Billing (filmmaking)

Billing is a performing arts term used in referring to the order and other aspects of how credits are presented for plays, films, television, or other creative works. Information given in billing usually consists of actors , directors , producers , and other crew members.



From The Beginning of motion pictures in the 1900s to the early 1920s, the moguls That owned or managed big movie studios Did not want to bill the actors Appearing In Their movies Because They Did not want to recreate the star system That Was prevail on Broadway at that time. citation needed ] They also feared that they were billed on film, they would be more popular and would seek wide salaries. Actors themselves did not want to reveal their filmmaking experience. citation needed ] As late as the 1910s, stars as famous as Mary Pickford andCharlie Chaplin were not known by name to moviegoers. According to Mary Pickford’s biography Doug and Mary , [1] was referred to by the public as “the biographer girl” in all of her films before 1905.

Before Mary Pickford , the public used to call Florence Lawrence the ” Biograph girl “. In 1910 Lawrence was lured away from Biograph by Carl Laemmle when he started the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP). Laemmle Wanted to be his star attraction, so he offered more money ($ 250 per week) and branded billing, something Biograph did not allow. She signed on; with the release of her first film IMP, The Broken Oath , she became the first film star to receive billing on the credits of her film. quote needed ]From then on, actors received billing on film. Also originating during that time was the system of billing above and below the title, to delineate the status of the players. Big stars such as Pickford, Fairbanks, and Chaplin were billed above the title, while lesser stars and supporting players were billed below the title.

During the era of the studio system , on-screen billing was presented at the beginning of a film; Only a restatement of the cast and possibly additional players appeared at the end, because the studios had actors under contract and could decide billing. The studios still followed the billing system of the silent era.

After the studio system collapsed in the 1950s, actors and their agents fought for billing on a film-by-film basis. This, combined with changes in union contracts and copyright laws, is greatly increased. As a result, since the late 1960s, citation needed ] a significant amount of the billing is reserved for the closing credits of the film, which includes a recap of the billing shown at the beginning. In addition, more stars began to demand top billing.

Billing demands even extended to publicity materials, down to the height of the letters and the position of names.

By the 1990s, some movies had moved to the movie’s end, with the exception of company logos and the title. Although popularized by the Star Wars series (see below) and used sporadically in such films as The Godfather and Ghostbusters , this “title-only” billing became an established form for summer blockbusters in 1989, with Ghostbusters II , Lethal Weapon 2 , and The Abyss following the practice. [2] Occasionally, the title is left to the end, such as in Avatar , The Passion of the Christ , Inception , and the “Dark Knight” trilogy .

Billing order

See also: Opening credits Common opening credits order

The order in which their importance is signified. While there are numerous variations, most opening credits use some variation of the following basic order. [3] In the absence of opening credits, these roles will often be credited in reverse order at the beginning of the closing credits .

  • Name of the movie studio (s)
  • Production company (ies)
  • Possessory credits
  • Above-title billed actor (s)
  • Movie title
  • Main cast
  • Last billed actor (s)
  • Casting director (s)
  • Composer (s)
  • Visual effects supervisor (s)
  • Designer Costume (s)
  • Film editor (s)
  • Production designer (s)
  • Director (s) of Photography
  • Producer (s) and / or Executive Producer (s)
  • Screenwriter (s)
  • Director (s)

Studio vs. production company

The name of the studio is usually given to the film. However, a studio may not necessarily be the party that produced it. Instead, a separate production company may have actually made the film or financed a substantial part of the film.

Possessory credits

Main article: Possessory credit

Depending on their standing, the director may be granted an extra, prominent credit before the film’s title (as in “A Ridley Scott Film”); Practice this Began with directors Such As Otto Preminger , David Lean and John Frankenheimer in the mid-1960s. Sometimes the producer or writer may also have a credit. Up until the establishment of the director’s possessive credit, in the early 1970s, some directors were so highly regarded that they were likely to be a producer of credit, even if they did not produce the film. Victor Fleming was one such director: his films usually featured the credit “A Victor Fleming Production”, even when someone else produced the film.was similarly credited. [4]

Director Kevin Smith refuses to use a credit, “To Kevin Smith Film”, feeling that a movie is made by everyone involved, and not the product of just the director. [5]

Top and above-title billing

The actors whose names appear above are said to have “top billing”. They usually play the main characters in the movie and have the most screen time. Frequently, top-billed actors are also named in such material as trailers , posters , billboards and TV spots .

