Penmanship describes some of the attributes of a person. Titles and credits describe some of the attributes of a movie; they are the penmanship of cinema.
When you encounter sloppy handwriting, what do you think? Do you think that the person in question was not considerate enough to write neatly, so that you could read the words easily? Does it appear that the person hastily wrote the message, just to get it done? Sloppy handwriting communicates the message that the person who wrote it did not care about the amount of time and effort that the reader must invest in order to decipher the sloppiness. Sloppy handwriting suggests that the writer is of poor education and unrefined behavior. Sloppy handwriting also indicates that the writer has no interest in having the reader think favorably of him/her. Even if the person of poor penmanship is considerate, well-educated, and well-behaved, then— at the very least— sloppy handwriting is an eye-sore. Who wants to look at an unattractive anything?
Conversely, neat handwriting conveys the ideas that the writer is thoughtful, attentive, thorough, well-educated, well-mannered, and most of all, respectful of the reader. A note, a love-letter, a holiday-card, an office-message, or a Post-It will always be taken more seriously, and will always be more positively received, when it is of excellent penmanship.
This concept may be applied to movie titles. Although I have never seen a film that included sloppy titles, I have seen films whose titles definitely had much more thought and effort put into them than the titles of other films. Often, the first impression that an audience has of a movie is based on the opening titles and credits. Just think of what can be said with the opening titles: “Here is a story of galactic significance!” (Star Wars); “What you are about to see is action-packed and profound!” (Superman); “Machiavelli: Alive then. Still alive today!” (The Godfather).
These are three of the most financially-successful and well-known movies, and each is the ambassador of its genre. All outer-space films will forever be compared to Star Wars, all comic-book/super-hero films will forever be compared to Superman: The Movie, and all gangster films will forever be compared to The Godfather. Notice that each film has excellent titles and credits. This is not to say that the typography of these films is that which produced the success; rather, it is to say that the titles and credits are indicative of the attributes that made these films successful. The time, brainpower, physical exertion, and respect that was expended in order to create these typographies is the same effort that is present— and obvious— in all of the other aspects of these films. With titles such as these, the filmmakers proclaim: “We are artists! We have definite concepts and emotions that we want you to understand and feel! We are intelligent; we put much thought into this film! We believe that you are intelligent, and we want you to put much thought into this film! This film is unique, profound, and captivating; enjoy!”
Titles and credits are the penmanship of your film. Put as much effort into the typography as you put into the other aspects of your production, and your film will be entitled to success!
An Example Of My Work
Below: screen-capture #1 is the title-screen of my video-testimonial for Film School On Demand. Screen-capture #2 is a generic way of writing the titles. What message is communicated by #1? What message is communicated by #2? Which titles are more interesting? Which titles are more meaningful?