Saturday, January 23, 2010

It would help if this post had a really good title.


I posted this clip from the deleted scenes of the movie In The Loop up on Facebook a while back, but was a little hesitant to put it up on the blog now that I'm avoiding obscenities as much as possible. If you can parse through the sentences of Jamie McDonald, the crossest man in Scotland, he has an excellent point. There Will Be Blood is a great title, if it delivers. Compared to many movies today, there really wasn't that much blood.

While There Will Be Blood is a very evocative phrase, the title In The Loop is vague, and I see this as a problem for movies and TV shows now. If you have a movie that's going to get saturation marketing, a vague title isn't a problem. Titles like Cloverfield and Avatar might not mean that much to people before the movie comes out, but with a jillion dollar ad campaign, everybody paying attention will know by the time the movie comes out that the first one is about a big Godzilla like creature attacking New York and the other is about blue aliens on another world.

The vague title problem can really hit a small budget movie very hard. It hurts even more if your movie A Serious Man is in the theatres at the same time A Single Man is playing. It's not your fault if you didn't hear about Let The Right One In or Infamous or Spartan, and if you didn't hear about them, you aren't going to be able to guess what they are about from the titles. (The new girl in town is a vampire, Truman Capote and a kidnapping, respectively.)

A good title is not a promise of good business. Joon Ho-Bong's Memories Of Murder has a great title and is an excellent film, but it didn't do very good business even in Korea. His movie Gwoemul means "monster" in Korean, and is the most successful Korean movie to date, though it had the more vague title The Host in English, and didn't do the business it deserved.

A vague title is also a problem on TV sometimes. Joss Whedon made a film and TV show called Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and the title tells you a lot in four words. You're going to get a strong female heroine, there are going to be scary monsters and there will be a comedy element. On the other hand, Whedon made a show called Firefly, and when it spun off into a motion picture, that was titled Serenity. Both of those names take some 'splainin', and it's hard to say how much the movie increased the franchise's fan base beyond the hardcore fans of the cancelled show.

So just a word of warning to filmmakers. It's going to cost you millions of dollars to make even a cheap film these days, and you aren't doing yourself any favors giving these white elephants titles like Legion, Leap Year or Extraordinary Measures.

Just sayin'.

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