The two or three top-billed actors in a movie will usually be announced before the movie; this is referred to as “above-title billing”. For an actor to receive it, he / she will be well-established, with box office drawing power. Those introduced afterward are considered to be the supporting cast. Well-known actors May be Given top billing for publicity or contractual Purposes if juvenile, lesser-known, or first-time performers APPEAR in a larger role: eg, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman Were Both credited before the title in Superman (1978) , while Christopher Reeve , the then-unknown actor who played the titular character , was not. Similarly inApocalypse Now , Brando was billed first though he only appeared at the end of the film’s chief antagonist, while Robert Duvall was billed second in his favor, and Martin Sheen who portrayed the main character was billed third.

It used to be a common practice to give top billing based on a person’s level of fame, regardless of the significance of their role in the film. For example, Marlon Brando received the best billing in The Godfather (but he had less than-screen time than Al Pacino’s character; in a Leading Role), Apocalypse Now (see above), and Superman (where Brando only appears in the introduction). Maximilian Schell was billed fifth in Judgment at Nuremberg after Spencer Tracy , Burt Lancaster ,Richard Widmark , and Marlene Dietrich , yet Schell went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In recent decades, however, the practice of giving top billing has been largely discontinued especially if they only play a bit part ; Some major actors May-have a cameo Where They are only Noted dans le other cast During the end credits.

If an unfamiliar actor has the lead role, he may be listed in the list of leading proponents, his name prefixed with “and introducing” (as Peter O’Toole was in Lawrence of Arabia ) However “and introducing” is now mostly used in feature films by a young actor (usually a child) Sometimes, he can not receive a special billing event if his role is crucial. For example, the then-unknown William Warfield , who played Joe and sang ” Ol ‘Man River ” in the 1951 movie version of the Show Boat , received a tenth billing as if he were a bit player, while Paul Robeson, a star who played the same role in the 1936 film version of the musical, received fourth billing in the 1936 film.

These are the same as those of equal size, with their importance decreasing from left to right. However, an instance of “equal importance” is The Towering Inferno (1974) starring Steve McQueen and Paul Newman . The two names appear simultaneously with Newman’s on the right side of the screen and slightly higher than McQueen’s, to indicate the comparable status of both actors’ characters (this also features on the advertising poster).

If a film has an ensemble cast with no clear lead role, it is traditional to bill the participants alphabetically or in the order of their on-screen appearance. An example of the former is A Too Far Bridge (1977), which featured 14 roles played by established stars, any one of which would have ordinarily received top billing as an individual. citation needed ] The cast of the Harry Potter movie is one of the most famous stars in the world.

In the case of the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet , there were many famous actors playing these roles, and these actors were given prominence in the posters along with the film’s current stars: Branagh, Derek Jacobi , Julie Christie , and Kate Winslet . In the actual movie’s credits, they (along with the other actors in the film) were listed in alphabetical order and in the same size typeface.

If an actor is not an established star, he or she may not receive above-the-title billing, or even “star” billing; they can just be listed at the head of the cast. This is the way that all of the actors are listed in the opening credits to The Wizard of Oz ; Garland , Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Bolger Ray, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, “etc. F. Murray Abraham , supporting actor at the time of Amadeus , did not receive special star billing of Antonio Salieri ; “With F. Murray Abraham”, his name does not appear in the cast.

In some cases, the position of a member of the credit roll can become a sticking point for both cast and crew. Such was the case on the sixties Gilligan’s Island sitcom TV , where two of the stars were only mentioned in the closing credits. In fact, the characters of The Professor ( Russell Johnson ) and Mary Ann ( Dawn Wells ) were only mentioned in the opening theme of the song. Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, was so upset that he reportedly commented on the fact that he was willing to be interviewed, and that he wished to be moved to the end credits with his co-stars. From the show’s second season, the studio capitulated, and moved Denver’s co-stars to the opening credits of the show, and also changed the theme song lyrics to include “The Professor and Mary Ann” instead of saying “and the rest”. quote needed ]

Competitive top billing

Sometimes actors can become highly competitive over the order of billing. For example:

Spencer Tracy was originally cast to play the lead opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Desperate Hours (1955) But when neither actor would relinquish top billing, Tracy withdrew and was replaced by Fredric March , who took second billing to Bogart. Bogart’s role in the film had been played on Broadway by Paul Newman but the young actor was not considered for the movie since the time of the movie. position to compete with Bogart. Spencer Tracy would also be back in co-starring in the 1965 movie The Cincinnati Kidwhen he learned he would take second billing behind Steve McQueen ‘s movie star . The role Tracy had been cast in? Eaded to Edward G. Robinson , whom McQueen had idolized from childhood. It was pointed out to Spencer Tracy that he routinely took over the bill with Katharine Hepburn , he responded, “It’s a movie, not a lifeboat.”

