behind the credits

– . – Behind the Credits


Behind the Credits

BAFTA-nominated titles designers Nic Benns and Miki Kato of Momoco explain the power of opening credits.

Question: What do Dexter, True Blood and The IT Crowd have in common? Before you start wondering about serial killers, vampires and computer geeks, rewind a bit. Answer: They are all TV shows with brilliant opening title sequences.

A good title sequence is like the bartender from one of those old black-and-white movies who looks up with a warm smile when you walk in. ‘Hey buddy,’ he says, ‘nice to see ya again, same as usual?’ It isn’t something you fast-forward through to get to the beginning of the show; it is the beginning (annoying pre-credits sequence notwithstanding). More than that, at its very best a good title sequence can be like a great cinematic closeup- part of the whole, but self-contained and transcendent.

Two people that understand this idea more than most are Nic Benns and Miki Kato, the creative forces behind Momoco, the company that designed the titles for TV shows like BBC’s Luther and ITV’s Father & Son, as well as many films including An Education, Hard Candy and 40 Days of Night.

“We treat it like a book cover for the show itself,” reveals Benns. “It’s lovely if it’s like a little film in its own right, but it must always live in the same space as the show. It’s got to really set the mood and tone and draw the audience in so they know where they are.”

Indeed, that’s what a good title sequence does. Watch the True Blood credits and you instantly know where you are: it’s a Louisiana swamp, it’s hot and you’re starting to feel that V you took earlier kick in. Even something like Lost with its cursory opening puts you in the right place, like a swish of the Smoke Monster’s tail snapping you onto the island.

In order to reach this level of symbiosis, Benns and Kato explain that title designers require as much information as possible about the show. This usually means seeing a rough cut, but sometimes, Benns goes on to say, this is not always the case.

“At the moment we’re working on a major new sci-fi for the BBC. They’ve just begun shooting but they’ve got us involved very early because they want something really special. All our concepts are coming from the script and we’re not sure how far we’re able to push it. We don’t want the technological aspect to be beyond what they’re visualising in their show.”

Naturally, this implies that some of their ideas might well end up spilling out into the show itself. Kato agrees. “I think that’s what the director wants. He wants to have input from us as well for the film.”