First, it’s advisable to start a feature film script with a working title that the writer can change later.
It’s easy for story analysts to spot an amateur solely by the script’s title. How? Two things come to mind; 1) the title is long and sounds like a novel 2) the title is a cool title, but seemingly has nothing to do with the story.
Here are some tips for selecting script titles that will help the script stand out in the marketplace.
The movie poster should be a consideration when selecting a title because every movie has one and it’s a major selling point. Movie poster titles should preferably be 1-3 words and paint a clear picture of the story and its genre. Titles like HAUNTED MANSION, PARASITE, LIKE A BOSS, JOKER, JUST MERCY, JOJO RABBIT, and HARRIET, paint a clear picture.
USE SONG TITLES
Tying a song into a movie title is a good idea for two reasons: 1) most song titles are short and fit on a movie poster 2) a producer can license the rights to the actual song and use it in the movie (assuming it’s an appropriate fit). This could add value to the script.
FOCUS ON GENRE
If the story’s a horror, does the title sound frightening, like PARASITE? If it’s a RomCom, does it sound romantic, like THE WEDDING PLANNER? If it’s an adventure, does it evoke excitement, like the RIVER WILD?
Plot’s with irony tend to sell faster than plots without irony and the same is true of titles. What’s ironic about your story? Use that to create a title. For example, if it’s a murder story, which is very common, but the irony is that fact the murder takes place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, then the title would be MURDER AT 1600.
The hero’s name is another alternative to coming up with a solid title. This works best if the hero has a memorable name like BOND, RAMBO, BATMAN, or MAD MAX. The writer should try to do this with the hero’s name, but there have been movies where the title uses the antagonist’s name, like KILL BILL.
USE A CATCH PHRASE
We hear catch phrases almost daily, but as a writer we shouldn’t take these for granted. Instead, write them down. It could make a great movie title like ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS or LET’S ROLL.
Producers are notorious for changing titles, but there are ways to get the producers to fall in love with the title. 1) Make the title poster-friendly 2) Make sure the title paints a clear picture of the story and genre 3) Add the title in the dialogue and try to have it spoken by the hero.
Finally, before marketing check IMDB.com to make sure the title hasn’t been taken. If it has, then try a variation on the title or a new title. If you get stuck and can’t come up with a title, go through the dialogue and write down keywords because the title is usually hidden in the dialogue waiting for you to discover it.
A great title can increase the script’s value and attract producers.