Screenwriting : Play with words. what’s your take? by Debbie Croysdale

Debbie Croysdale

Play with words. what’s your take?

Hi I would be grateful for any input from your two cents, “Yea or Nay” about rarely used term “Smooze”. Ive a Vintage Noir cross platform/short film in post production. I named it The Smooze as a play on words on purpose, meaning something bad is going down. (Urban dictionary “Duck and dive, run and hide etc) Yet I’ve had problems folks telling me it is spelled “Schmooze” but no, its not about characters engaging conversation for their own gain. Ive so far stuck to my guns, to imply a lurking shadow, not a crooners/liars conversation with someone ending up a schmuck. Yet I often get patronised at meetings “Don’t you mean Schmooze”? The purposely used “Smooze” has not stopped project gaining funding so far but I was wondering just how many people think I cannot spell and dare not tell me face to face. Have any of yourselves used unconventional spellings for your work? Did you get negative feedback? Thanks.

Rutger Oosterhoff

Just ask them if an "ax" has more impact than an "axe" ? Use the discussion in your advantage. It's all about story!

Craig D Griffiths

You could always have a page explaining it. Or, as I would do, ignore people.

Thoko Zulu


.... I have heard some industry players say there's always a problem when you find yourself having to explain something about your work or project where it should be clear. On the flip side Debbie says the glitch in the title has not stopped the project getting or attracting funding. My two cents advice? We write to impress our audience not ourselves. So, if your clients keep suggesting to correct the spelling? Come on, Debs... the old saying the customer is always right keeps them coming back for the good service.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, the Urban Dictionary is not a reliable source, it’s just for entertainment. Not too serious nor is it an “authority” on terms or anything, really. So when trying to use some term seriously that no other sources recognize that could be problematic. I’ve never heard that spelling with that meaning before? Dunno? Me, I don’t use unconventional spellings in my work, don’t have reason to do so. If the spelling is confusing to people then why use it? You’re getting funding, that’s great! But that’s about the project as a whole. The question is will an audience get it? The title could be a marketing issue. You could easily go with a completely different title altogether. Avoid confusion and distraction. ;) Best wishes on your creative endeavors!

Stephen Floyd

I once worked on a film called Salad Days. The title was an obscure Shakespeare reference nobody got. But the director stuck to his guns, even through every conversation about the film began with an explanation of the title. He eventually relented and changed it to City Baby because the first title did not add value to the film, it was just a distraction. Sounds like your title is proving to be a distraction and may be taking away from your movie. You should probably change it.

Stephen Floyd

To counter Beth’s point, Urban Dictionary is actually regarded as an authority on slang in the legal profession. Back in the day, if a witness used a preponderance of slang in their testimony, attorneys had to parade language experts in front of the jury to demonstrate what the witness was saying in common parlance. Now they look it up on Urban Dictionary and the definitions are admitted as evidence. A word is defined by how people use it, even if they’re plebs.

Dan MaxXx

Do a test screening. It's a problem if your audience don't understand "smooze" after watching. I've never heard of the word "Milf" or the metaphor "American Pie" until after seeing the movie.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Sure, Urban Dictionary has been used in court to support local-used slang relevant to those cases, but that does not make the site an overall, serious "authority." The site's founder Aaron Peckham created it as a parody of actual dictionaries, which he thought tended to be "stuffy" and "take themselves too seriously." He wanted to compare slang used by college students versus different parts of California. Of course, over the years, it's grown from there. And, sure, some slang is more well known or is commonly used in certain areas or contexts and can be helpful, yes. But... Most of the 2,000+ daily entries are jokes or offensive statements using various words and phrases instead of actual definitions. Can you tell which ones are true or authentic or not? I can't. Most can't. Plus visitors to Urban Dictionary may submit definitions without registering or providing some sort of proof or evidence. It's all based on personal experience and opinion, or personal creation or personal point of view of those who post entries. They used to require a valid email address for entries, but not anymore. That seems a low bar to me. The site's contributing audience demographic is predominantly male, age 15 to 24—at least as reported in past years. Maybe that has changed? I would think? It would be great if its demographic was much broader, no? Nonetheless, these slang entries are not "verified" nor proven but rather are voted "publish" or "don't publish" by volunteer editors—I believe there are 3,000+ volunteers, dunno? Volunteer editors who are not bound by any criteria to approve or reject entries. Nor are they allowed to edit wording or punctuation. Seems there is no quality control. Plus its name "Urban Dictionary" implies that ALL urban people in different cities all share a common vocabulary, which is not true, of course. Anyway, the problem here is that entries are not coming from a place of neutrality, hell, the site doesn't even attempt neutrality, which, sorry, makes it unreliable and/or skewed. Originally, Urban Dictionary was intended to focus on cultural slang, but it includes definitions of any and all words, whether correct or wrong or whatever, which makes it problematic. So my point for Debbie above, really, is to consider Urban Dictionary with some caution and/or skepticism. If you can verify or find some other source that supports some slang or term—as they did in those court cases—the better. Again, best wishes!