Clark Gable had a top billing clause written in his MGM contract and made three major films in the 1930s with Spencer Tracy in supporting roles ( San Francisco , Test Pilot , and Boom Town ), but when Tracy renegotiated his contract during World War II , he had the same clause in his own contract, effectively ending the hugely popular Gable-Tracy team.

In the opening credits of The Bridge on the Kwai River (1957), Alec Guinness , who gets the most out of the film, gets third billing, after William Holden (who asks for top billing) and Jack Hawkins (who does not even appear until halfway through the picture). However, in the closing credits, Guinness is billed second with Hawkins third.

For The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), James Stewart was given top billing over John Wayne in the movie’s posters and the previews (trailers) shown in cinemas and on television agreed top billing. Their names are shown on pictures of signposts, one after the other, with their name shown slightly higher than those of Stewart’s. Director John Ford remarked in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich that he made it apparent to the audience that Vera Miles’I wanted Wayne to be the lead.’ [6] Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford used the same billing formula for All the President’s Men (1976), with Redford receiving top billing in posters and trailers while Hoffman was billed over Redford in the film itself. [7]

As both Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis wanted top billing for Boeing Boeing ( 1965 ), their animated names appeared in a spinning, circular fashion in front of an airplane engine’s rotating gondola . [8] For the trailer, the circular animation of the two names was repeated aloud. For the posters, the names made an X, Lewis ‘going up from the bottom left and Curtis’ going down from the upper left.

The Towering Inferno poster

For the movie The Towering Inferno (1974), Steve McQueen , Paul Newman and William Holden all tried to obtain top billing. Holden was refused as a result of McQueen’s and Newman’s. For example, McQueen, the credits were arranged diagonally, with McQueen at the lower left and Newman at the upper right. Thus, each actor appears to have a particular view of the world. [9]Technically, McQueen has top billing and is mentioned first in the movie’s trailers; However, at the end of the movie, Newman’s name is fully visible. Reviews This was the first time That this kind of “staggered but equal” billing HAD-been used for a movie, ALTHOUGH la même thing HAD beens Discussed for the Saami two actors five years Earlier When McQueen Was going to play the Sundance Kid in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). McQueen Robert Redford, who did not enjoy McQueen? s status and took second billing to Newman. Today, it HAS Become Understood That whoever’s name Appears to the left HAS top billing, citation needed ] purpose This Was by no means clustering the CASE WHEN The Towering Inferno Was Produced. This same approach has been used, including 2008’s Righteous Kill starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino . [10]

In The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), F. Murray Abraham asked for above-title billing. This was rejected as too many other stars were getting it ( Tom Hanks , Bruce Willis , Melanie Griffith ). Thus, Abraham asked for his name to be completely removed, even from the closing credits. That same year, Raúl Juliá asked for the title billing alongside Robert Redford and Lena Olin for the Havana drama . When the producers rejected this, he decided to go uncredited. Eleven years later, Don Cheadle did exactly the same thing in Ocean’s Eleven(2001), presumably because of George Clooney ‘s, and clashed with the later sequels, Clooney, Matt Damon , Andy García , Brad Pitt , and Julia Roberts . Cheadle removed his name from the credits. [11] The producers apparently wanted Clooney, not Cheadle, to be the first one.

In Batman (1989), Jack Nicholson received top billing and Michael Keaton played the title while Nicholson’s Joker was the main antagonist.

In the movie Vice Miami (2006), Colin Farrell originally received top billing. However, after Jamie Foxx won an Academy Award, he was asked for more than Farrell’s. Foxx’s name appears first in the opening credits, while Farrell still receives top billing in the closing credits.

In a commercial for Michael and Michael Have Issues (2009), the above-mentioned characters mock-argue over who gets top billing for their show.

Last billing

An actor may receive “last billing”, which usually designates a smaller part played by a famous name. They are usually credited after the rest of the lead cast, prefixed with “and” (as well as Samuel L. Jackson was in the latter two Star Wars prequels ). In some cases, the name is followed by “as” and then the name of the character (sometimes called an “and-as” credit). This is not the case if this character is unseen for most of the movie (see Ernst Stavro Blofeld ).

