A Good Title Can Make or Break a Screenplay


The Title of your story is very important and should be chosen with care. The perfect title can convey the spirt of the film and generate interest in the potential audience.

Usually the best titles are simple and direct. Jaws, Star Wars, Titanic, Four Christmases, Ghostbusters, Alien, 300, The Fast & Furious; to name just a few. Each of these title invokes an image in the mind of the readers and these titles also pose a question for the potential movie goer: What is this story about? Alien? I picture something in space, but what is this Alien? The Fast and Furious? Fast? What is fast? Runners? Bicycles? Cars? Cars are fast, but who is Furious and why? Jaws sounds like something is going to get eaten right off the bat, Titanic is about something really big and wasn’t there a big ship that hit an iceberg? If only Leonardo DiCaprio was in it! All of these titles hint at something out of the ordinary and creates curiosity in the would be audience.


There are many times that the writer comes up with a great title and the studio changes the title before it is released. This is usually because test marketing indicated that the movie going public either wouldn’t like the title or wouldn’t understand the title.

The James Bond film Licence to Kill was originally Licence Revoked [which is a better title], but the market testing found that a large majority of Americans didn’t know what revoked meant. So keep in mind the target audience when creating your title, they may be dumber than you think.

Knowing what the Theme of your story is will help you create a thought provoking title that distills the concept of your story in a simply accessible word or short phase.

Three Weddings and a Funeral is a little long but it does create a mental image and sparks a question about those weddings and the funeral . Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a pretty good movie, but the title sucks. The same goes for Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants; the movie wasn’t bad, but the title leaves only confusion. Do you think Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow could have had shorter, better titles?

Think of a movie you like. Was the title the perfect fit for the movie? Can you think of a better title?


Join us next time for more on the Craft of Screenwriting.

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About The Author


John Morgan Risner John has been featured in several magazines and television programs including Great Day Live and ABC News with Diane Sawyer, talking about screenwriting, movie making, the James Bond films and the Oscar nominations. John is also a film historian, specializing in horror films and is an expert on the James Bond films and novels. John Morgan Risner is available for speaking engagements and seminars for writing groups,workshops and retreats, comic and movie conventions, and of course screenwriting and film festivals. Please send an email to screenwriterink@gmail.com for rates and scheduling. In his role as senior story analysis and head writer at Screen Writer Ink, John has over ten years as a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analysis, Story Consultant , Writing Mentor and is a Screenwriting Instructor at two major universities. This experience combined with his Degree in Screenwriting and Film Production, plus experience as a producer, director and actor, makes John uniquely qualified to analyze stories and screenplays to provide guidance to writers and producers looking to create high quality marketable novels and screenplays . The expert staff at Screen Writer Ink not only provides writing and mentor services to writers, but also manuscript analysis and editing and full screenplay analysis and coverage. Screen Writer Ink is available to producers and production companies for rewriting assignments, script doctoring and complete screenplay creation. Specialties: Screenwriting, Producing,Ghost Writing, Directing, Story Creation , Acting, Writing, Film Production, Speaker, Instruction and Analysis. Please send an email to screenwriterink@gmail.com for further information

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