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Film Studies: Choosing The Name Of Your Film

Updated on November 13, 2017
juliannehenry profile image

Hello, from a former Model, now a Published Writer (Lover's Rock Reggae Music Quiz Book), from NW London with a BA in New Media Journalist,

The Name Game

MEMORABLE. Smart. Sophisticated. If ever there was a name that, rings true of all these bells and lends itself to be plucked out of no where (or out of a newspaper) to end up as a name of a full feature-length Hollywood production, it’s the name Jackie Brown! And as all us scriptwriters working on a draft screenplay will know, the name game is key.

In my last year at Uni and when a film Lecturer suggested amongst other things a visit to Hendon's Newspaper Library (now relocated to Wet Yorkshire*) to rummage through newspaper cuttings, by way of 'old newspapers providing fresh insights in your search for the perfect name for your film script'..,..I was up for it.

Still, having trawled through numerous archives, and loosing the plot, plumping for my local Gazzette (looking for, a cutting that confirmed that I had been a 'runner up', in a Beauty Pagaent - the Miss Teenager of the West Indies back in the day, I came across a cutting that got me thinking. Reminding me among other things, reminded me that I had yet to name my own nearly finished Filmscript.

Jackie Brown

The 'real' Jackie Brown
The 'real' Jackie Brown | Source

Tarantino's Jackie Brown

The film 'Jackie Brown', An adaptation of a 1992 novel - Rum Punch starring Black American actress Pam Grier in the title role, from the Director Tarantino. A classic. But, never mind that the film 'pays homage to 1970s films, particularly the films Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), both of which also starred Grier in the title roles, or that the film was a big success for the Hollywood Director, the name itself rings all the right bells.

It's a tale where flight attendant Pam Grier, as Jackie Brown is busted smuggling money for her arms dealer boss, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), and where agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) want her help to bring him down. Facing 'jail time for her silence or death for her cooperation' Jackie instead double-crosses both parties and makes off with the smuggled cash; a fortune for a small time girl! Having enlisted the help of bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), a man who falls head over heals with her. Much, I figured (with my BA Degree in Media Studies student hat on, perhaps like Tarantino fell for the name JACKIE BROWN - from the cutting! .

R A Albert's Jackie Brown

The real life Jacqueline Brown, - a teenager from Chiswick - crowned Miss West Indies In Great Britain seen here in the cutting on stage at Acton Town Hall, West London, seen her, in a shot captured through the lense of the camera, of the late photographer R A Albert. and, after her win, published courtesy of the local Gazzette. Acton, West London.

An unforgotten beauty queen. And as for her name, unforgetable too..

The Name Game


ASK James Zborowski (Alternative takes) who says wrote in 2007, that spending a little time thinking about how film titles work can be interesting and illuminating, is the way to go.

Indeed, looking for tips on how its done in the film world today, like yesterday, interesting and illuminating characters’ names are IN when used as film titles.

Names tending to identify the protagonist: as unique, such as in Hollywood films like, Jerry Maguire or Erin Brockovich - their titles suggests names of a character whose presence looms large, or larger!

An extra twist, sometimes ironic, can be added by giving the character some kind of title: as in Citizen Kane, Sgt Bilko, Madame Bovary. And if the character is a famous historical personage, the title has a different charge again (sometimes, a film will hint at what it intends to offer by choosing certain elements of the whole name at its disposal: i.e. Elizabeth and Amadeus could be taken to imply that intimate, behind-the-scenes portraits are being offered).

That and a movie’s protagonist can be designated by occupation rather than name, often inviting us to ask to what extent such an occupation defines them, or how others see them (The Wedding Singer, BabyMother,. Slightly differently again, a character-title will offer a description of the protagonist that strongly suggests that we can expect certain types of plot events, or a certain genre (the two often amount to the same thing): Burning an Illusion..

A film title can also designate a location, smaller Handworth Songs,

Some titles refer to time (12 yeArs a slave). Seasonal references are common enough (Autumn Sonata, Summer of Sam). A limited timeframe or a deadline can be implied (28 Days, 24 Hours in London, The 25th Hour; High Noon); sometimes an era or a date is specified (2001: A Space Odyssey). Saturday Night and Sunday Morning speaks more of repetition and routine than of a specific timeframe. Sometimes a story event will form the title Bullet Boy, often specifying a location too: Babylon (1980),

Some titles invite us to weight the validity or the sufficiency of an assertion or description: The Harder They Come" or Do The Right Thing'..

Indeed, titles can remain fairly enigmatic, hovering over the movie in a fairly general way. Youing Soul Rebels, is a fairly famous recent example. Documentary style, also need the title to be considered, often fairly straightforward, Thje Mysterious Death of Sam Cooke, or How Did Slim Smith Die? significantly about the person named.

Name Dropping


To The Future

Of course there's nothing wrong with picking a name randomly from a newspaper say, even out of a book on baby names, or taking the name of a Rapper!

Whatever your approach, the experts say you'll KNOW when the right name presents itself you'll get it.

What with plenty of stella advice to help you choose, I've gleaned from the best, and the rest, to bring you my check-list that may help you over the frustrations of choosing a name for your future film!

- Be creative, but don't go overboard (another way of saying keep it simple)

- Brainstorming helps, Then, with a few names in mind

- Take a little time to Think it through

- Check out the 'root meaning'

- Be unique and unforgettable

- Avoid unusual spelling

- Make sure it make 'perfect sense'

- Try It Out (Sample it with your friends)

- That and making sure its available without infringing copywrite laws

- Check for 'iffy' connotations i.e. loaded names that will lead to law suits!

- Think of names that set your script apart

- Don't follow the latest trends, or at least try to be different!

Finally, there's nothing to say you can't pick a name random like out of a newspaper cutting Library, it certainly worked for some!

To the future name of your feature film - best of luck in dropping that Name!

Names That Nailed It

Nailing It

"An interesting name can really help sell the feeling of a character (or film). Whether it’s loaded with meaning, has an appealing sense of the ridiculous, or simply sounds cool, a great name will always make me sit up and take notice." (

Anyone: A Film Called Carol Harry!

Picture by R A Albert (Model Carol Harry)
Picture by R A Albert (Model Carol Harry)

The Playlist

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of The Name Game

© 2016 Julie Henry


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