ike a director’s first cut, a working title is the unsung hero in the creative writing process — it’s an early step that’s all too easy to overlook. Yet, this modest placeholder can be as influential as a movie’s opening scene, setting the tone for your entire narrative journey. But what is a working title, and why do creative projects in film, TV, and music use them? The answers may surprise you.

What is a Working Title in Media?

What does working title mean?

With that overview in mind, let's delve deeper into the concept, starting with a clear definition of what a working title truly is.


What is a working title in media?

A working title is a temporary title given to a manuscript, film, or television series during its development stage. This title is not set in stone and can change multiple times during the creation process until the final version is settled upon. The working title provides an initial framework or direction for the project and can be instrumental in defining its tone and narrative.  

What is a Working Titled Used For?

  • Guidance
  • Flexibility
  • Confidentiality

What is a Working Title Used For?

Function of a working title

A well-crafted and carefully chosen working title plays several pivotal roles in the creative process. It not only serves as a guiding beacon, providing direction and focus to the project, but also sparks curiosity and interest, enticing both the creator and potential audience. 

Additionally, a compelling working title can capture the essence of the work, conveying its tone, theme, or central idea in a succinct yet captivating manner. Thus, the importance of a thoughtfully constructed working title cannot be overstated, as it sets the stage for the entire creative endeavor.


It guides the narrative, offering a clear sense of direction as the story unfolds. By encapsulating the essence of the screenplay, book, or series, it acts as a compass, ensuring that the creative vision remains focused and on track. 


In the realm of film and television, working titles serve an additional purpose – maintaining confidentiality. During the early stages of production, when secrecy is paramount, a working title can help prevent unwanted attention or leaks. By using a different title, the project can fly under the radar, safeguarding the integrity of the creative process.

What is a Working Title — Examples & Functions Explained The Dark Knight · Working Title Films

The Dark Knight  •  Working Title Films


The temporary nature of a working title provides invaluable flexibility. As the project evolves, it allows for changes and adjustments, accommodating the organic development of the narrative. This adaptability is crucial as the story may take unexpected turns, requiring the title to adapt accordingly.

For example, every title needs to get "cleared" before becoming official. That way, if the title already exists in another property, the necessary legalities can be taken care of. Or if the producers find out the title exists and want to distinguish their property from the original. 

Overall, a well-crafted working title not only provides guidance and flexibility but also safeguards the confidentiality of a project, playing an integral role in its creative journey.

Working Title Examples

Examples of Working Titles

Let's delve into a few illustrative examples of working titles that shed light on the creative process and became the final, iconic titles we recognize today.


A prominent example in the film is "Blue Harvest," which served as the clever working title for Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi. This strategic choice was made primarily to divert unwanted attention and maintain secrecy throughout the filming process. 

By using this disguised title, the production team successfully kept the project under wraps and preserved the element of surprise for eager fans. You might also recognize "Blue Harvest" as an expanded episode of Family Guy that paid homage to a galaxy far, far away.

What is a Working Title — Examples & Functions Explained Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi


J.D. Salinger's renowned novel The Catcher in the Rye initially carried the working title "The Last and Best of the Peter Pans" from the unpublished short story by Salinger.

The change in the title captures the evolution of the narrative focusing more on the protagonist's disillusionment and his desire to preserve innocence.

The iconic Beatles album Abbey Road was originally titled "Everest." The band considered this initial title after their sound engineer's favorite brand of cigarettes but eventually renamed it due to practicality, naming it after the street where their recording studio was located.
What is a Working Title — Examples & Functions Explained Abbey Road by The Beatles

Abbey Road by The Beatles

The massively popular TV series "Friends" initially bore the working title "Insomnia Café," and underwent several changes such as “Friends Like Us" and "Six of One," before finally settling on the simple, yet powerful title Friends. This demonstrates the process of refining and distilling the essence of a show into its title. 
What is a Working Title — Examples & Functions Explained Friends TV Show

Friends TV Show

A working title is an integral part of the creative writing process, providing direction, flexibility, and sometimes confidentiality. It's a tool that, when used effectively, can profoundly enhance the narrative's development and eventual outcome. 

Like a tantalizing movie poster, your working title should capture your project's heart in a few words, stirring curiosity without spilling all the secrets.

Up Next

How to Make a Great Title Sequence

Now that we've explored the significance of working titles in the creative process, let's shift our focus to another critical aspect — crafting an impactful title sequence. 

Up Next: What Makes a Great Title Sequence →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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