It’s movie night and you’re pumped; you have a bucket full of popcorn, your favorite refreshment, and you’re comfortably reclining and ready to be blown away by the world of cinema. Cue the sound, cue the video, and quietly wait as a new visual universe is ready to unfold before your eyes.
Then, suddenly your excitement gets snuffed out like a candle before anything ever happens. To your dissapointment, the opening credits never seem to end!
You see the following text slowly appearing and then dissapearing, one-by-one for several minutes:
A Dubiously Boring Production Presents:
The Long and Painful Journey
Directed by Jaded Jerome
Produced by Jaded Jerome & Apathetic Aylene
Written by Comatose Carl
Cinemetography by Thomas Trite
Associate Producer: Burdensome Ben
Gaffer: Overworked Oliver
And it doesn’t stop there….it keeps going…on…and on…and on!!! 10 minutes later, the actual film finally begins!
Believe me when I tell you that this type of thing happens all the time. As a festival director who has pre-screened literally thousands of submissions for the Mile High Horror Film Festival, I am shocked at the sheer number of filmmakers who make this fatal mistake.
Why Does it Happen?
As a filmmaker myself, I understand why it happens. Most independent films are low budget and filmmakers want to show appreciation for the people who put their blood, sweat and tears into it. After all, many independent productions can’t afford to pay much, if anything, thus some filmmakers try and get creative with showing appreciation for their crew.
Killing the Buzz
However, extra long opening credits are definitely a buzz kill for the viewer. In fact, it’s distracting! Most audience members will quickly become bored, irritated, and wishing they were watching something else rather than investing mentally in your film. The average viewer is not going think, “gee, I really appreciate seeing all these names of people I don’t know…I imagine everyone put in such hard work,” especially before ever even seeing the film. Most people will instead only become irritated because they just want to see the actual movie!
Keep it Short!
For that reason, no matter how much you love your crew, I strongly advise producers to place the bare minimum credits in the beginning. 30 seconds is bearable if you must. It’s okay to list a production company, director, actors and notable names, but please, please don’t overdue it! The average viewer does not have much patience and although your intentions may be good, it can do a serious disservice to your film.
Think about it from the perspective of the viewer. When you watch a movie, you want to see the actual movie, not a 10-minute list of meandering names before being allowed to see the film.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of incredible films with lengthy introductory credits that work well. However, almost all of the successful ones have a captivating background to keep the audience engaged, and more importantly, almost all of them have enough buzz that it doesn’t matter; you’ll still want to watch.
Fishing in Deep Water
In general, from my experience screening thousands of genre films, a shorter opening credit sequence is usually better. If you’re independent and largely unknown, remember that you’re fishing for your audience; the sooner you hook them, the more fish you will catch!