Independent Films by the Numbers

The marketing of Independent Films

Archive for the 'Titles' Category

YouTube Title Optimization Probed

My initial work on analyzing factors for success on YouTube has continued with a quick analysis of Titles. It is clear to me that a bigger, longitudial study is now needed with a much larger sample size. The initial work has oriented me well, but it has its limits especially since the life cycle of typical YouTube video remains in the shadows.

The initial title work has focused upon title length in characters. It is not earthshaking, but it does provide some an initial view into the psychographics of the video posters. Again, I have compared popular/most viewed distributions against a random control.

What I have found is that there is a natural mode at a length of 32 characters for the title in both segments. The random segment has a second mode with fewer characters (<25 characters), which suggests that these might be largely hastily posted video with little effort crafting an involved title. There is one last mode at 70 characters which is the saturation point of naming -- in other words the point at which names cannot be longer. Are these extra-long names attempts at making video more findable by organic search, or just the verbose efforts of passionate uploader? I don't know yet. Anyway, here is the chart... Bar chart of title lenghts by segment

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The Language DNA of Film Titles

As I sit here in Southern California awaiting the Academy Awards this weekend,  a model I have been working on to better understand the language of film titles is complete. I was able to do a bunch of work on the airplane out here from New York.  The model was built using Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) to understand what film title words are associated with winning festival awards.  LSI is a natural language processing technique that is good for understanding hidden patterns in collections of text.  Here is a general description of the process I wrote for a article a few years ago… 

LSI maps the contextual relationships between words in terms of common usage patterns across a collection of documents called a repository. For instance, in documents about dogs (the animal), one would expect that word “dog” would be accompanied by contextually relevant words such as “collar”, “wagging”, “puppy”, or “leash.” These associations are less likely in comparable documents discussing “reptiles.” When a large number of documents are put together as repository, a statistical measure of these connections can be generated via LSI.     

LSI enables an analyst to understand how words relate to one another through the creation of a similarity measure, which reveals whether a given language pattern is similarly used compared with another pattern.

The math is brutal, but the result are always interesting.  The top 50 title words (a natural breaking point) that are associated with award winning festival are:

  1. war
  2. country
  3. love
  4. mother
  5. happy
  6. son
  7. blue
  8. broken
  9. now
  10. princess
  11. everything
  12. body
  13. day
  14. black
  15. story
  16. up
  17. park
  18. pool
  19. wild
  20. daily
  21. cant
  22. la
  23. run
  24. high
  25. innocent
  26. requiem
  27. august
  28. night
  29. amour
  30. crazy
  31. four
  32. hope
  33. dark
  34. daughter
  35. trouble
  36. bell
  37. color
  38. full
  39. dance
  40. it
  41. dust
  42. want
  43. super
  44. eye
  45. sex
  46. hotel
  47. go
  48. legacy
  49. she
  50. river
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First Letters of Film Titles

I have often wondered if the first letter of the title matters for film. I do know that films sold in catalogs tend to do better if they begin with first letters of the alphabet… simpily because buyers wil see these titles first when scanning a list of films.

I have completed my first go at the film database and have calculated the first letters for films in my sample. The results are as follows for the top 10 starting letters:

S – 10.1%
M – 7.5%
B – 6.4%
C – 6.3%
L – 6.0%
T – 5.9%
A – 5.8%
D – 5.5%
P – 5.1%
F – 4.9%

I looked at another comparative sample of english language titles to see how these compared – an analyis of Wikipedia titles done in 2004.

The most striking finding using a Chi-Squared analysis is there are many fewer “J” titles in my sample and many more “I” titles. The “I” titles make sense since Wikipedia is not expected to have so many titles starting with 1st person pronouns.

Other trends: Fewer than expected C, K, U, V, and 1 titles; and more than expected S, M, D, F, W, I, O, and U titles in my sample compared to Wikipedia.

I don’t know what this all means yet, but it is fun all the same.

Note: I used the first letter of the second word for all titles starting with “A [word]” and “The [word]” patterns.

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Film Titles

A good title can make all the difference for a film. It is the film’s first impression and is the key to public talking about your opus. An uninspired title can lead to seats not being filled at festivals and the confusion of your film with others.

What makes a good title? Some of that question can be answered by science, but much of it is art. The science side is easier to explain…

A film title is that starting point of the brand behind the film — the brand name. A good brand name should be memorable and allow the film to be differentiated from its peers. To succeed in this, the title must satisfy a few simple mechanical constraints:

  • It cannot share its name with another film, or have a name too close to another film. And yes, every year there are films in the film circuit that regrettably share names
  • It should be brief in order to help your audience recall it. Long titles like “A Conversation Between Two Miserable People in Dr. Tourin’s Waiting Room” might be fun, but they are hard to remember, while “Murder Party” is easy
  • It should be easy spelled to assure it is written correctly
  • It should be easy pronounced to assure people talk about film correctly

A good brand name should be also be ownable and trackable.

By ownable, I mean that the name should be readily associated with the film in the mind of the audience without confusion or competition. Try to avoid common or hackneyed phrases! If you need to have a common name, it is not the end of the world, but it will require more work to develop your films brand. If you are doing a film on weddings, it is hard to stand out from the crowd with a typical name like “In Sickness and in Health,” so try to be more creative.

By Trackable, I mean the name should be easy tracked in a search engine, so you can manage the word of mouth and media surrounding your film. Tracking can be time consuming, but it is very instructive and critical to your efforts. When I am working on a film, I will set up a Google alert to ping me every time a new blog post or news article mentioning my film comes out. Without the ability to track the impact of your film, you are flying blind as a marketer. Unique titles are easier than common titles.

One thing I have noticed is that films with numbers in the titles can trouble if sometimes the number are spelled out and other times they just numeric. This will cause people to have trouble finding your film in a search engine and make it more challenging for you to track your film. Go ahead use numbers, but be diligent and consistent in how you write your film’s name.

On warning about tracking… you will need good emotional control since you will not always like what your find. When I worked on ‘Shelter Dogs,’ the posts on the web ranged from praise to death threat against the main character and us the filmmakers. You need to check your emotions at the door and focus on how you can use the vibe around your film good or bad to gain an audience for your piece and its message.

The art of the title is the next part of this story, but that will have to wait. I have provided enough basics here upon which to chew and anyway I have work to do.

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