What Are Credits?

Credits are the way that people working on a screen project are identified and acknowledged. For example:

Written by
Story by
Screenplay by
Based on a novel by

Why Do Credits Matter?

It is important that the contribution of all creatives, including writers, working on a project are credited and credited appropriately.

For writers it is also vital that they receive the proper credit for their work as a wrong credit can affect their eligibility for awards or the right to collect residuals and other payments.

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Appropriate Credits in New Zealand

The following screen credits are most commonly used in New Zealand:

Written by
Screenplay by
Story by
Based on a novel/short story/screenplay/article by

Created by
Developed by
Written by
Story by
Teleplay by
Additional Dialogue by

Credit Rules

The Guild has a Screen Credits Manual which sets out the appropriate credits to be given on films. Based on a similar Writers Guild of America guide, the Manual lays out appropriate credits and the process of arbitrating disputed film credits. For queries and disputes about television credits you should contact the Guild.

Example Credit Rules

  • ‘Written by’ is used when the writer has written the original story and the script.
  • If different/additional writers are responsible for the underlying story and the screenplay then the writer(s) of the story receive a ‘Story by’ credit and the writers of the script receive a ‘Screenplay by’ (film)/’Teleplay by’ (television) credit.
  • A ‘team’ of writers is writers who have been assigned at about the same time to the same material and who work together for approximately the same amount of time on the material
  • When giving credit to a team of writers an ampersand (&) should be used between the writers’ names. Use of the word ‘and’ denotes that writers did their work separately, one usually rewriting the other.
  • Any writer whose work represents more than 33% of a screenplay is entitled to a screenplay credit except in the case of an original screenplay where any subsequent writer/writing team must contribute at least 50% to the final screenplay in order to receive a credit.
  • Where there is more than one writer on a project they can decide the order of names themselves. If there is no agreement this order may be arbitrated. Generally the most substantial contributor is entitled to the first position credit. If the contribution is equal order occurs chronologically in terms of the dates they were first commissioned.

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The NZWG Credit Arbitration Service

The Guild runs a credit arbitration service for members. This service is designed to assist writers determine a fair and accurate credit. The Guild’s Screen Credit Manual contains a complete explanation of the arbitration procedure.
NZWG Screen Credit Manual

The Guild has also prepared a summary of the credit arbitration process along with some information to make the process easier.
Summary of NZWG Credit Arbitration Process

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A Film By…

The ‘A Film By’ or ‘A _____ Film’ is colloquially known as the possessory or vanity credit.

Usually this credit names the director and appears above the movie title. This credit, which is in addition to the Directed by credit, gives the false impression that directors are responsible for everything that appears on screen.

The NZWG believes the vanity credit devalues the collaborative nature of the film-making process. A range of labour goes into a film – writing, directing, producing, acting, editing, cinematography, lighting, costume-making, sound engineering, special effects, catering to name just a few… To attribute all this work to the director, even a writer-director, is misleading and untruthful.

While some directors take a vanity credit, many directors routinely do not including Peter Jackson, Woody Allen, John Sayles and Kevin Smith.

It has been argued that this credit is a ‘reward’ for especially experienced and/or talented directors. Again, this overlooks the fact that other creatives working on a film may be equally, if not more, experienced or talented.

The NZWG expects all of its members who direct a project to refrain from taking the vanity credit.

In place of the vanity credit the NZWG prefers the use of ‘A Film Directed by…’ or ‘A Film Written and Directed by…’.

Code by Michael Bao