There are some things that can make it hard to do business.
Early on in my California career journey, I was asked to test a new camera in the field, considering metrics like ease of use, quality of capture and costs. It was relatively easy to get people to work together on a one-day shoot as volunteers, each getting the film credit they signed up for and a copy of the video for their reel. So, a team of us formed together for this beta test. When I went back to the head of this beta project, Doug, with the results, I shared that we were proud to say it only cost us very little. Doug said something that changed my perspective: “This is great news, thanks. Please don’t ever do that again. People need to get paid; they have bills to pay.”
Fast forward to now. During Covid, we spent countless hours finding new avenues to distribute new and existing film titles. For the agreements we had for awhile, it was very hard to find people to pay them. It was then that I recalled the wonderful beta test with Doug and his paying people lesson. Title spellings can actually impede a company’s search to pay those volunteers to fulfill deals, hire them or connect them with someone that reached out and said, “Who do you know that does X?”
If you are a business owner and not a creator, substitute your business name for the examples below. You may see why a potential or current client (or anyone you communicate with) may not be able to find the PDF about the new project you sent or find you months later when they are ready to do business. This is because you may be titling what you send differently than your actual project’s or company’s name. I’ll use the title “The Bird on a Hill” as an example of the different variations of the spelling of the file:
• Abbreviated: TBH
• All caps: THE BIRD ON A HILL
• Without spacing: thebirdonahill
• Numbers replacing some characters: The Bird 8n 4 Hill
• Generally odd formatting: t.h.e.b.i.r.d.o.n.a.h.i.l.l.
Variations in spelling happen a lot. “The” is also not consistently used in naming files. “The Bird on a Hill” might be saved as “Bird on a Hill” sometimes. Or there might be general inconsistencies where some files have the title and some have the title and a tagline. So, if I type the actual title, your file won’t come up.
We have backup systems if there is a hard drive crash, but even so, we still need to find you. Did your email address, phone number, email or name change? If we are not notified and you are not listed clearly on a major social media platform that we can reach out to you through, we may not be able to pay you.
If your SAG-AFTRA sign-in sheet or on-set payment paperwork was not filled in, we may have trouble finding you via a search on all computer drives, Google docs, Excel sheets, Word docs, storage systems and payment systems like Venmo, Paypal, Stripe, etc. If your name is not consistent across systems, we may not be able to pay you. For instance, one script reader we worked with had a writer’s name and email, a reader’s name and email and then a personal email — and the names he used were not the same! So, we had to ask him each time he billed us which email and name he wanted it sent to.
It may sound silly but when you are dealing with hundreds of titles, it is not prudent to expect anyone to know or remember to add or remove “the” in a title search.
Plurals are another consideration. I’ve done this as well — there are two plurals in my production company title and it has created pauses and bumps along the way. Since it is a California S Corp and has been around for a while, we keep it.
Someone pitched me the other day using one word with two syllables for their title. Their title immediately matched what he started pitching. One complemented the other, so it was easy to continue.
Sometimes the title from a foreign country has different spellings, possibly in translation. For instance, we have one title in our distribution library that has three different ways to spell its name, which can be very confusing. This could be good or bad depending on the circumstances. For example, recently there was a film that was up for a major award and the title was very close to a film we distribute. We found during that awards season that our title got way more views than it had in the previous six months!
I get it: You want to stand out or show your creative side. Please remember, in show business, you need the business side. We need to find you. A lot of titles use accents or special characters and most of these create errors in different systems. If we’re pitching you to a studio and their system doesn’t accept those characters, we may not be able to properly pitch you to them.
One final thought to keep in mind is, you do not want to take anyone out of the script, movie, VR experience, etc., by having your brain stop because something is off.