Your First Working Title

Humans name everything. That’s how we identify one object from another. This is an apple, that is a blueberry, over there is Frank holding a watermelon. Everything has a name and so should your idea. Giving your screenplay a title before you’ve written a single word makes your screenplay real, tangible. Something you can touch, feel and pass around for others to see. The working title is what will keep you going while on your third rewrite at two in the morning. You will spend the next 12 to 18 months caring for this title and what it represents like it was your very own flesh and blood. And the sad truth is, once you’ve sold your screenplay it will be renamed and the screenplay you’ve fretted over for so long will be gone.

The truth of it is, unless you’re the biggest writer in Hollywood your screenplay will not keep its working title. A film’s final title is determined by the director, producers, a team of studio executives and their marketing team. Everyone has a say except the first time writer. The film’s final title must look good on the poster and be easy to sell to an audience. With the growth in the overseas market, the title must be easily translated into a variety of languages while still keeping its meaning intact. The final title must look good on both the marquis as well as the spine of a Blu-ray disc.

But for now we don’t have to worry about all of that. We just need to give our newly written down idea a name. Something we can embrace. Something that carries meaning for us and something we’ll still love a year from now. Personally I like films with only one or two words in the title. In my opinion, Star Wars was a much better title than Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. If you can get away with a single word then my all means, go for it. As possible working titles, look at character names, settings or actions. The working title should peak the reader’s interest as much as it does your own. A good working title is the first thing you can do to get the reader to open your screenplay.

Assignment 1-6

Do you have any thoughts for your screenplay’s working
title? Take a moment and write down at least five
different ideas for your working title. Once you
have your list, select one.

Example 1-6

Superhero Story
Dark City
Toronto Justice
Mob Mayor

I think I’m going to call the example screenplay “JUSTICE”. 
This may be the name of the superhero, assuming it hasn’t 
been used somewhere else (research required).

Now with our screenplay named it’s time to create the directory structure on our computer for the screenplay. It is in this directory that you’re going to save every file you need while creating your screenplay. Start with the parent directory ‘JUSTICE’ and then under it create a directories for ’SCREENPLAY’, ‘RESEARCH’ and ‘IMAGES’. Each time you save your screenplay make sure you give it a different name so you will have backups in case you encounter a problem. Example, JUSTICE_30213, JUSTICE_30216, etc. The numbers at the end are the date, YMMDD.


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