Possessory credit

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A possessory credit in filmmaking is the use of a film credit which gives primary artistic recognition to a single person – usually (but not always) the film's director. Examples include "A Stanley Kubrick film" (The Shining), "A film by Quentin Tarantino" (Pulp Fiction), and "Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho" (Psycho). Possessory credit is also sometimes used in television programs, for example "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" (Tyler Perry's TBS sitcom House of Payne). Occasionally another word besides "film" is used such as "A Spike Lee Joint" or "A Martin Scorsese Picture". Possessory credit may also be given to the films producer, an example of this is Steven Spielberg presents Back To The Future.

Although the earliest use of possessory credit dates from 1915's The Birth of a Nation, the use of possessory credits expanded particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. The Writers Guild of America has repeatedly tried to limit possessory credits to writers, but has always been successfully opposed by the Directors Guild of America (DGA), leaving directors free to try to negotiate such credits if they wish.[1]

Sometimes the possessory credit will go to the author of the novel on which the film was based on (such as Bram Stoker's Dracula or William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet). In the case of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, Burton was not the film's director, but instead the writer, producer, and a major creative voice on the film. This may also be an example of a possessory credit being chosen for marketing reasons, as Burton was a more recognized name than the film's director, Henry Selick.

The DGA encourages that filmmakers use restraint in taking the credit until such a point in their career where their name becomes widely recognizable and/or they receive at least two established awards of merit for their films, thereby representing a filmmaker's legacy and name recognition.

Video games[edit]

Possessory credits are sometimes used for video games such as American McGee's Alice, Sid Meier's Civilization, games released by Tom Clancy's Red Storm Entertainment, and games in the Metal Gear series.

They are also used when celebrities have licensed their names for use in games, or are involved with the game's development—for example, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, and skater Tony Hawk's various games.


  1. ^ Directors Guild of America Magazine, Possessory Credit Timeline, 28(6), February 2004


  • Paul A Baumgarten; Donald C Farber; Mark Fleischer (2002). Producing, financing and distributing film: New York : Limelight Editions, 2002. pp 190