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What is a Screenplay Title? The Essential Guide to Crafting the Perfect Script Title

The title of your screenplay serves as the first impression for anyone who picks up your script. Much like a book cover or the headline of a newspaper article, the title needs to instantly grab attention and convey the essence of your story.

But what makes for an effective screenplay title? How do you go about developing the perfect title to represent your script? This comprehensive guide will examine everything you need to know about crafting memorable big-screen titles.

What is a Screenplay Title?

A screenplay title refers to the name given to a script written for film or television. This is the title that will ideally remain if the screenplay is produced and made into a movie or TV program.

The screenplay title serves several key purposes:

  • Grabs attention – In a sea of scripts, a strong title intrigues readers and makes them want to learn more. Just like a movie poster or trailer, it needs to create intrigue.
  • Conveys the genre/theme – An effective title gives readers a sense of the general tone and subject matter of the story before they even open the script.
  • Markets the story – A good title functions like a brand name or slogan, encapsulating the concept in a way that engages audiences.
  • Intrigues the audience – By hinting at the conflict, relationships, or irony within the script, a title generates curiosity to read the screenplay and watch the finished movie.
  • Identifies the work – Once the script is produced, the title forever links back to that particular film or show.

When it comes to length, screenplay titles tend to be short, usually ranging from just 2-7 words. Exceptions like Snakes on a Plane get attention for their overt simplicity and clarity. But for most scripts, brevity is best.

Elements of an Effective Screenplay Title

Screenplay experts agree that the best titles have certain key traits in common. Here are the hallmarks of a great script title:

  • Unique and Original – In a competitive industry, the title needs to help the script stand out from the flood of other submissions. Avoid overused cliches and aim for something fresh.
  • Evocative – Titles that generate specific emotions, moods, or mental imagery relating to the story make an impact on readers.
  • Memorable – A great title sticks in the mind long after reading the script. Short, punchy, and clever titles tend to be the most recognizable.
  • Relevant – The title should closely align with the script’s genre, tone, themes, time period, setting, or other story elements.
  • Descriptive – While not giving too much away, an effective title provides a sense of the general concept, conflict, relationships, and trajectory of the plot.
  • Engaging – Choose language, terminology, and phrasing with an eye toward sparking interest in potential audiences.

By incorporating these elements, you can develop a title that piques curiosity, effectively markets your story, and leaves a lasting impact.

How to Create a Great Screenplay Title

Crafting the perfect screenplay title takes effort and creative thinking. Here are some techniques and strategies to generate powerhouse titles:

Brainstorm Extensively

Begin by brainstorming extensively around anything and everything related to your script. Make lists of the following:

  • Keywords – Significant words that describe characters, settings, and themes.
  • Phrases – Impactful phrases or passages of dialogue from the screenplay.
  • Themes – Central topics, messages, motifs, and conflicts in the story.
  • Settings – Unique locations that factor prominently in the plot.
  • Character Names – The first, last, or full names of main characters.
  • Time Period – If the story focuses on a specific historical era.
  • Imagery – Visuals, symbols, and metaphors that are meaningful to the concept.

Once your lists are robust, look for connections between the items that could form into potential titles.

Hook with Irony or Contrast

Combining words and phrases with contrasting meanings often generates intrigue. Look for ways to build in irony, juxtapositions, or reveal that hook interest. Some examples:

  • Kill Bill
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Play with Alliteration

Repeating consonant sounds creates rhythm and lyrical titles that stick in the mind like Silence of the Lambs and The Fast and the Furious. Identify alliteration opportunities with your keywords.

Try Different Combinations

Experiment by mixing and matching words from your brainstorming lists in different combinations and arrangements:

  • The [Setting] [Character]
  • [Number] [Object]
  • [Adjective] [Noun]

Get Feedback

Share some of your strongest title ideas with trusted friends, family, or writing groups to get their takes. Seeing which titles pique interest can provide useful insight.

Fit Your Genre

Lean into genre conventions and archetypes for comedies, dramas, action films, or sci-fi. Well-placed references specific to your genre help set accurate expectations.

