6 Movie EPG Description Mistakes Guaranteed To Make Any Film A Bomb

movie listing epg description standards
Movies, unlike TV shows, don’t have episodes. They don’t have a specific time slot they appear in every day or week. So they can’t necessarily rely upon a returning captive audience that knows all the parameters of their offering.

As such, the description of a movie in an EPG (Electronic Program Guide) must inform the potential viewer fully—without divulging any information that would diminish the viewer’s enjoyment of discovering the film on their own.

So, a movie description in a TV listing should DESCRIBE, and not DIVULGE. 

There are a number of editorial standards that make a good description. As usual, we’ve listed them here for you.

1. That’s a description, not a kitchen sink.
We’ll begin by defining a description to be an accurate reflection of a film’s content regardless of extraneous info like the director, the year it came out, who stars in it, or how many awards it won.

With this editorial standard, viewers can assess a film without considering all those other factors—which are still available to be evaluated OUTSIDE the description. Added on as another layer of important information, but without “tainting” the description itself.

movie listing epg description standards

Good descriptions, as seen in our example, confine themselves to describing just the film in an objective, positive manner. (Just click on the images view them in a larger size.) The bad example? Well, they’ve “kitchen sinked” it. Thrown everything in there and expected you to sift through it.

Just look at it. It’s got actor’s names, a smattering of plot, a biased review, a non-sequitur actor’s name, and a spoiler that references a dubiously memorable scene.

So, in the bad example, the film’s story doesn’t get just due, and other elements are similarly watered down and mixed together so a viewer doesn’t really know what to grasp.

Remember, a description is just that. A description. Not a list of credits or a resume or anything else. Even in a bizarre hodgepodge.

Therefore, a description shouldn’t read like a ransom note with every random bit of info thrown in like jumbalaya.

2. The movie can spoil itself—you needn’t include any spoilers.
How many of us have wanted to scream when a friend or co-worker reveals the surprise plot points of a movie?

The scream doesn’t get any quieter when an Electronic Program Guide commits this same sin. Because DESCRIBING a movie doesn’t mean DIVULGING the important dramatic details.

Painting a picture for the viewer is great—but needs to end before the point when a synopsis gives up plot points the viewer would naturally want to discover on their own.

no spoilers in movie listing epg

For instance, in our examples, divulging the fact that Paul Rudd’s sisters “eventually realize his optimism might actually be a strength” is a spoiler. It gives away the direction of the film and totally eliminates any discovery possible on the part of the viewer. Going well beyond the general description into an inference the viewer should probably make on their own.

And it could even be worse than that.

Revealing that Norman Bates’ mom is dead in the synopsis of Psycho totally reveals an important plot point and destroys the illusion the film is trying to set forth—although it is part of the story. But, as you can see, being part of the story doesn’t automatically mean being part of the description.

Describe, don’t divulge.

3. Leonard di Caprio didn’t die in Titanic—Jack Dawson did.
“Leonard di Caprio and Kate Winslet are star-crossed lovers aboard a doomed cruise ship…”

We beg to differ. No, they are not. JACK and ROSE are the star crossed lovers in the film. They are merely PORTRAYED by Lenny & Kate. Thus, in the description, no mention should be made of the actors who play the characters in the film.

After all, there’s a whole separate section for the actors where they can be viewed in one fell swoop.

movie listing epg actors characters

In our example, Wesley Snipes (the actor) is attributed to being a vampire slayer. Well, he PORTRAYS a vampire slayer in the film Blade, but the vampire slayer is actually named Blade. Not Wesley Snipes.

There’s a difference between the actor and the character he or she portrays. You’ll also note that Kris Kristofferson’s name is listed somewhat randomly. We’ll assume it’s the singer/songwriter/actor and not a character named Kris Kristofferson. Another good example of why not to include actor’s names in descriptions.

Placing actors in the description skews the information away from the actual description of the film and again “taints” the information with the draw—or lack thereof—brought about by the star in question. Also, choosing to exclude the actor’s name in the description means a focused exposition of that actor’s character. Perhaps their vocation, or aspects of their personality. 

Those are unique to the film’s DESCRIPTION and not the ACTOR.

Keep the actors names where they belong. In the cast section. The description of the film will be made all the more vivid and pertinent if you do.

And, for the record, Leonard really didn’t die in Titanic. Trust us. He can’t be dead. We’ve seen him since then.

4. Who asked for YOUR opinion? Describe, don’t pontificate.
A description, as we’ve mentioned, is just that. It describes a movie fully—giving the potential viewer a robust idea of what the film is about without divulging key plot points.

Certainly, no one would ever place a negative (or a positive) subjective, biased, and non-binding OPINION of a movie in a description, would they?

You’d be surprised.

movie listing epg descriptions without opinion

Take, for example, this description of The Alamo. “Historically accurate, but unexciting.”

Where to begin on the wrongness of this being in the description?

First, this is clearly a subjective OPINION and not a description. Second, amazingly, this opinion actually discourages a viewer from watching the film. Lastly, the opinion doesn’t come from an immediately qualified source, nor explain the reasoning behind the conclusion.

So, we can’t really check into proof of historical accuracy—which is also subjective. It’s certainly not a description of the actual film.

To sum things up, a description should only contain information that allows a viewer to decide yes or no—NOT information that’s already made that decision for them. That’s called a review and it’s different than a description.

Remember The Alamo. Not the subjective review in a description.

5. The film’s plot is not a description—otherwise, the EPG would just show the script.
General description of action is great—that’s part of what a description is and what it should do. It should, in broad but meaningful terms, give an indication of the film’s subject matter.

However, a point by point narrative of specific action is NOT a description.

movie listing epg descriptions without plot

In this example, from I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, the bad version goes on a point by point delineation of the plot—even giving specifics of action and location of action. Right down to the karaoke session.

Too much plot tends to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. Specifically, the people searching and EPG for something new to watch and seeing the spoiler-ridden “description.”

6. A movie description is a specific thing—accept no imposters.
Many times, various attributes of a film are inserted into a description that do not describe the actual film presentation itself.

While these facts may be interesting and may even drive viewership, unless they’re a description of the film, they’re in the wrong place.  If you’ve read the description and know more about the actor’s background or any awards the film won than what the film is actually about? 

Then there’s a problem.

movie listing epgs descriptions as defined

Our bad example features some bad guys—the gangsters in Goodfellas. However, the description is even worse than bad. It has only an inkling of description and a trivia fact serves the purpose the description was intended for.

After reading, the viewer knows more about Martin Scorsese and Joe Pesci than they do the movie Goodfellas.

Descriptions describe the film. The actual presentation on the screen. Box office information, the director’s previous film, awards, and other information might masquerade as a description, but don’t you be fooled.

No matter how many awards they list.

Because movies are also pay-per-view entities that can generate revenue, descriptions have to accurate, complete, and specific as possible.

The art of writing movie descriptions can have a blockbuster impact on a viewer’s ability to make an informed choice. Let us help inform your choice of a TV listings metadata provider by simply clicking below.

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