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October 24, 2016

How many movies credits go uncredited?

Movie creditsToday’s article was inspired by a question from Pliny, founder of movie titling software Endcrawl.  We got chatting on Twitter and the topic of end credits came up.  

He mentioned that a couple of years ago they had worked on the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz and noticed that a large number of the cast and crew were missing from the end credits. According to IMDb, of the 391 people who worked on the film, only 50 received an on-screen credit.  

I agreed to take a look at the topic and Pliny agreed to write an article for the Endcrawl blog (it’s live and called ‘How to get the on-screen credits you deserve‘).  He also gave me some anonymised data on the credits of movies using Endcrawl. 

What is an “uncredited” credit?

movie-credits-opening-and-closingLet’s start at the beginning…. There are three places within a movie where on-screen credits typically appear:

  • At the start of the movie, known as Opening Title Credits.  These are normally fairly short, although some movies have turned the opening credit sequence into an art form, such as the Bond franchise (watch on Youtube) and David Fincher’s remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo (watch on YouTube).  Only a small number of people who work on a film will receive opening title credits and they are highly prized by cast and crew alike.  It’s common for producers to use the size, order and nature of opening title credits as a bargaining chip when negotiating with top talent.
  • The featured credits as soon as the movie finishes,known as Main-on-End or MOE. These are typically full-screen cards that appear after the final shot, but before the scrolling credits. They are reserved for a limited number of above-the-line names.
  • The final long list at the end of the movie, known as the End Roller, Closing Credits or End Crawl.  Normally small white writing on a black background, scrolling up from the bottom of the screen.  People are grouped by department and there is a loose connection between the seniority of a person and the number of other names on the same line as their credit.

Most people assume that the end credits contain the complete list of everyone who contributed to the movie because (a) they’re so damn long and (b) why would you leave someone out of the already huge list?!  However, sadly that is not the case and frequently people who worked on a movie are left off the end roller.

How are credit lists created and publicly documented?

movie-credits-imdbOnce a film is complete, the producers will normally send the final list of credits to sites like IMDb.  This forms the ‘official credits’ list and is how IMDb knows who worked on a movie.  These names should match up exactly to the movie’s end crawl.

If someone has been missed off the end crawl then they’re not likely to be on the IMDb official credits list either. This is a problem for film professionals as the site is the ‘site of record’ for the industry and is often the only evidence you need to prove you worked on a particular film.  So if a credit is missing, it falls on the person involved to contact IMDb and request that their credit is added to the site.

IMDb allows people to add credits they are missing, so long as the person has already received one official credit on IMDb and are willing to provide evidence if challenged (such as a pay stub or residual check). If they pass these tests, they will be included on film’s cast and crew list, but there will be a note reading “Uncredited” next to their job title.

And it’s these “Uncredited” credits that we’re measuring today.  

How many movie credits go uncredited?

I took a look at the credits on all 4,113 films which grossed at least $1 at the US box office, released over the ten years between January 2006 and December 2015.  That’s 1,450,565 credits shared across 477,749 different people.

Out of all these movies, 7.5% of crew credits were listed as officially “uncredited”, along with 24.6% of cast credits.  

movies-credits-uncredited-cast-and-crew

There was a significant drop in uncredited crew credits between 2013 and 2014, falling from 10.3% of all credits to 4.0%.  Overall, there was an 8% drop in the number of full credits, but a 67% drop in uncredited credits.  It’s possible that this was due to a sudden shift in how producers credited their crew members but seems more likely to be due to a change in policy within IMDb on how they accept credits. 

Over the same period, there was no such comparable drop in cast credits. In fact, uncredited cast credits have been on the rise in the past five years, growing from 20.5% of all credits in 2011 to 34.4% in 2015. The vast majority of cast credits related to Supporting Artists (also known as Extras) who may appear in crowd scenes or in the background.  

The forgotten

In the past, I’ve heard many stories of people from the visual effects department being left off the official credits list, so I expected to see the VFX department being the one with the most uncredited credits. However, in fact they are third (with 9% of their credits going uncredited), behind casting (15%) and the stunt department (25%).

movies-credits-department

Getting animated about missing credits

Sci-fi films have the highest number of uncredited crew, thanks largely to their increased reliance on visual effects and stunt personnel. Animation movies seem to be much better than the live action productions at crediting all of their crew.

movies-credits-by-genre

The lonely

Some departments had very few, if any, uncredited credits.  The people who were the few to receive such a credit in their department were:

Discredited (or re-edited) “uncredited” credits 

It’s impossible to know how many of the requests for adding missing credits IMDb actually checks when they’re submitted, meaning that there must be a number of false ‘uncredited’ credits on the site.  That’s not to blame IMDb – as we’ve seen, the numbers involved are huge. In my dataset alone, IMDb will have had to check and accept / reject 92,809 crew credits and 145,845 cast credits!