Stay Flexible

Be open to revising your working title as the screenplay evolves. Some titles only emerge later in the development process.

By playing with language and testing out various combinations, you can create the perfect title to bring your story to life.

Examples of Memorable Screenplay Titles

To see the principles in action, here are some examples of memorable screenplay titles and why they work so well:

The Social Network

This title neatly encapsulates the concept (social media), topic (Facebook’s founding), and period (the early 2000s) when social networks emerged. Short, descriptive titles work brilliantly for biopics and historical dramas.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Balfort’s memoirs became a metaphoric title with “wolf” suggesting the predatory, ravenous nature of stock brokers like Belfort who took down Wall Street. It immediately sets the tone and time period.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The genre-defining word “curious” hints at the fantastical reverse aging premise, while Benjamin Button intrigues with descriptive name pairing.

Star Wars

This iconic title simply yet perfectly conveys the grand, elemental, galactic scale of the franchise in just two highly visual words.

Pitch Perfect

This musical comedy is encapsulated in two words conveying the performances, music industry backdrop, and lighthearted tone. The double meaning adds appeal.

Gone Girl

The succinct title plants intrigue and mystery around why the girl is gone and what happened to her. The cover of the source novel used the same stylized font and coloring as the movie title for consistency.

No Country for Old Men

This adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel derives intrigue by juxtaposing “Old Men” with “No Country.” It immediately presents both the setting and the central conflict.

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino is known for unique stylistic spelling and sharp irony. Here, the misspelling “Inglorious” piques interest, and the juxtaposition between “Basterds” and elite German soldiers creates irony.

Dr. Strangelove

A quirky, enigmatic title that grabs curiosity. The subtitle, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” clarifies the comedic, ironic tone around nuclear war.

Final Thoughts on Screenplay Titles

As these examples illustrate, a strong screenplay title can truly make or break interest in your script. Take time to craft original, descriptive, and engaging titles using the tips in this guide.

Remember that the title serves as a sales tool – take advantage of this valuable creative real estate. Intrigue readers. Set the tone. Make your title unforgettable. Use the principles and strategies here to develop the perfect title to launch your screenplay and generate some buzz.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should a script title page look like?

A script title page should include the title centered vertically and horizontally, writer’s name and contact info in the bottom left, and copyright info in the bottom right. The font is typically a clean, courier 12pt with 1″ margins all around.

What do you mean by screenplay?

A screenplay is a written script formatted to technical standards for film and TV production. It describes settings, actions, dialogue and other elements visually to convey the story and guide production. Screenplays differ from plays or prose in style and technical format.

What does screenplay mean in credits?

In movie and TV credits, “screenplay by” refers to the writer(s) who wrote the final version of the script used for the finished production. Other writing credits like “story by” or “based on a book by” can also be included.

How do you name a screenplay file?

Screenplay files are typically named using the script’s title in all caps, like “STARWARS.pdf”. Include the writer’s last name and draft number for revisions like “STARWARS_Kasdan_Draft1.pdf”.

What three things need to be on the title page of your script?

The three key elements on a script title page are the title, the writer’s name, and contact information. The title should be most prominent, followed by the writer’s name, then phone/email at the bottom.

What are the 4 parts of the title page?

The four parts of a screenplay title page are:

  1. The title
  2. The “by” credit with the writer’s name
  3. Writer’s contact info
  4. Copyright information

What is the difference between script and screenplay?

A script generally refers to the written text of any scripted production. A screenplay is a specific kind of script formatted for film/TV with scene headings, action lines, transitions, and other elements. All screenplays are scripts, but not all scripts are screenplays.

How much do screenwriters make?

Professional screenwriters typically earn $37,000 to $127,000 annually depending on experience level and credits. Top screenwriters can earn over $250,000. Additional income can come through royalties and residuals.

Who writes screenplays?

Anyone can write a screenplay, but produced scripts are typically written by trained, experienced screenwriters who pitch and sell their scripts to studios, producers or directors. Aspiring writers can break in by selling scripts, winning contests, making connections in the industry, or being hired for their writing skills.

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