An early last billing credit in a film is simply a question mark (?) As portraying the monster in the 1931 classic Frankenstein , which still lists it today, although the reissued prints seen today add actor Boris Karloff to the end credit listings , as the film made him a huge star such that the credits of the film’s first sequel The Bride of Frankenstein credits him only by his last name.

One of the first “and-as” credits was afforded Spencer Tracy (as Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle ) in the 1944 World War II movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo , a top box office star of the time, Van Johnson , had top Billing and Tracy was too big to receive second billing.

Some movies-have Both an “and-as” credit and a separate last billing credit, Such As the Irwin Allen 1978 disaster movie The Swarm , the opening credits of qui, after-listing year already wide cast of stars, Concludes with ” Fred MacMurray as Clarence … and Henry Fonda “.

Unbilled appearances

An actor may go uncredited, and not be listed in either or both of the opening and closing credits. Reasons for this may vary. Some examples include:

  • As Gary Oldman appeared under heavy make-up in Hannibal , he requested that his name be completely removed from the billing and credits in order to “do it anonymously”. [12] However, Nathan Murray is still credited with “Oldman’s assistant” and Oldman’s name is added to the film. quote needed ]
  • For suspense purposes, Kevin Spacey , in Seven , has been nominated for the film. [13] His name appears in the closing credits.
  • In the opening of 1931 Frankenstein , the credit for “The Monster” is a question mark. Boris Karloff is named in the closing credits.
  • Ashton Kutcher appears as the main antagonist, Hank, in the 2003 family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen and is uncredited though he is one of the movie’s main characters.
  • In the 1974 film Earthquake , Walter Matthau agreed to provide a performance without compensation on the condition that he did not believe in his real name; he was credited with a fictitious name of his choosing, “Walter Matuschanskayasky.”
  • Because he played the part without pay, Bruce Willis is not credited for his role in the Four Rooms by Quentin Tarantino .
  • Owen Wilson does not receive credit for his “Jedidiah” character in Night at the Museum , though he receives credit in the sequel, Battle of the Smithsonian .
  • John Wayne was billed as “Michael Morris” in two cameo television appearances directed by John Ford , an episode of Wagon Train and an anthology installment called Flashing Spikes starring James Stewart . Wayne’s real name was Marion Michael Morrison.
  • For his cameo appearances in Cabin Boy and Beavis and Butt-head Do America , David Letterman was billed as “Earl Hofert.”
  • In Interstellar , Matt Damon’s casting was kept secret during production, and he is not credited in the film. This is a deliberate decision by the director Chris Nolan , as he deliberately uses the audience’s familiarity with Matt Damon as a ‘good guy’ to mark his character’s true intentions. [14]

Other persons who have a role in a crowd, a man on a bench, or other ‘background’ characters, who are given screen time for a brief, but recognizable, a moment, such as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope momentarily appearing in a circus audience during The Greatest Show on Earth . They can be recognized, but sometimes are not credited for financial reasons – if they receive credit, they would be commensurate with their fame.

Screenwriters billing

Main article: WGA screenwriting credit system

Writing credits for movies and TV shows written under the jurisdiction of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) uses the WGA screenwriting credit system . For writers who belong to the WGA, the writing credits affect reputation, union membership, and income. Under the rules, the film producer must first submit the proposed credits for the project to both the WGA and all the participating writers. If any participating writer objects to the proposed credits, it then enters arbitration, with the WGA being the final arbiter.

The WGA rules help dictate whether or not it should be classified as “original” or is instead based on another source. If based on another source, an additional “Based on a book / play / other source by” is required. In the case of a film, the credited writers of the original motion picture may be entitled to a “Based on characters created by” credit.

The WGA ‘s rules are also available when they are written separately for the story, and for the screenplay itself when all writers are not involved in the creation of both. When the same writers are entitled to “Screenplay by” and “Story by” credit, they will be listed by “Written by” credit.

For writing teams of two, they are credited as one, separated on the credits by an ampersand (“X & Y”). If each works independently on the script (the most common system), they are separated by an “and”. If more than two persons worked on the screenplay, the credits may read something like “screenplay by X & Y and Z and W”, where X and Y worked as a team, but Z and W worked separately. [15]

The WGA system also puts limits on the number of writers: on films, “Screenplay by,” “Teleplay by,” and “Written by” credit or writing.

