I’ve gotten this question quite a bit recently: “should I use a pseudonym?”

I can’t think of many good reasons to use a pseudonym.  I suppose you could make a case for trying to come up with something catchier than your real name.  But no matter how catchy your pseudonym is I’m not sure it’s really worth the extra layer of confusion that you’re adding to your persona.

Imagine what’s going to happen when you’re at a party and you learn that a producer is in attendance.  You’re going to have to introduce yourself using your pseudonym and yet you’ll probably have some of your friends there who know you by your real name.  So you’ll be in the awkward position of having to explain things.

As my own career has advanced over the years I’ve found that there’s not a distinct line between my professional life as a screenwriter and my personal life.  Many of the people who I’ve worked with on film projects have become good friends.  It would get quite confusing if they knew me by one name and my other friends knew me by another name.  And again I would ask, for what?

If you’re going to use a pseudonym think it through and make sure you’re consistent.  You don’t want to be switching names often as this will dilute whatever brand equity you build in one name.

I knew an actor who switched his last name to something similar but kept his first name the same.  This basically avoided a lot of confusion since everyone knew him by the same first name.  In his case he was doing a lot of borderline soft-core porn and wanted to hide from friends and family..

If your share a name with someone very famous, this might be another legitimate reason to use a pen name.  For instance, if your name is “James Cameron” you might want to come up with a pseudonym.

One of the people who asked me this question seemed to be embarrassed by her writing aspirations and she didn’t want her friends and co-workers to know about it.  She was afraid if she posted some synopses and loglines on a website with her real name people might Google her name and find them.  This is a horrible reason to not use your real name.  Be proud of your work and tell everyone you know that you have an interest in screenwriting.  If you tell people about your passion for screenwriting with pride and confidence you might find some good networking opportunities.

4 thoughts on “As a screenwriter should you use a pseudonym?”
  1. I thought about this briefly at the beginning, simply because I thought my name to be too boring. But I found quickly that there was no real use to use a pseudonym for my needs. Plus, I would have probably changed it a time or two – not a good idea, as indicated in this post.

    I own my own production (writing, directing, editing, etc) and although it might be harder to push our material as we are a new outfit, we think our ideas and stories will sell themselves. I use my real name as the founder of said company, and I don’t think I’d rather do it any other way.

  2. Many actors and writers use different names to stand out because their real names were not catchier enough. I see no reason not to use an alias but whatever name you decide to use, it will take time to brand it in the mindshare of the industry.

    Branding a name takes time and repetition. So use your real name or some other moniker but the key is to start getting your name out their as soon as possible.

    Sandford Tuey
    Entertainment Licensing and Branding

  3. Another reason you could consider a pseudonym is if you’re well known in a field other than writing, or are an established writer in a niche genre. For example, if you’re Stephen King and want to write a Children’s Book … you *might* want to consider “Stevie” or something else.

  4. People are used to the idea of pseudonyms. I don’t think it would take a great deal of explaining. Authors often use pseudonyms to fit into the market they are writing for — doesn’t mean they are ashamed of their work.

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