Names identify who we are (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show). We all try to be careful not to give our kids "funny" names that will haunt them throughout their lives. Well, movies may have shorter lives than humans do, but producers and directors are obsessed with movie names as well, because they've learned that how well a film is remembered often has to do with its title.
As more movies are made, coming up with a good, original title is become harder and harder. In the October 19th edition of the Wall Street Journal, Rachel Dodes quotes writer-director Rian Johnson as saying, "More and more of the good ones are taken. Every time I come up with a title while I'm writing, I'm holding my breath all the way through postproduction."
While you can't copyright the title of a movie or book, you want to think of something new so that moviegoers don't confuse your film with one they've already seen. It should also be a title that entices people to come out and watch your movie. And the competition has gotten fierce: Many movies make most of their profit during their opening weekend.
Some filmmakers don't have this problem: More than half of the big studio movies released in 2012 were sequels, prequels, book adaptations or remakes. One reason for this lack of originality is that valuable the audience already knows something about what they're about to see, and if they liked the first film, they'll be more likely to go to this one--thus there's less need to think up a good original title.
Screenwriters and movie executives say that the best titles are short and memorable. Woody Allen's Mr. Allen's "Annie Hall" was originally titled "Anhedonia," a psychiatric diagnosis that refers to the inability to feel pleasure.
"Pretty Woman" was originally titled "$3,000" (the amount of money that Richard Gere's character pays for a week of the prostitute's services)."Casablanca" was based on a play called "Everybody Comes to Rick's," but the title was changed for the film. "Stand by Me" was taken from a story called "The Body."
Dodes quotes ad agency CEO Brent Scarcliff as saying, "Movie makers have been the slowest to adopt modern branding techniques, because there's a real sense that they're artists. There are a lot of egos involved."
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