Titles Can Work For You
by Lenore Wright
First impressions count. A great title draws the reader into the story. If the title of your script hooks your readers right from the start, you have a better chance to keep them reading.
Some writers create a title first, then their script takes shape around it. Other writers don't come up with a title they like till they've finished their final polish. However you do it, choose a title that works hard for you.
To help you invent a great title for your script, I've come up with 10 ways titles can work and several examples of movie titles that were especially effective.
Titles Convey the GENRE of Your Movie
Studios market movies by genre so a title that conveys the genre of your movie will help you get your script read and remembered.
Examples of titles that REVEAL GENRE:
~ MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (Techno-Thriller)
~ STAR WARS (Science Fiction - Action)
~ FATAL ATTRACTION (Romantic- Thriller)
~ DIAL M FOR MURDER (Murder Mystery)
Titles That Emphasize a Central CONFLICT or CRISIS
In successful movies, audiences can identify with the central conflict.
Examples of titles that focus on the Central Conflict
~ BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK
~ HIGH NOON
~ AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER
~ BACK TO THE FUTURE
~ THE ODD COUPLE
~ HOME ALONE
Titles That Pose an INTRIGUING QUESTION
~ MEN IN BLACK (Who are these cool guys?)
~ WHO KILLED ROGER RABBIT? (Who Is Roger Rabbit?)
~ THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW (What the heck is this about?)
~ THE VIRGIN QUEEN (Will she or won't she?)
Titles That Conjure Up a VIVID IMAGE
~ BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S
~ HAMBURGER HILL
~ LOST HORIZON
~ A BRIDGE TOO FAR
~ FACE OFF
Titles That Connect to a MEMORY
~ MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
~ RETURN TO...
~ WHITE CHRISTMAS
Titles That Spotlight the STAR'S ROLE
Biopics use titles this way of course, but it's not limited to biographies. Stars attach themselves emotionally to a great TITLE ROLE. You want the Star thinking -- "Hey, this movie is about ME!"
~ BILLY JACK
~ CROCODILE DUNDEE
~ G.I. JANE
~ MISS SAIGON
Titles That Exploit CULTURAL REFERENCES
~ SOME LIKE IT HOT
~ ALL ABOUT EVE
~ THE PAWNBROKER
~ MAIN STREET
Titles That Establish an EXOTIC SETTING
Only use a title this way if the setting of your movie resonates on many levels within the movie and with your audience.
~ SUNSET BOULEVARD
~ 42ND STREET
~ ON THE WATERFRONT
Titles That Create a VIVID METAPHOR
~ BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI
~ BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S
~ DARK VICTORY
~ FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
~ THE LONGEST YARD
Titles That Cash in on CURRENT SLANG
~ YOU'VE GOT MAIL
~ DAZED AND CONFUSED
~ SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT
~ THE LONG GOODBYE
~ TOP GUN
One caution: Pop titles nave to perfectly timed. Marketing titles too many years after the phrase was popular dates your script.
No title works in all these ways at once of course, but the more ways YOUR title works for YOU, the better.
GUIDELINES FOR CHOOSING YOUR TITLE
--> Reflect the content and appeal of YOUR MOVIE on as many levels as possible.
Let your title work as many ways as possible: exploiting genre, establishing tone, defining the star's role, creating a central metaphor, emphasizing the film's conflicts, defining the crisis moment.
--> Your title should be understandable (by a majority of your target audience) but not mundane.
Don't burden your unique, wonderful script with a shopworn title or a cliche phrase. Audiences can only endure so many TERMINAL MOMENTS, FATAL ATTRACTIONS and PRIMARY DANGERS.
JUST FOR FUN!
Here are some lousy movie titles (only my opinion) that didn't prevent their movie from being enormously $uccessful:
~ HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (Who knew.)
~ IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Cheesy title, perfect movie.)
~ LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (Maybe this title is better in Italian.)
~ THE PRODUCERS (Title not funny, movie hilarious)
~ LOVE STORY (Nobody knows why this was a hit, but it was.)
E-mail me the titles of your favorite produced movies and I'll share them next issue. E-mail => email@example.com
© Copyright 2003 Lenore Wright
Wright has 15 years experience writing and selling
screenplays in Los Angeles and New York. For free
marketing tips and tools SUBSCRIBE to her newsletter
Script Market News by sending a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her
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