Christopher Phillips

Title is one of the first things producers look at. If you have to explain it over and over, it's not a good title. "Sticking to your guns," is also a bad sign. The other problem is "Smooze" has multiple meanings, some of them not P.C.

Stephen Floyd

Language doesn’t belong only to those who use it properly. Just ask Rick Santorum.

Craig D Griffiths

Thoko Zulu true. But they can also add flavour. I remember the Super at the start of Pulp Fiction explaining what’s Pulp meant.

Rosalind Winton

I think 'Smooze' is great. It's different and quirky and rises above the norm. I think if I saw that title come up in Netflix or my Cinema channel, I would be curious enough to watch it. When people ask you about the spelling, don't show disappointment or exasperation at the question, go the opposite way, sit up straight, look them in the eye, be proud, explain quickly that it's a word meaning something bad is going down in millennial terms (that might be better than saying it's an urban word). Be passionate about it and make them believe it's the best word they've ever heard, much like supercalifragilisticecsbiallydocious. they will be learning something from you and if your passion rubs off on them, that's all you really want.

William Martell

I am not trying to show off in a script, I am trying to be understood and create a clear picture with my words.

Debbie Croysdale

MANY THANKS @Craig/Rosalind/William. I managed the first couple of hurdles with this project, which took more meetings than usual because Vintage Noir has a narrow market yet managed cross platform to get post produced. However I'm pitching for full feature soon and all your input is much appreciated.

Debbie Croysdale

Yikes just seen other answers and THANKS to other contributors to this thread also. I am at an airport and for some reason the last time I checked in here, the page of thread did not scroll up. (So I only saw three answers).

Debbie Croysdale

@ALL I appreciate all these answers. Will get back to thread when back at base. (Travelling at mo).

Debbie Croysdale

Hiya ALL. I am back at base now so can properly answer thread. So thanks also to Beth, Rutger, Thoko, Dan, Christopher, Stephen. I realize that there is intelligent argument both for AND against daft spelling, which I am willing to go to war in a boardroom with. (As opposed to a weak argument where I end up a Shmuck, pun intended)

A healthy conflict of interest is a good conflict, which when in a room full of executives, might gain marks for gut feeling more than a vanilla yeah or nay.

"Something bad is coming down. Heard the news? Duck and slide. Run and hide. Nothing can stop the Smooze,"

Another take is old English slang "Skanky but cute girl says anything to get what she wants out of people." We had to go cross platform with this first and will be gathering points of interest before final pitch for feature.

The project is Vintage (which in itself is a narrow market) but is already post produced for web and short but I gotta get in a room for the millions. I really appreciate your input.

Debbie Croysdale

@Craig Thanks for your suggestion that I include explanation of meaning of words in case some people just don't get it first glance. I added another page to my look book last pitch with an un rehearsed photo from original shoot. Just a few sentences from Urban dictionary meaning under photo and saw the smile on execs face when they turned to last page. If they were thinking in their heads "wtf does title mean?" it was later revealed and made crystal clear in an amusing way. @All thanks for input. We could not find a "Twilight" dress from 1946 so wardrobe department hand sewed one from old pattern and had shoes especially made.

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