Producers heed online responses to movie names
Working titles frequently replaced if many Internet users reject them
What’s in a name? For cars and designer clothes, it seems almost everything. But the correct name may be just as important for films as well. Sometimes producers end up spending years torn between what they want and what the public want ― although the latter usually wins for the chance of gaining a larger audience.
That’s what happened to director and writer Byun Seung-wook, who took five years to decide on the title of his new film, roughly translated as, “Stuff You Talk about When You Love.” The movie opened in Korean cinemas last week.
Originally titled “Miyeol,” meaning “Slight Fever,” the story is about a petty bourgeois couple who go through the typical ups and downs of dating. They are an ordinary pair of the contemporary times, who are both rather skeptical and cynical about being in love.
According to the director, he wanted to focus on the wounded minds of young and modern souls. So he worked on the scenario under the name “Miyeol,” playing around with the words to emphasize his male lead’s occupation as a faint-hearted pharmacist. But problems occurred when a series of online surveys asked random Internet users whether they liked the working title. The answer was a firm no.
Some respondents said the name was “too vague” or that it did not deliver the film’s romantic feeling, while others questioned why the title was related to fever.
Mr. Byun and his fellow producers finally settled on a title that satisfied them all by saying it straight ― “Stuff You Talk about When You Love.”
Other film productions have gone through a similar process of paying attention to what title their potential audiences preferred.
“The response from our prospective audience is quite influential to our decision-making,” said a promotion staff member of KM Culture, a film production company.
KM Culture released “Once in a Summer” in theaters nationwide last week. The romance melodrama was originally titled “The Summer Story” but it was changed after Internet users thought that moniker was “too nursery tale-like.”
“The [original] name also reminded the respondents of the dance song with the same title from the 1990s,” the staff member said, referring to a song by hip-hop trio DJ DOC. “That [connection] wasn’t good.”
The producers took note of survey responses that suggested the name should have a more “soft, emotional and reminiscent feel” since it was the love story of an aging professor, played by Asian heartthrob Lee Byung-hun, as he remembers the days of his long-gone youth.
As of this week, this film was in the number two place at the local box office, and its makers believe the title contributed a good share to putting it in that slot.
Sometimes movies are renamed because the titles are simply too hard to remember. Producers of “The Monday Drive” received feedback that the English title did not appeal as a simple comedy to a Korean-speaking audience.
So the film was renamed “The Cruel Shift” with an equivalent Korean title. According to the producers, the title had to include the word “cruel” because the plot of an businessman who finds out he has to pay back a private loan in just one day is “cruel.” He kidnaps a child for ransom money, making it “even crueler” and then has his daughter kidnapped in return, making his day the “cruelest.”
Director Park Gi-hyeong’s “Violent Circle” went through similar titular changes. Park originally wanted the Korean version released under the same English title as the international version ― “Gangster High.”
However, the word “circle” is a “Konglish” (Korean-English) term used by Korean youth to mean a “society” or “gang.” Therefore, the word “circle” had a greater impact in describing the Korean overtone of rebellious characters while “Gangster High” sounded “too much like a Hollywood movie.”
Public opinion certainly has a lot of power over producers when deciding on film titles, but there are exceptions. “King and the Clown,” Korea’s biggest blockbuster that attracted more than 12 million viewers earlier this year, ended up being exported as “The Royal Jester” despite having already won international acclaim under it’s original title translation (the Korean title is “The King’s Man”).
Eagle Pictures and Cine World, the co-producers of the film, changed the name for foreign sales after Kim Yong-ok, a Far Eastern philosopher and a professor at Sunchon University, translated the Korean dialogue to English subtitles.
Mr. Kim had previously subtitled director Im Kwon-taek’s “Painted Fire,” which won the Best Director award at the 2002 Cannes International Film Festival. “King and the Clown” has been submitted to next year’s Cannes event as “The Royal Jester.”
Mr. Kim said he renamed the film because “The Royal Jester” had three definitions that best delivered the director’s satirical message: one being “the king’s clown;” “a clown who is like a king;” and “the era when a king is degraded to a clown.”
But the abrupt change is still bewildering for audience members.
“I understand that the new title could be a better translation of the film’s title,” said Lee Min-kyung, an interpreter at C&S Technology. “However, why waste the free promotion it received when it already made it into headlines several times as Korea’s biggest blockbuster?”
by Lee Min-a