Title pages

Title pages are important. They’re a reader’s first impression of your script and, as such, are the first indication of whether you’re a professional or amateur. Since there are a lot of opinions on this topic, let’s talk a little about what’s necessary and what’s not.

TITLE

This aspect of the title page should be pretty self-explanatory. I’ll talk more about how titles are approved and cleared by production companies in a future blog post (SPOILER ALERT: that’s not your job so you don’t need to stress about it). For now, all you need to concern yourself with is coming up with a catchy, appropriate title for your work.

WRITERS

The names of the original writers of the work should be listed directly under the title. Bonus points if you follow general WGA basic definitions to the best of your ability (i.e., “Story by” and “Screenplay by” if individuals made different contributions, “Written by” if the same writer was responsible for both the story and the actual writing).

Below the original writers, you list any writers who have performed revisions. All writers’ contributions should be listed chronologically (providing draft dates can be helpful if there are a lot of them), and you should never, ever remove a writer from the title page.

Not even if that writer left the project under unpleasant circumstances.

Not even if that writer only tweaked a couple of lines.

Not even if you do a rewrite, and then that writer only did a quick punch up before the company re-hired you to do another rewrite.

Not even if you’re doing a page one rewrite and the company promises that they threw away that previous writer’s draft and you’re starting 100% from scratch.

The title page is a chronology of the writing history of the project and that history is tied to the legal chain of title. Just because a company starts over with a completely new take on the project does not mean it’s a new legal chain of title. Those previous writers of unused drafts are still considered participating writers by the WGA.

Removing writers from the title page is not only against WGA rules, it also makes their credit determination process much harder and more contentious because the Guild then has to go through and assemble the project chronology for themselves if it’s not evident on the title page.

Example 1:

SCRIPT TITLE

Written by
SCREENWRITER #1

Current Revisions by
SCREENWRITER #2

Example 2:

SCRIPT TITLE

Written by
SCREENWRITER #1

Revisions by
SCREENWRITER #2 (9/7/16)
SCREENWRITER #3 (12/13/16)
SCREENWRITER #2 (3/7/17)

Current Revisions by
SCREENWRITER #4 (4/26/17)

Example 3 – What Not To Do:

SCRIPT TITLE

Written by
SCREENWRITER #4

Example 4 – What Not To Do:

SCRIPT TITLE

Written by
SCREENWRITER #1

Current Revisions by
SCREENWRITER #4

Examples 3 and 4 are not appropriate because other screenwriters have been removed from the title page. This happens a lot – sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose – but it is not okay, even if the company tells you to go back to the drawing board and start the project from scratch. If the company engaged previous writers, those writers must be listed on the title page.

Never remove a previous writer from the title page of a script.

UNDERLYING MATERIAL

If there’s any underlying material, that goes under the writers. There are no hard and fast rules for this, as long as it’s clear.

Example:

SCRIPT TITLE

Written by
SCREENWRITER #1

Current Revisions by
SCREENWRITER #2

Based on the novel by
FAMOUS AUTHOR

CONTACT INFO

On the bottom left or bottom right of the script (standard is bottom left), include the contact information for your script. If you don’t have representation, put your own contact info there. If you do, put your reps’ contact info there. When you option or sell a project, the producer or production company name and info usually goes there since they’re the new point of contact for the project.

Don’t overcomplicate it or think that you have to include every method of communication imaginable. In most cases a contact name, company (if applicable), phone number, and email address are all you need.

Example:

SCRIPT TITLE

Written by
SCREENWRITER #1

Current Revisions by
SCREENWRITER #2

Joe Agent
Agency Name
(310) 555-0100
joe_agent@agencyname.com

REVISION HISTORY

On the opposite end of the bottom of the page (standard is bottom right), that’s where the production revision history goes. When a script is in development, all pages are white. When you’re in production, each set of revisions is colored so the production personnel can easily ensure they’re working off the current revisions.

Colored revisions are typically made in the following order: blue, pink, yellow, green, goldenrod, buff, salmon, cherry, then repeat the sequence as needed (2nd blue through 2nd cherry, 3rd blue through 3rd cherry, etc.). Some shows and companies deviate slightly in their colors and/or order, but the idea is that there are a sequence of colored pages that tell people on the shoot exactly what changed in which draft.

Example:

SCRIPT TITLE

Written by
SCREENWRITER #1

Current Revisions by
SCREENWRITER #2

Blue Revisions – 4/20/17
Pink Revisions – 4/22/17
Yellow Revisions – 4/26/17

WHAT YOU DON’T NEED

A lot of writers feel the need to put a copyright notice or WGA Script Registry number on the title page of the screenplay.

It’s not necessary.

The assumption is that the writer has taken care of their own protections. The presence of this notice is not going to dissuade someone who really wants to steal your work. And if you’re submitting it to reputable, legitimate contacts, they’re (a) not going to be interested in stealing your stuff anyway, and (b) aren’t dumb enough to think that no copyright notice means it’s okay to steal.

I’ll get into copyright notices and the myths of stolen work in a future blog post.

When the time comes to option/purchase a script, the contract will spell out all the legal language the company needs to effect a transfer of ownership, including reps and warranties and assignment of rights. You simply do not need to waste time or space waving a big flag on your title page that says, “Hey, I registered my script and it’s protected, just FYI!”

STYLE POINTS

The last issue I want to bring up about title pages is the increasingly popular idea that some kind of graphic or stylistic element should be included on the title page.

Some people think the title page should be in some variant of Courier 12 just like the rest of the script. Maybe you go a little crazy and bold or underline the title to make it stand out, but otherwise nothing fancy.

Other people think that a stylistic font will convey a message or other thematic elements.

“It’s a superhero story and the title font looks like comic book text!”

“It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller and the title is distressed futuristic military stencil!”

And still other people like to include an image. I’ve seen title pages with the entire cover rendered like a book cover. Or small images inserted between title page elements, like above the title itself, between the writers and the contact info, etc.

While you should be careful with your implementation of these stylistic choices (it’s very easy to go overboard and make it look amateurish), they’re exactly that: choices. You can include them or not. No professional reader is going to pass on the script just because there’s a picture of a space station on your title page and the title font is drop-shadowed Copperplate or Impact rather than Courier.

Just remember there should be moderation in all things. Done tastefully, a stylized cover page can intrigue or excite a reader. Done poorly, a stylized cover can prejudice a reader against your script before they even get to page one.

Stylize responsibly.

FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANT STUFF

Ultimately, your title page is the first impression a reader gets of your script, but readers don’t pass on or buy scripts based on the title page. Whether you’re a traditionalist who uses the standard template in your screenwriting software or someone who spends hours working on the perfect stylized layout with custom fonts and images, at the end of the day it’s still just a title page and the script will have to stand on its own.

What’s really important is having a effective title, an accurate account of the writers involved in the project, and correct contact information.

That’s the big stuff you need to get right. That’s what shows you’re a professional.

5 thoughts on “Title pages

  1. Great advice, as always! One question: Should a writer (who has no rep) list their full legal name in the contact info area of the page, if they use a nom de plume for the screenplay itself? Thx in advance.

    • There’s no legal reason why the contact name can’t be pseudonymous; the contract will need your legal name, but the title page does not.

      Just make make sure you’re clear and keep in mind that this is the name someone will be calling to contact you about the script. If your real name is “James” and your pseudonym is “Bob,” the last thing you want is an interested party calling your home, cell, etc. and asking for Bob only to have you or the person picking up the phone accidentally saying something like, “Sorry, wrong number. There’s no Bob here!”

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