Finding the Least Imperfect Title

I made the choice a few weeks ago to rename the short film I wrote and produced in the fall. I say, “I made the choice” like my decision was final and unilateral, but really I finally came up with a title my partners could live with.

The story, if you weren’t tuned in in the fall, was about a journalist who goes upstate for an exclusive interview with a Broadway diva who just walked off a hit production of Hamlet. Before he gets one single comment on the record, she sees through him – that he doesn’t know anything about theater – and sends him packing, only for him to discover that her assistant has taken his car to go find some jumper cables. Now he’s stranded .

My original title was “Jumper Cables,” calling attention to the key prop in the story, but my partners strongly preferred “Cell Phone Range.” That, I found, was not well-received, particularly by people over 40, who thought it sounded like a cheap comedy, but we needed to call it something while fund-raising, so we went with it as a working title. Throughout shooting and editing, I came up with some bad alternatives.

One producer and publisher I know who’d read the script, suggested “Caesar’s Wife,” but that would muddy the water. Is it about Hamlet or Julius Caesar or what? I know from my 2003 feature New World Symphony how an off-topic title can handicap a film. That was a pretty straightforward melodrama set in a theater; NWS was misleading. That experience also taught me to listen to feedback.

Watching the the various cuts, it’s more apparent in the film than it was on the page that the essence of the story boils down to one scene. Andy insists he knows something about theater. Holly flips this by challenging him: “Name six women in all of Shakespeare’s plays.” She delivers a test for him to prove himself and links it to his bigger problem, implying that he doesn’t know anything about women.

Hence our new title, “Six Women.”

Visscher_Map_6

The Jansson-Visscher map.

Most of my writing time this winter, truth be told, I’m spending writing a business plan for a bar and restaurant in upstate New York. My fascination with the place is more than passing, more than just this short script.

For relaxation, I’m re-reading The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan, and the Founding Colony that Shaped America by Russell Shorto. No explanation needed, I’m supposing, but one amazing detail from the book is the genesis of  Johannes Jansson’s map of New Netherland, which Adrian van der Donck had him publish when he was back in Holland trying to get a charter for a pubic government in New Amsterdam to replace the West India Company’s autocracy. Van der Donck is the hero of the book; he was fluent in Mohawk and other native languages and, among other things, the first civil rights lawyer in North America.

So many Dutch place names in this region I grew up in, from Schuylkill to Bushwick to Spuyten Duyvil (the Devil’s Spout!), all because a Dutchman was the first to have the motive and the means to record what his friends were calling them, and commit it to paper. Now every spot had a Dutch working title, daring someone else to come up with something better.

IMG_5188

Old Route 22 in Amenia, NY.

Further upstate and east a bit, beyond the reach of the Dutch, I was checking out the Millerton, NY area one day. It’s near the Massachusetts and Connecticut borders, real Yankee country, and I don’t mean the baseball team. One reason I like traveling alone is so I can stop at every historical marker I please.

How sweet that the State Department of Education put up a plaque in 1935, explaining the name of the town, and hastened to add that we have it on good authority, since the Englishman who came up with it also came up with “Vermont.” If I see Dr. Thomas Young in the afterlife I’m going to tell him, “I love your work.”

 

Comments

  1. Soham Mehta says:

    For what it’s worth, I love the title “Six Women.”

    On Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 8:53 AM, More Has To Happen wrote:

    > morehastohappen posted: “I made the choice a few weeks ago to rename the > short film I wrote and produced in the fall. I say, “I made the choice” > like my decision was final and unilateral, but really I finally came up > with a title my partners could live with. The story, if you we” >

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