Director billing

If the main credits occur at the beginning, then the director’s name is shown before the film’s narrative starts, but a result of an agreement between the DGA and the motion picture producers in 1939. However, if all billing is shown at the end , his / her name will be displayed first, immediately followed by the written credits.

  • In 1980, George Lucas resigned from the Directors Guild of America after his insistence, against his wishes, that Irvin Kershner , the director of the Empire Strikes Back , was credited with the beginning of the film because of the Lucasfilm company was there; it was previously allowed the original Star Wars (1977), which had a similar opening sequence, to go unchallenged because of the writer-director credit (George Lucas) matched the company name Lucasfilm Ltd.
  • Ben-Hur is one of the few MGM films in which the director receives very prominent billing in the posters advertising the movie – the posters state ” William Wyler’s Production”, the same credit does not appear in the current on-screen credits. [16] A similar example is David Lean , whose doctor Zhivago and Ryan’s Daughter both carry the credit “David Lean’s Film of” (followed by the title). Stanley Kubrick received prominent title billing from Dr. Strangelove (1964) onwards, and from A Clockwork Orange(1971) he had received billing, with the actors only listed in the billing block. Advertising materials for Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut featured the billing ” CRUISE / KIDMAN / KUBRICK.”
  • Filmmaker and playwright Tyler Perry always inserts his name into the title of each of his films and television shows. For instance: Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? or Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns . To date, the only movie is for girls , which is an adaptation of the Ntozake Shange play For Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf . quote needed ]

Billing block

The “billing block” is the “list of names that adorn the bottom portion of the official poster (or ‘ one sheet ‘, as it is called in the movie industry) of the movie”. [17] In the layout of film posters and other film advertising copy, the billing block is usually set in a highly condensed typeface (one in which the height of characters is several times the width). [18]

By convention, the size of the billing block is 15 to 35 percent of the average height of each letter in the title logo. [19] Inclusion in the credits and the billing block. The labor union contracts specify minimum requirements for presenting actors, writers and directors. [20]But star talent is free to individually negotiated larger name presentations, such as when a star actor or director has his or her name above a movie’s title. The union contracts also covers billboards, outdoor billboards, commercial TVs, newspaper advertising and online advertising. A condensed typeface permitting horizontal space [21]

See also

  • Acknowledgment (creative arts)
  • Alan Smithee , pseudonym used by directors who do not want their name associated with the final project.
  • Closing credits
  • Credit (creative arts)
  • Opening credits
  • Possessory credit
  • Title sequence
  • WGA screenwriting credit system


Specific references:

  1. Jump up^ Doug & Mary: A biography of Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford, by Gary Carey, EP Dutton, 1977,ISBN 978-0-525-09512-5p. 21
  2. Jump up^ Keyword ‘no opening credits’fromIMDb
  3. Jump up^ “Glatzer (October 1998).” Movie credits 101 ” ” . Archived from the original on December 20, 2010.
  4. Jump up^ [1]
  5. Jump up^ Enhanced Playback Trivia Track (2004). Clerks. X Tenth Anniversary Edition (DVD). Buena Vista Home Entertainment .
  6. Jump up^ Who The Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film DirectorsbyPeter Bogdanovich
  7. Jump up^ [2]
  8. Jump up^ Private Screenings: Tony Curtis. Turner Classic Movies, 19 Jan 1999.
  9. Jump up^ The Inferno Towering Masterprint at
  10. Jump up^
  11. Jump up^
  12. Jump up^ Interview with Gary OldmanfromIGN
  13. Jump up^ Seven Trivia-IMDb
  14. Jump up^ with Chris Nolan
  15. Jump up^ “Glatzer (October 1998)” Movie credits 101 ” ” .
  16. Jump up^
  17. Jump up^ Crabb, Kelly (2005). The Movie Business: The Definitive Guide to the Legal and Financial Secrets of Getting Your Movie Made . Simon and Schuster. p. 72. ISBN  9780743264921.
  18. Jump up^ “Credit Where Credit is Due” . March 21, 2005 . Retrieved 2012-05-29 .
  19. Jump up^ Jaramillo, Brian (March 4, 2009). “Corey Holmes watches the Watchmen” . Lettercult . Retrieved 2012-10-04 .
  20. Jump up^ Marich, Robert (2013) Marketing To Moviegoers: Third Edition (2013), SIU Press, p. 18-20
  21. Jump up^ Schott, Ben (February 23, 2013). “Assembling the Billing Block” . The New York Times.