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What Is a Working Title?

A working title is a provisional headline for a piece of writing, capturing its essence while leaving room for evolution. It guides the author's focus and sparks curiosity in potential readers. Think of it as a creative compass, pointing both writer and audience toward the heart of the unfolding narrative. What might your working title reveal about your next project?
A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn

A working title for a film or other work of art is a temporary name given during the creation of the work. This term can apply to nearly any work of art, though it is most commonly associated with film. It’s also used for works of visual art, books, and other types of works.

Creators of a work of art often use a working title just to be able to refer to something before it is finished. Many artists do not want to name a project until it is finished, in order to make the name fit the finished project or work. In some situations, there are other reasons for assigning a working title to a project.

"Fanfares of Love" and "Not Tonight, Josephine" were both working titles for the classic film "Some Like It Hot.".
"Fanfares of Love" and "Not Tonight, Josephine" were both working titles for the classic film "Some Like It Hot.".

In film, some working titles are applied to help protect the film’s production. Working titles are used to enhance secrecy around the project. With intense competition in the world of film, these strategies, sometimes called “title ruses” can help to prevent the leaking of aspects or elements of a film before its intended debut.

Sometimes, working titles are only used in production. Many of these working titles are technical and not usable for a finished product, as in working titles for films that simple include keywords and numbers. In other cases, compelling working title may actually be used as the permanent title when the work is done.

Giving a work of art a working title establishes it as a “work in progress.” Many artists feel that this helps to provide structure for the artistic process, where the official naming takes the work from one stage of production or creation to another, or puts a finish on the creation process. As a conceptual strategy, working titles can help artists to treat their work differently in different stages of its design.

Another feature of the working title is that it can allow for artistic “exploration” and lets artists name something more creatively than they might when it is being delivered to a mass audience. One example of this is when artists use extremely long titles as working titles. Naming conventions practically demand shorter titles for the finished work, and artists who like to use longer, more descriptive titles can more easily accomplish this with a working title. The working title can also set an important tone for a project, even though it may not be used later.

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    • "Fanfares of Love" and "Not Tonight, Josephine" were both working titles for the classic film "Some Like It Hot.".
      "Fanfares of Love" and "Not Tonight, Josephine" were both working titles for the classic film "Some Like It Hot.".