"How to Write a Screenplay"


The first words a Hollywood reader sees on your script are in the title. And you only get one chance to make a first impression. If it's a stinker, so goes the war. Your project needs to stand out from a thousand others stacked by his desk, and it needs to stand out in a hurry.

A great title could get your movie produced. Simple as that. A bad title could get it tossed into the dustbin, no questions asked. A great title might create 'buzz' all over Hollywood; a bad one could provoke but a yawn and a stretch.

And that's only part of the reason a great title is so important.

Why is a great movie title so important?

A great title puts the reader in the proper frame of mind to 'get' your movie; and it's all downhill sledding from there. A great movie title sparks the imagination of actors and directors, making them want to 'do' your movie. A great movie title inspires the producers with dollar signs; they can see it grabbing the imagination of movie-goers the world round.

Even more importantly . .

A great movie title will make it easier for you be fired up about marketing your project. If you're not fired up to begin with, let's just call the whole thing off before we get started.

How do I come up with a great movie title?

First, try to find some key word, phrase, feeling, or metaphor inherent in your work. Something that evokes the theme, perhaps, or at least tells us where it's going. Then consider that a great movie title should . .

So that's the answer. After you've come up with a title for your movie that takes people somewhere, that tells us what the movie's about, and that's out of the ordinary, try it out on people. Try it out on the other members of your writing group, your friends, your spouse. You want them to say 'Great title!' spontaneously. Keep working at it until they do.

Avoid exclamation points and question marks in the title

They go without saying and tend to look amateurish. And questions are often rhetorical. A great title should be exclamatory enough as is.

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  1. Review the titles of the most popular 250 movies at the Internet Movie Database, or look through a movie/video directory such as Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever. Consider which titles grab you and why. Which ones make you want to see the movie?
  2. Pick up the daily newspaper and peruse the movie ads and listings. Which titles make you want to get in you car and go see the movie?
  3. Call your friends or associates on the phone and tell them you have a couple ideas for movies you want to write. Try out a range of title options on them. What works? What piques their interest? What gives you confidence in the project?