to yourself to a full fledged production house. This will then appear as “A Production Company Name Production." The director’s credit tends to come right after this, labeling it “A Director’s Name Film."

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    Cast and Title

    After this we get the primary, or most prominent, cast members. If you have large celebrity names, this is where they would go. Either way, you should list all the main actors, but try to keep it to less than five. Finally, you reach the title of your film. It is often appropriate to show the title in a different font or format than the rest of the credits, maybe even having it appear out of the time sync that the rest did.

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    Cast Continued

    After this you give the rest of the primary cast, essentially everybody that has a serious part in the script but is not the main focus of the plot. If you have a well known actor in a smaller, but showcased, role then you may want to finish off the primary cast list by listing their name and the name of the character they play. This may appear as, “And John Doe as Character X."

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    All Other Above The Line Positions

    After this you should make sure to list the director of photography, who did the primary score, and who the casting directors were. Follow this by listing all of the producers, both regular and executive, as well as the production designer. Finally you will come to the editor, which brings to an end that list of normal primary positions. Now you have a semi-recap, by listing any primary source the film concept was taken from, as well as who wrote the screenplay. This is a very important credit, but it always comes close to the end. You finish all of the opening credits by listing the director again, but listing them as such instead of just a “film by" credit.

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    Leap of Faith

    This may be a small thing for some, but it is a common expectation that film going audiences have. Often times if they see traditional credits they will automatically assume a level of professionalism in your film and forgive some of its “do it yourself" elements.