Changing real life names

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  • Changing real life names

    hey all

    so i have a bunch of characters based on real people, and they all begin with the letter C.

    i personally would find it very distracting to read and if this was an original I would immediately change the names around so that they "pop" in dialogue scenes.

    and yet these are real people. so I am kinda stuck.

    any suggestions?

  • #2
    Re: changing real life names

    you're not stuck.

    don't use their real names.
    "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
    Hollywood producer

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: changing real life names

      Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
      hey all

      so i have a bunch of characters based on real people, and they all begin with the letter C.

      i personally would find it very distracting to read and if this was an original I would immediately change the names around so that they "pop" in dialogue scenes.

      and yet these are real people. so I am kinda stuck.

      any suggestions?
      Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
      you’re not stuck.

      don’t use their real names.
      Do you mean “real people” as in ordinary folks (see finalact4 quote) or “real people” as in some “based on a true story” people, either historical or otherwise well known, where the names are relevant to the story and the names cannot be changed for that reason?
      “Nothing is what rocks dream about” ― Aristotle

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Changing real life names

        hi Fang
        I mean #2.
        they might not be "Famous" or well known people, but the world they inhabit is very well known since it's one of the most famous legacies of the past century.
        the script itself is based on a non-fiction book about their troubled history.

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        • #5
          Re: Changing real life names

          sometimes, especially in historical-based stuff, i will use last names instead of first names for the character element

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Changing real life names

            I never heard this question before -- so that's exciting!

            I'm trying to figure out an example of what you're saying -- first then that came to mind was George Forman named all his children George or Georgia, so you did a movie about them, I guess you'd have to name them nicknames or something to make them different.

            Do they have middle names that are different? I don't see how last names help if it's the same family... maybe I'm assuming it's the same family.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Changing real life names

              Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
              hi Fang
              I mean #2.
              they might not be "Famous" or well known people, but the world they inhabit is very well known since it's one of the most famous legacies of the past century.
              the script itself is based on a non-fiction book about their troubled history.
              oh, totally misunderstood what you meant. my bad. JoeBanks has a good idea see above.
              "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
              Hollywood producer

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Changing real life names

                Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
                hi Fang
                I mean #2.
                they might not be "Famous" or well-known people, but the world they inhabit is very well known since it's one of the most famous legacies of the past century.
                the script itself is based on a non-fiction book about their troubled history.
                This seems like the perfect time to pull out your wallet, take out your artistic license to check its expiration date, recall and realize that it has no expiration date, and then get in gear and drive the story wherever you’d like it to take you, recasting names of all its players along the way. That’s the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Story Zone.

                If you fictionalize from the book, you could construct the world of your fictionalized story in the same way as the real-life story, borrow what you need to make the structure sound, and invent the rest. The names of the characters to me seem less important than what is their purpose in the story. Yet I agree with you wholeheartedly that if you were to use the names which all began with the letter “C” that it would become tedious and might even seem silly to the reader or the skimmers who sometimes see a script for approval.

                Also, if you fictionalize from a book, beware some of the legal pitfalls that lie therein. Perhaps if you can find out if any studio or prodco has secured the rights to the book you mentioned then you might better navigate your way to writing the spec script. Or, you may also discover that the prohibitive cost of securing the rights yourself and pursuing the story might preclude you from wasting any time on it. The flip side of the coin — which I’ve read but which I also account as hearsay information — is that you write the story and allow the legal department of the studio or prodco who wins the bidding war over your screenplay handle those details.
                Clint Hill
                Member
                Last edited by Clint Hill; 02-13-2019, 07:46 PM.
                “Nothing is what rocks dream about” ― Aristotle

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Changing real life names

                  Hi Fang! It's an assignment for a mini studio so they can deal with legalities - but I want to lay out the names issue (and the possible fix) when I submit the draft.

                  Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
                  This seems like the perfect time to pull out your wallet, take out your artistic license to check its expiration date, recall and realize that it has no expiration date, and then get in gear and drive the story wherever you'd like it to take you, recasting names of all its players along the way. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Story Zone.

                  If you fictionalize from the book, you could construct the world of your fictionalized story in the same way as the real-life story, borrow what you need to make the structure sound, and invent the rest. The names of the characters to me seem less important than what is their purpose in the story. Yet I agree with you wholeheartedly that if you were to use the names which all began with the letter "C- that it would become tedious and might even seem silly to the reader or the skimmers who sometimes see a script for approval.

