Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Tip #84: Opening and closing credits

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

Up until the 1970s most films would begin with the full cast and crew credits list. Now, the full list almost always run as a long scroll at the end of the film. These opening or closing credits should not be underestimated -not only are they an informative and in many cases a contractual requirement, but they can also be an opportunity for creativity.

1. Opening credits/title sequences
Some films such as James Bond and the Pink Panther series have utilised the opening credits as an opportunity for artistic "title sequences", something which has become almost a staple of television openers. But most films have now reduced the number of opening credits down to the bare minimum, often superimposing the text upon the film's opening scenes. The 1993 film The Fugitive has credits appearing fifteen minutes into the film! This is not a necessity however. Some other films such as The Godfather, and the recent Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) have no opening credits at all, except for the film's title. Apparently, Clint Eastwood has not used any opening credits other than the film's title for every film he has directed since 1982.

For some ideas on how to come up with some interesting and artistic opening title sequences, check these wonderful websites out:


Above: The opening credits to Forrest Gump,
an example of credits overlaying the action.

Above: The opening credits to Catch Me If You Can,
an example of a creative title sequence.

2. End credit crawl/roll
The longest end credits at the time of writing is in the film Aliens Vs Predator (2004) which run at 12 minutes long, followed by Lord of the Rings: Return of the King at 9.5 minutes. This is of course the time to credit everyone who appears, or was involved in the making of the film. It does not necessarily mean everyone seen in a film must be credited - normally only speaking roles are given credit, but this can depend on the individual contract.

This is also an opportunity for some fun, whether it be to have a great selection of music, a suite from the orchestral score, or to screen bloopers, or post-credit scenes. For example, Super8 (2011), has a film within the film playing during the credits. For more examples check the "Crazy Credits" section on most IMDB film listings or http://aftercredits.com/.

3. Standards -formats etc
In the US, credits are often dictated by the relevant guilds. For example, The Writers Guild of America allows only three writing credits on a feature film, while The Directors Guild of America permits a film to list only one director, leading to some occasional issues, such as when George Lucas resigned from the Directors Guild of America after being fined $250,000 for not crediting the director during the opening title sequence of his film Star Wars!

The BBC also has some credit guidelines for television broadcast, which you can check here.

4. Some tips
  • It is good to start collating credit information from beginning -as the number of thank yous you might accidentally forget is surprising.
  • An official credit list can be used in the press kit and IMDB listing
  • Check for errors -make sure you get the spelling of people's names correct, and check contracts as some actors insist on their name being represented in a certain way.
  • Make sure the font is large enough to read and is not too fast, and is also in keeping with the genre and production design.
You can view the credit list for Ambleton Delight in our press kit, found here.

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