People who falsely claim credits sometimes get caught out, especially on the biggest films.  For example, at the start of this year aspiring 23-year old actor Alex Rolt falsely claimed to have been one of the storm troopers who fought the Star Wars hero Finn in The Force Awakens.  

false-star-wars-credit

xmen-stunt-double-creditLucas Film intervened and confirmed that the role was in fact played by stunt veteran Liang Yang, forcing Alex to tweet “Sorry for doing this to all the fans.Was a joke that got out of hand. My career is tarnished“.  His Twitter bio currently reads “Actor. Fresh Start. NOT THE TRAITOR TROOPER“.

Alex’s case is far from the only one with Sulinh Lafontaine claiming to have been the only female stunt driver on Furious 7 (she didn’t work on the movie at all), and Olivia Munn claimed to have performed all of her own stunts on X-Men: Apocalypse, much to the surprise of her stunt double Julia Rekaikyna

Why does this happen?

There are a number of reasons why a movie may leave someone’s credit off, including:

  • Human error.  Films can employ thousands of people over may months, some of whom only work for a day or two and therefore, it’s understandable if the odd credit is accidently left off.
  • Third party suppliers. A major reason why visual effects crews are uncredited is down to the way Hollywood studios and producers work with third-party suppliers.  The visual effects for a movie may be split across many companies, which in turn have many people working in-house.  At the end of a job, the VFX houses are asked to submit the names of people who worked on their shots within the movie. However, it’s common practice for the studios to limit the number of names a supplier can add to the credits.  It was mentioned to me by a number of insiders that 40 names is a common maximum, even for huge VFX houses who contributed a large number of shots to a movie.
  • Proximity to the decision makers. Another reason which was cited by industry professionals was the fact that the people who are often left off (stunt and VFX crew) are far removed from the producers and production office.

Is there enough space in the end roller for everyone?

A commonly cited excuse for the absence of someone’s credit is that there is a limited amount of space in the end roller.  This excuse rankles me as it doesn’t match up with the facts.  While it’s true that a longer film could conceivably cost more to manufacture, we’re talking about a fraction of a fraction of the cost of the movie.  Gone are the days of having to buy more 35mm film stock to add extra time to a movie.  Modern movies are largely delivered digitally (to cinemas, consumers, distributors, etc) and additional transcoding and bandwidth are beyond negligible (and not even borne by the production company!)

Additionally, it’s possible to add more names without increasing the running time.  The vast majority of lines on an end roller could contain more names without any change to run time.

To investigate this, I turned to the dataset Endcrawl kindly gave me access to.  They anonymised data from feature films which have recently used their uncompressed/2k tier service told me the number of credits at the end of the movie, the height of the end roller (in pixels) and duration on screen (in seconds).

Across all their films, the average roller lasted 227 seconds and moved at a speed of 93 pixels per second.

movie-credits-end-roller-duration

By dividing the number of people credited by the height of the end crawler (in pixels), I was able to look at the on-screen density of credits. Across all 440 movies, the average density was 65 pixels per name credited.  The spread is quite wide, with 9% of movies packing many names via a density of under 40 pixels per credit, while at the other end of the spectrum 10% of films had end rollers with plenty of room, with at least 90 pixels per name.

movie-credit-density

Sadly, I can’t connect the ‘packed’ and spacey’ movies with the number of uncredited credits as the data provided was anonymised, meaning that I don’t know which movie is which.

None the less, it shows that in many cases, there is plenty of room in the end roller and so a lack of space is not a sufficient excuse for leaving people uncredited on a movie.

Epilogue

I’m grateful to Pliny from Endcrawl for the idea, support and some of the data.  He has written a post on the Endcrawl blog entitled ‘How to get the on-screen credits you deserve‘, which I highly recommend you check out.  

In the process of researching this article, I came across an excellent site called Art of the Title.  They have created a wonderful resource for filmmakers and film fans alike, breaking down how iconic titles sequences were created.  A good starting point is their in-depth look at the opening titles from Juno.

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3 Responses

  1. Mark Spatny October 25, 2016 at 12:31 am #

    This is fascinating. Thank you.

    I find it interesting that VFX comes in 3rd in the rank of uncredited staff when viewed as a percentage. But I bet they are still first in terms of raw numbers of people, simply due to the sheer number of artists involved in a typical feature film. I’d be curious to know if the data suggests I am right.

    TV credits are much worst than film. The last TV show for which I received screen credit I was one of five VFX staff in the end crawl (you know, that 6 pt font that pops up for roughly 1/3 a second per card squeezed into the bottom of the screen while the promo for the next show runs). Meanwhile over 90 artists who worked over 600 man-days total on the show did not receive credit. And that show was better than most. The average TV series only credits one or two people on the VFX team, or worse yet, only credits the name of the main vendor company that does the work. It’s actually great that so many of our feature film colleagues get the recognition they deserve for all their hard work.

  2. H July 16, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    Hello there! I simply wish to give you a huge thumbs up for your great information you have right here on this post. I will be returning to your web site for more soon.

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