Best for Film’s Guide to Creating a Stage Name.
There’s a lot to a name. I’m no parent, but it’s a scary thought to name an individual. I don’t know if I have what it takes to assert a crucial aspect of an individual’s identity before they have the capacity to even comprehend it. But then, given the chance to choose my own name, my brain dries up to a similar extent. How on earth do you go about thinking what you’d like to go by?! And do you adjust just one half of your title with a new forename? Or do you go the whole hog and have a brand spanking new surname as well!?
Imagine then, if you turned up to work and your boss were to say; “Clare Jones? Oh no, that won’t do at all. We already have a Clare Jones here. Pick another.” Sounds a bit mental, but if you want to be represented by the Screen Actors Guild in the USA or Equity here in the UK, then that’s exactly what you have to do.
Take poor old David MacDonald for instance, who had to change his name because it was already registered with Equity to another actor. He became David Tennant, having liked the name of lead singer of the Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant. David Williams decided to go about it another way when he was disappointed to discover that another man had already taken the title. Rather than going about sourcing a completely new name, he decided to alter only one letter to gain a niche identity. Thus was born David Walliams.
So, how would you go about changing your name? Here’s a hand step by step guide to how you could change your dull as ditch water parental choice into a fancy title that does more singing and dancing than you do.
1. Do you need a new name?
Seems an obvious place to start really, but the best way to set about forming a stage name is to establish whether you actually need one (unless you’re one of those bizarre egotistical actors who wishes to create a ‘performance identity’, thus rending asunder your normal life and acting life. Get over yourselves and get back to your bar job). There are several things to look out for when considering if your real name will do:
Can your name be easily pronounced? If not, change it. No one likes stumbling over a hard unfamiliar vowel grouping. If you’ve got an Austrian or Jewish heritage you’re proud of, then by all means keep your name, but be aware that unless you’ve got a surname most people can get their tongue around, you might have to think of changing it. Allen Stewart Konigsberg didn’t change his name to Woody Allen purely for social reasons. Then again, James Caviezel has his name pronounced differently every time he’s ever mentioned (which isn’t much really).
Is your name associated with anything unpopular? Bit of an obvious point to make, but if you’ve got the name of a dictator (Adolf, Stalin, Jong-il), chances are you’re probably going to want to make your career a little more stable. That said, you could go all double negative; if you think you’re THAT good (you aren’t, but you, like 96% of X Factor contestants, might think you are) then you could do the world a favour and reclaim a name from the depths of villainy. I’d personally try with ‘Judas Wild’. Brooding, isn’t it?
As we’ve already mentioned above, you’ll have to change your name if someone else has already made it famous. Sorry. Them’s da rules. Take it up with Equity.
2. Altering your own name
Having realised that you’re in need of a new name, you might rightly feel a bit cheated. You like your name. It’s a good name. A strong name. Well, how about going all Walliams on it? Take a letter, and try playing around with a new slant on an old classic. David could become Savid. Or Davod. Neither of them are any good, but you get the idea. Sam could be Sim. Paul could be Waul. Yeah? No?
3. Going Solo
Maybe you hate your name. Maybe you’ve cursed the day that your parents thought that ‘Betty’ could be the name of an attractive young twenty-something, when it’s really just the name of that lovely lady from the old people’s home down the road (the one that always has sweets in her bag, and smells of chemical hand gel). Well, how about a completely new scribble for your signature. Let your mind run wild with that name you always flipping wished you had. First, you need to take some inspiration. Here are a few awesome suggestions as to where you could go digging.
Super Heroes – Now hear me out. Obviously you aren’t going to call yourself Spider-Man or Peter Parker, nor Superman or Clark Kent. But how about mixing the whole thing up? Peter Kent? Clark Parker? Super Spider?
Sports Stars – Plug some already familiar names into our mixer idea. Michael Owen + Tiger Woods = Michael Woods/Tiger Owen. Admittedly, both of those will never earn you a call back, no matter how good your acting is, but if I could come up with my own super star name, I wouldn’t be sat here typing away for a film website now would I.
Anagrams – Now this could take you down some rather unfortunate dead ends. One of my friend’s names generates the rather unfamous sounding ‘Undone Gay’, and we can’t have that now can we. An anagram of your own name can start to generate some useful new name routes for your to pursue. My full name comes up with some rather pleasant sounding new surnames: Orchid, Handcar, Canard, Vandal. It also comes up with some completely useless avenues, including Nonracial, Ashcan and Anal. No one wants to try and get well known with a name like Phil Anal.
Well, I hope this guide to creating a stage name has been helpful. It’s not all in a name when it comes to showbiz success, but fame is a fickle game. Come up with the right title, and you could go all the way. We’re not promising anything though.