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The Opportunity of a Movie
FADE IN ...
C: On you and me as we qualify ourselves.
M: I'm the CEO of a verbal branding consultancy, Vibrato Naming, with 12 years' experience naming new companies and products -- from international companies in wireless tech to under-wire bras. Prior to naming, I took 7 semesters of playwriting (5 of those one-on-one) at Trinity U. in Texas; then studied playwriting in grad school at Brown. I sneaked into Princeton to study playwriting with Jean-Claude Van Itallie (who preached the gospel of the musicality of language sitting cross-legged on the floor eating peanuts under curls of incense smoke) and went on to earn an MFA from Columbia University in playwriting. In terms of screenplays, I've studied the canons of Truby, McKee, Field, Seger and so forth. Most recently, I've titled Warner Brothers' Into the Arms of Strangers, which won an Academy award in April.
C: I'm a naming specialist with linguistic and business experience that ranges from editing biomedical jargon to naming international companies. I write; I act (most recently The Tempest); I sell linguistic schizophrenia to anyone who will pay. At Cal I majored in molecular cell biology, then literature. I worked myself bloody for Corporate America, editing for material scientists, a management consultancy, and academic journals. I escaped to the performing world, where I acted on stage, in film, and with a sublime improv troupe. After making enough as a stand-up comic to pay for the drive home to California, I moved my show into conference rooms, leading writers and namers in linguistic contortions for the good of international brands. In so doing, I met Meredith, who, I think we've mentioned, named Warner Brothers' Into the Arms of Strangers, which won an Academy award in April.
M: A movie's title can be a powerful, competitive tool in the marketplace.
C: A movie's title, as the most distilled expression of the movie's message, can make or break its theatrical future.
M: A movie's title actually initiates the relationship between the audience and the movie.
C: And should therefore persuade audiences to engage with the film by watching it, remembering it, and talking about it.
M: That's why we approach title development as a brand-building challenge.
C: The opportunity of the title is to draw people in, capture their imagination, and stay with them for the 166 hours a week when they're not actually watching the movie.
M: To create a movie title that will succeed, you need to set exact expectations for the audience. What genre is the film? A drama, comedy, thriller, art-house, etc., or hybrid? What emotional experience can the audience expect to have?
C. While it should set expectations, the title itself should be unexpected to differentiate it from the competition and make it memorable.
M: Unexpected yet relevant, or a jaded movie-going public will cultivate disdain for it before they've even seen it.
C: It needs to be easy to remember -- "catchy" -- through phonology, surprise, imagery, intrigue or sensory associations.
M: It should cut through the competitive clutter by not sounding like any other movie or book or video game out there. (Unless of course the movie is based on a book or video game out there.)
C: The title has to be persuasive, inspiring, and intriguing to compel the target audience to action, to come see the movie. The title should help demonstrate how the movie is different from all the other movies vying for the audience's entertainment time and money.
M: The title should dance when viewed in print -- be it on the TV screen, computer screen, print ads, billboards, or listings.
C: Please the ear -- audiences will hear it everywhere from radio commercials to word-of- mouth
M: Be timely, but not soon obsolete.
C: Speak the language of the target audience -- domestically and globally.
M: Be copyrightable.
C: Use a branding point of view and reference the unique selling point of the movie.
M: Yes, by answering this: What is the movie's most significantly differentiating and memorable aspect?
C: Time for our examples?
M: (nods in agreement)
Metaphors/ Central Icons
Major Dramatic Question
Literal twist to colloquialism
Hybrid Inciting Incident & Character
Hybrid: Major Dramatic Question & Backstory & Character & Inciting Incident
The bottom line: The title of a film should shoulder a good deal of the marketing burden. Today's cinema audience demands a title that offers a memorable encapsulation of the tone, message, and point of a film -- what makes it different, what makes it worth watching, what makes it worth telling two friends so they can tell two friends. In its purest marketing form, the title must be sexy and stir audiences' imagination with moonlight, adrenaline, laughter, intrigue, erudition, sobs, champagne bubbles, or terror -- or risk the black-hole miasma of "I don't remember what it's called."
Many more articles in Branding in The CEO Refresher Archives