Your professional name
When beginning your career it is very important to make sure that you have a unique professional name. Sometimes referred to as a "stage name" this is your personal "brand name" and you never want it to be confused with other artists. You may miss out on work or royalties!
Most artists keep their own name, but many choose or are required to change their name for professional purposes. You will need to consider the following:
1. Always decide on ONE professional name, across the board.
In other words - use the same name for Equity, Spotlight membership, any other organisations / unions, and on all professional documentation pertaining to your career such as your CV, email address and website.
2. Check with both Equity and Spotlight to see if they already have members with your name.
When joining Equity, names are reserved on receipt of a membership application form, which can be obtained from 020 7379 6000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Equity receives applications on a daily basis and cannot guarantee the availability of names over the phone or web. Equity has a broad membership base that includes singers, actors, designers, stage managers, stunt performers and variety artists (amongst a wide range of performers), so it may be that another member will already have your chosen name.
Spotlight is the leading casting directory for the industry. Visit www.spotlight.com and type in the name in the search box on the top right hand side. If an artist comes up that means there's already a Spotlight member with that name and you will be required to choose another. Please note however, if a name does not come up in the search it does not mean a name is immediately available.
Neither Equity nor Spotlight is able to hold or reserve names for future use, or for artists whose subscriptions expire. If your membership subscription runs out then a current or new subscriber may successfully apply to use same name in the meantime.
3. Check spellings and abbreviations
You should always double-check different spellings and abbreviations of a name, since neither Equity nor Spotlight will accept similar names, even if they are not identical.
For example, we would not allow Sophie Smith if there is already a Sophia Smith, or Peter Jones if there is already a Pete Jones.
The following are also discouraged, since they are not sufficient to distinguish you from other artists:
Adding initials e.g. Ewan McGregor & Ewan K McGregor
Adding middle names e.g. Rachel Weisz & Rachel Jane Weisz
Double barrelling first names e.g. Keira Knightley & Keira-Jane Knightley
Same names with different spellings e.g. Judi Dench & Judy Dench
4. Check the industry as a whole
If your name can be easily confused with someone else who is working or has worked in the industry, we also recommend that you change it, even if they are not working the same professional field.
For example, there is no point starting to work as an actor Sam Mendes, because you will always be confused with the other Sam Mendes.
Applicants should also think in terms of a global market and avoid duplicating names with overseas performers who may not necessarily be members of Equity or Spotlight, such as Rachel McAdams or Terrence Howard.
You should also ensure that you do not use the name of artists who are deceased.Choosing Laurence Olivier for example would not only cause confusion, but would also undermine your credibility.
We recommend that you search the Internet Movie Database www.imdb.com to make sure there is no one else with your name.
Remember: your professional name is your identity in a complex and ever-changing industry, and you may use it for 70 years - choose wisely!