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Everything You Need to Know About Movie Credits

A large community of specialists makes up the film industry. It takes more people to create a movie than the names you might see printed on a movie poster. Movie credits, whether at the start of a film or the end, are there to recognize those artists’ hard work. So, if you are working on your own film project or in the waking moments of becoming a cinephile, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. Perhaps in your next film, you might find yourself giving Peerspace a shout-out in your end credits. After all, Peerspace does the hard work of showcasing the best locations and shooting spaces in your city to give you and your crew the utmost creative potential.

The evolution of movie credits

Surprisingly, movie credits have not been around as long as movies themselves. In the early 1900s, when movies were only a nickel, films would only have the title tacked onto the beginning. But as people became frequent theater-goers, they began to recognize certain actors and turned into fans of their work. A short list of the actors’ names appeared at the start of the movie, becoming what we know now as the opening credits.

In the 1970s, end credits became normalized. This was due to actors becoming solidified as movie stars and because of the newly established auteur theory — the belief that film directors are the creative voices behind a film. In addition, end credits became the norm when the medium switched over to a digital format. Back when movies were exclusively shot on celluloid, it was expensive to dole out more money to a list of names that people might not stick around for. Now, with the advent of digital, the expense is less of an issue, and credits now even reach lengths of 10 minutes.

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Why are movie credits important?

End credits give acknowledgement of the work done behind the camera. It isn’t only about ego as one might think; it’s about recognition for the work that is put in. Because viewers could now identify their favorite actors and filmmakers, these filmmakers — both big and lesser-known names — became more popular and were hired by more producers based on popularity.

For example, an art director credited on a film might have more of a chance to get hired on another project by their peers than an art director who wasn’t given credit, as the credit legitimizes their time on the project. Unfortunately, even with credits that stretch out to a striking 15 minutes in length, filmmakers might still leave hundreds of names out of the end scroll.

How is credit given?

The responsibility of giving credit falls onto the producer and the studio the film is under; the producer’s focus is to credit the most involved players. This can mean the time devoted, as well as the amount of work and money invested, or even how well the producer knows an individual. However, rules are already implemented by film unions, such as the Writers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, or the Directors Guild of America.

Therefore, producers tend to follow their guidelines. In addition, actors’ contracts might include instructions on how they wish to get credit. Disputes are often over getting credit, and for good reason — many people working within the film industry will have an “Uncredited” role listed on their IMDB page in recognition.

What do opening credits include?

Most of the credits are now given at the end of a film. Yet, many films still use the opening credits.

Company logos

A movie opens with the studio or distribution company logos, usually before revealing any image from the film. The distribution company is in charge of financing and getting an audience to watch it in theaters or on streaming services. That’s followed up by the production company logo. The production company controls the creation process of the film.

Some other finance companies or production company logos might also follow. These companies are also credited in type, once the movie opens to the first scene. In which case, additional production companies have “associated with” before their names.

Recognizable names

Depending on the acclaim of the film director, such as Christopher Nolan, the credit right after might be “A Christopher Nolan film.” Otherwise, the opening credits will hop right on to showcasing the names of the top billed cast, which often includes one to three of the main leads. “Top bill” cast comes from names listed above the title in reference to a movie poster.

Supporting cast member names

After displaying the title, whether on top of a movie image or a cutaway into a title screen of its own, the credits continue on to the supporting cast members. This includes any character significant to the plot of the film.

Crew member names

Next are the crew credits, and the order varies depending on how much this movie relied on costumes, makeup, or visual effects. However, the constants in general include the casting director, music composer, production designer, art director, set designer, costume designer, hair and make-up artists, visual effects supervisor, editor, director of photography, executive producer, producer, and writer.

To end the credits, the director’s name is shown once more as dictated by the Directors Guild of America. It’s as if to remind the audience who the author of the movie is.

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What do end credits include?

On the flip side, the end credits begin with the director’s name, a perfect bookend. The writer’s credit follows after. If the director and writer happen to be the same person, then often they will group the credit together with “Written and Directed By” to avoid redundancy.

Listed next, as the second-in-command to the director, is the producer and the executive producers. These credits are often seen isolated on the screen, flashing one after the other. They stand alone from the scrolling credits more traditionally associated with the end.

The acting credits are either individually seen or part of the scroll. The displayed order for actors’ names can vary by appearance and popularity, or be listed in alphabetical order. The cast is always named first before the crew. Within the crew, the heads of department are usually named before the list of names that follow.

The end credits can also include production sponsors, music used, legal disclaimers, and special thanks. Sometimes the filmmakers have fun with the credits and add cool animations, bloopers, catchy music, or the popularized end-credit scenes.

Stay through the credits

In this modern age, with access to films at our fingertips, the most general movie lover can name at least one actor they like, maybe even a director or writer. Next time you are watching a movie and notice some aspect of the film that was well-crafted, stick around to read who was responsible for making it happen.

With the help of movie credits, you can trace a filmmaker’s career back as far as you’re willing to explore. Who knows, you might even discover your next favorite film.

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