Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quick tips #3 - Generic titles

Today's tip: catchier titles get read sooner and instill more goodwill.

Your title is the first thing any reader will see. In some cases - who am I kidding? - in EVERY case it will determine which script they pick off the slush pile next. A good title should give a sense of the genre, hint at the premise and be memorable. Bad titles tend to be generic, bland or pretentious.

To give you an idea, I went over to ScriptShadow's site and took a look at the titles of the script's he's recently read. Here's what I'd pull from the reader pile, and here's what I'd leave for the next schmuck to get stuck with (after doing a check on the page counts of course. If any of the "bad" ones were 90-100 pages, I might take them anyway.)

Good titles:
She's Out of My League
Van Damme v. Seagal
The True Memoirs of an International Assassin
You Again
I Want to F___ Your Sister

Bad titles:
Taxonomy of Barnacles


  1. Got here via a link made by Scott Myers on his Going Into the Story" blogspot, on a July 30th post.

    Bitter Script Reader,

    Isn't "She's Out of My League" ALREADY the title of some teenie bopper's romantic comedy vehicle of a few years past? Why would you want to read a title that SUGGESTS a rehash of that?

    Also the title, "You Again" sounds awefull vague to me. This sounds like something saying someone might utter in a return from the grave sinario. But to me this phrase needs more to suggest what tone of movie follows this title: comedy or horror.
    Anyways currious to know what about that title pricks your interest, and leads you to want to read it. Perhahps a "buzz" factor that neither I nor your readers are aware of.

    All other good/bad titles I had no problem with you raiing issues with or giving a thumbs up to.

    - E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

  2. I take the point that an arresting title might pull a script from the slush pile. I'd be interested to know how many slush-pile scripts actually go anywhere, good title or no.

    Also, how often do you find an interesting title attached to a piece-of-crap script? How about a great title, great first act, and crap the rest of the way through? Since titles can't be trademarked, do they get cherry-picked and used by studios, with the original script in the recycle bin?

    I know a great movie with a lousy title. No hint of genre or premise, and hardly memorable. But it's one of the best scripts I ever read. More interesting titles might have come from its content ("God of Death" or "Untrue North" or "The Fixer" or "The Bagman" or "The Gamble" or "Realm & Conquest"). Would you be more likely to read one of those than a script called "Michael Clayton"?

    I guess you probably would.