questionmarkI am interested in screenwriting and would love to break into the business. My problem is that John August is my real name. Will I have to use a different name?

I have many scripts I’m working on. Any advice on the name situation would be great!

— John August
Oakland, CA

A quick Google search will reveal there are a bunch of us John Augusts. One guy wants to abolish the Australian state governments, and has been active on the internet since Usenet days. John August Swanson is a painter, while another John August does guitar instruction books. And one specializes in interlocking pavers.

My favorite non-me John August has a site dedicated to diabetic foot problems. And here I am just answering questions about bad catering.

Unlike the Screen Actor’s Guild, which forces actors to use a unique name, there’s no prohibition in Hollywood for multiple writers having identical names. As a practical matter, though, it’s quite inconvenient. But there are a few good solutions.

  1. Use your middle name or initial. On IMDb, there are at least eight David Steinbergs. But the one I know, a screenwriter, is David H. Steinberg, and he’s doing very well. He writes “David H. Steinberg” on his scripts, and no one gets confused.

  2. Use your first and middle initials. Tom Smith is a pretty common name, so my friend’s scripts are marked T. C. Smith. He got the Nicholl Fellowship, so something worked. Initials are also a good way of concealing your gender.

  3. Do you like any of the variations on “John?” Jonathan, Jack, Juan, Johann? I was a week into pre-production on Go when I realized that the familiar-looking gaffer was actually a college acquaintance, John Lampassi. He was now going by Giovani Lampassi — “Gio.” People are much more likely to remember his name because, frankly, how many Gios do you know?

  4. How do you feel about your mother’s maiden name?

  5. And remember, despite what you read on this site, there are other rewarding careers out there beyond screenwriting.

Any other ego-surfing John Augusts out there, please leave a comment so we can get a headcount.