Friday, 7 December 2012

The Basics: Movie Titles.

Recently I wrote about a trend where studios are trying to do away with titles and replace with the name of the lead character in the desperate belief that it will somehow create a "brand." 

So far it's not doing that well since they only one I've heard of that's did well was Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.  (But I think old Sherlock's a rather unique case being an already successful brand for over 100 years.)

The title is important.  It's the first sales pitch for the movie that is supposed to attract the interest of the audience. It is supposed to tell people that they really should spend their hard earned money to see this movie.

However coming up with good titles are hard. The temptation to slip into cliche is strong. While it is the easy way out, a cliched title tells the audience that it's going to be a cliched movie, which is not healthy.

So what makes a good title?

Well there is no hard and fast set of rules for what makes a good title. But there are some questions you should ask yourself when you're furrowing your brow in an attempt to compose the perfect title...

1. Does it fit the genre or style of the movie's story?

You don't want to title your romantic comedy about a quirky manic pixie dream-girl teaching the stuffy executive to loosen his tie "The Murder-Death Killer Massacre." It just doesn't fit.
You need to fine tune your title to the emotional style or setting of your story.

2. If you're going obscure, is your title a little too obscure?

Titles can be obvious, like "The Adventures of the Hero in the Land of Perilous Stuff," or you could be really obscure and just call your film "Pudding" even though it is a horror film that has nothing to do with pudding.

You see the act of making up titles is like turning a dial between obviousness on one side and obscurity on the other. 

If you go too obvious your title is just going to be an announcement of everything that happens in the movie. However, if you go too obscure the audience will think the movie will be just confusing pretentious nonsense.

What a good title does is pose a question that will make the audience want to see the movie to find the answer.

3.  Is your title just like the title of another movie?

No one likes a copycat.

It's tacky. 

I'm looking at you Paul Haggis.


Come on. 

4. Does your title reek of cliche?

If it looks like it could be the title of a Lifetime original movie, you're title is probably cliched. 

I hope this helps. 

1 comment:

  1. Some examples of what I think are terrific titles:

    1) Snakes on a Plane
    2) Mr. Vampire
    3) Black Mask