24 July 2006

on the importance of titles

In the screenwriting world, it seems as though different folks put different value on different aspects of any property. Some folks rate the logline as critical, while others are more about the theme, and others rave about the value of “high concept” and some look only at the market value of the attachments to any property.

To be fair, every one of those considerations has importance, and everyone needs to be as rock solid and ass-kicking as possible in order to guarantee the best possible shot at profitability (and don’t even bring up the word “art” in this discussion, as moviemaking is a business, dammit, and you stand as much chance at impressing me with your noise about artistic needs and desires and you do of paying for your Big Mac with just a newly composed sonnet).

But for me, one of the things which can really make or break a project is the title. Some titles simply roll of the tongue in such a way that you smile a little just to hear them—they inspire you and intrigue you and interest you and make you want to hear more, see more, know more.
STAR WARS
THE GODFATHER
CASABLANCA
SNAKES ON A PLANE

Of course, the converse can be true as well: some titles are so clunky and/or uninspired that somehow you wind up feeling exhausted after just two or three words:
HOWARD THE DUCK
NATE AND HAYES
MR. NANNY
STOP OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT!

I’m not going to argue that a title alone can make or break a movie—that’s a bigger debate for someone else’s blog and time—but I will say that in my opinion a good title just works.

And I still don’t have one.

At least, not for the romantic comedy I am trying to hammer into a read-worthy form.

I know the characters cold. I understand my story and outline pretty damned clearly. I have a firm grip on the tone and vibe I’m after. But so far, I have basically nothing in the way of a title. Not just “oh, I have a lame idea,” but “I don’t have jack shit for an idea.”

The title page of the current working draft still reads UNTITLED ROMANTIC COMEDY, which, as I’m sure we can agree, is likely about as inspired as a radio station broadcasting nothing but the sound of a dentist drill.

NOTE: I am not asking for suggestions, and if any are offered I’lll ignoe them and possibly even delete them, as I do not want your damned chocolate in my damned peanut butter. I’m mainly whining that I have a great big hole where a super cool ‘COME WATCH ME” kind of title damned sure needs to go.

And it pisses me off.
.
.
.
B

9 comments:

Scott the Reader said...

Not a title suggestion, but just some advice --

Start rifling through your music collection.

Song titles -- especially obscure little song titles -- can unexpectedly capture what is at the heart of your tale.

Plus it's cool to be able to say that your title is based on a John Lee Hooker song.

Chesher Cat said...

hey Scott...I do that sometimes too.

Anyway, Brett, if at some point you're really losing your mind, I'll read your damn script (hopefully finished by then) and offer you up something...I've been told I'm pretty good with titles.

Besides, I figure I owe you for screwing you out of a Raquel intro.

The Moviequill said...

I listen for catch phrases and unique sentences people say, jot them down and create titles out of them

Brett said...

Thanks, all.

Thing is, I'm usually good (sometimes very good) with titles, which is why this project is such a pain in my posterior — I feel like this one ought to be a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, I sat around brainstorming ("beating my face into the keyboard til blood spattered onto the screen to form words...") and found a few options I now kinda like, including one which continues the oddly self-observant tone of this project...

'Nuff said there. ;-)
.
.
.
B

sweeper said...

Think rock and roll band names buddy.

d.

Steve Barr said...

When first glancing at the title of this blog post, I thought I would enjoy it more.

But now I have to go somewhere else to find a post on the importance of tities.

Brett said...

Keep me abreast.
.
.
.
rimshot through the heart B

Lab Lemming said...

Still need a title? How about something with a colon, and at least two prepositions?

mernitman said...

This might stir some thought:
http://livingromcom.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/04/titlemania.html