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Identity Crisis! Does Your Screenplay Need A New Title?

Identity Crisis! Does Your Screenplay Need A New Title?

Towards the end of 2013, I was making a lot of progress on my new script.  I was nearing the half way point when things got a little busy in my life.  In the span of 6 weeks, I completely reorganized my world.  By the time Christmas rolled in, I had moved into a new house and began preparing for the arrival of our first child.  I think you would agree, setting a screenplay aside for such things is necessary.

Once things settled down, I turned on Final Draft & the loaded up my screenplay.  A few things occurred to me as I read over the 50+ pages I had written.  There were a couple issues with my main character that needed to be resolved.  It’s a fairly complex world to describe and rewrites were necessary to make it work.  Thankfully, I had a plan in place to pull them off the changes my screenplay needed.

The biggest epiphany that occurred to me was my screenplay’s title.  In light of the changes I wanted to implement, I realized the story no longer worked with the title I fell in love with months ago.

A screenplay without a title is a huge problem for me.  I find it difficult to write a script without one.  You might call it writer’s block but I simply have to call it something.  Without an exciting title, my story felt soulless.  A title gives a screenplay an identity.  It makes it real.  Something I can dedicate time to complete.  Something I can be passionate about.  You can imagine how lost I felt when my original title felt stale.

So I sat there for a little while pondering the possibilities…

  • What is my screenplay truly about?
  • What makes a cool title?
  • What will my screenplay’s first impression be?
  • What is my screenplay’s identity?
  • Why is this so hard?

The answer to the last question is also the same thing that makes screenwriting fun.  Challenges are around every corner.  Overcoming them is one of the most rewarding feelings a creative person can experience.

It may be difficult but when you find the perfect title for your screenplay, it almost seems too easy.  You repeat it in your head over and over again wondering how you got so lucky.  You’ve thought of the perfect title and fallen in love.

The crisis I experienced can be blamed on a single poor decision.  When I chose the original title, I went back to the well.  I used a title previously linked to a completely different screenplay idea.  For a time, it felt like a perfect fit but I didn’t give my screenplay’s identity time to develop.  I suppose, in the end, it never felt right.

A week later, a single word hit me.  It wasn’t a title yet, just a word I wanted to incorporate into my script’s title.  I was driving to work thinking about my main character’s painful journey.  I was thinking about how badly I wanted to write something worth while.  Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming rush of inspiration and passion…


Suddenly, everything made sense.  My screenplay had a true identity.  A soul.

I may have set my script aside for a while but I thought about the story every day.  Now I find myself with a concept I’m passionate about, characters I love and a world I’ve never seen before.  I was thrilled that, for the first time, my screenplay had a perfect title.

It was time to get back to work.

When you’re choosing a title for your screenplay let the story inform your decisions.  Sometimes a cool title may seem perfect but is it truly perfect for your story?  It’s a crucial decision as it sets the tone for each and every page that follows.  Don’t be afraid to try new titles until one sticks.  You’ll know it the moment you discover it.  Like your story, you shouldn’t stop until it’s perfect.

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2 thoughts on “Identity Crisis! Does Your Screenplay Need A New Title?

  1. I think most writers have had similar problems with title changes. But “what’s in a name?” Probably not much. I know a lot of writers that blurt out their titles like they mean something, “I’m working on [Insert Something Obscure Here],” but really, it falls on deaf ears like mentioning your character names in your logline.

    Titles are best left up to marketing, but I can certainly see how a good title can keep a writer jazzed up. It would be nice to have a title that sums up what the movie is all about like Jaws, E.T., and Star Wars. However, some of the best movies had obscure titles for the uninitiated like the Constant Gardener, the English Patient, and Blade Runner.

    Maybe a working title is better until there’s more time for proper development. Maybe a title like “Dirty Cop with a Drinking Problem” would be a little long, but you know what it’s about. “Monkey Around Time with Two Cows on the Farm” probably wouldn’t work.

    • Great comment!

      I look at my original title as the ‘working title’ now. Ultimately, it was the wrong choice but it worked until my screenplay’s true identity surfaced through months of development. It’s true, mentioning titles can fall on deaf ears. I think that’s why I never mentioned either title in the post. What matters at this stage is the story.

      For me, having a title strengthens my love of the story and helps keep me on track. ‘Jazzed up’ is a perfect way to describe it. For now, the title is just for me and it’s working! I’m actually responding to this comment while on a break from the rewrites.

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