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As a screenwriter should you use a pseudonym?

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.