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Your name in Spotlight
When beginning a career as an artist, it is very important to make sure that you have a unique professional name. This is your personal 'brand name' and you never want it to be confused with other performers. You may miss out on work or royalties!
Most performers 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 your Spotlight membership, your Equity card, any other organisations / unions, and on all professional documentation pertaining to your career.
2. Check with both Spotlight and Equity to see if they already have members with your name.
For Spotlight, visit www.spotlight.com and type in the name in the box in the top right hand corner (“Search”). If a performer comes up that means there’s already a Spotlight member with that name and you will be required to choose another.
When joining Equity, names are reserved on receipt of a full or student membership form, which can be obtained from 020 7379 6000 or www.equity.org.uk. Equity receives applications on a daily basis and cannot guarantee the availability of names over the phone or web. Equity also represents singers, 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.
Neither Spotlight nor Equity is able to hold or reserve names for future use, or for performers whose membership expire. If your membership lapses a current or new member 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 Spotlight nor Equity will accept similar names, even if they are not identical. This also applies to shortened versions of the same name.
For example, we would not allow Sophie Smith if there is already a Sophia Smith, a Peter Jones if there is already a performer called Pete Jones or a Tom Smith if there is already a performer called Tommy Smith.
The following are also discouraged, since they are not sufficient to distinguish you from others:
Adding initials e.g. Ricky Gervais & Ricky K Gervais
Adding middle names e.g. Keira Knightley, Keira Jane Knightley or 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 working in the industry, we also recommend that you change it, even if they are not a performer.
For example, there is no point starting to work as an actor with the name 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.
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 60 or 70 years – choose wisely!