                  Also, if you fictionalize from a book, beware some of the legal pitfalls that lie therein. Perhaps if you can find out if any studio or prodco has secured the rights to the book you mentioned then you might better navigate your way to writing the spec script. Or, you may also discover that the prohibitive cost of securing the rights yourself and pursuing the story might preclude you from wasting any time on it. The flip side of the coin - which I've read but which I also account as hearsay information - is that you write the story and allow the legal department of the studio or prodco who wins the bidding war over your screenplay handle those details.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Changing real life names

                    Great idea but... two problems with that:
                    1) the last names of these characters are foreign so you'd end up with something out of a Monty python sketch...not to mention the fact that last names don't indicate gender
                    2) some of them belong to the same family

                    A very honorable attempt, Mr Banks

                    Originally posted by JoeBanks View Post
                    sometimes, especially in historical-based stuff, i will use last names instead of first names for the character element

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Changing real life names

                      Yeah it’s more like the George Forman situation
                      In my case the family members aren’t intentionally called George II, III, IV etc
                      But as my luck would have it 4 of the mains all sound the same and as I mentioned in my response to Banks, using their last names would turn this into an even bigger cluster-duck because they’re all foreign. So imagine reading THAT dialogue scene where four characters with unpronounceable last names and indecipherable genders enter and start talking.
                      (I sense a sketch brewing)

                      Truthfully I am leaning towards renaming them but it’s amazing how changing their names adds a whole question mark as to how accurately (or not) I am depicting the real life people ... because then the question is “why did you change their names but keep all their biographical notes largely intact”. And the answer would be “well they all started with C and I was losing my mind navigating them”. Not my proudest screenwriting choice lol

                      Originally posted by Bono View Post
                      I never heard this question before -- so that's exciting!

                      I'm trying to figure out an example of what you're saying -- first then that came to mind was George Forman named all his children George or Georgia, so you did a movie about them, I guess you'd have to name them nicknames or something to make them different.

                      Do they have middle names that are different? I don't see how last names help if it's the same family... maybe I'm assuming it's the same family.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Changing real life names

                        Originally posted by TravisPickle View Post
                        Yeah it's more like the George Forman situation
                        In my case the family members aren't intentionally called George II, III, IV etc
                        But as my luck would have it 4 of the mains all sound the same and as I mentioned in my response to Banks, using their last names would turn this into an even bigger cluster-duck because they're all foreign. So imagine reading THAT dialogue scene where four characters with unpronounceable last names and indecipherable genders enter and start talking.
                        (I sense a sketch brewing)

                        Truthfully I am leaning towards renaming them but it's amazing how changing their names adds a whole question mark as to how accurately (or not) I am depicting the real life people ... because then the question is "why did you change their names but keep all their biographical notes largely intact-. And the answer would be "well they all started with C and I was losing my mind navigating them-. Not my proudest screenwriting choice lol
                        I've worked on true life stories and you'd be amazed at the liberties that are commonly taken. We reduced the number of children, changed their names, changed the amount of time that a story took because we would have had to recast the kids because they would have grown from children to teenagers and we didn't want to do that.

                        You know who cared? Nobody. Not the surviving family members who we paid as consultants. Not us. Not the audience.

                        Nobody.

                        That's what life rights are for. You don't pay for the right to things that actually happened -- that's just "life" -- what you really pay for is the right to change around stuff.

                        Also, people within families often have nicknames -- often names that they acquire in early childhood that have nothing to do with their real names that they use in the family so -- why not?

                        This is one of those things that you really shouldn't agonize about.

                        NMS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Changing real life names

                          words to live by. thank you Stevens.
                          funnily enough I slashed the family down as well. it's so much more streamlined now.
                          the producers did get back to me about the names and they want to "keep them as is" (i.e. true to life). so either I find nicknames for them or I just trust that it doesn't read poorly on the page.

                          Originally posted by nmstevens View Post
                          I've worked on true life stories and you'd be amazed at the liberties that are commonly taken. We reduced the number of children, changed their names, changed the amount of time that a story took because we would have had to recast the kids because they would have grown from children to teenagers and we didn't want to do that.

                          You know who cared? Nobody. Not the surviving family members who we paid as consultants. Not us. Not the audience.

                          Nobody.

                          That's what life rights are for. You don't pay for the right to things that actually happened -- that's just "life" -- what you really pay for is the right to change around stuff.

                          Also, people within families often have nicknames -- often names that they acquire in early childhood that have nothing to do with their real names that they use in the family so -- why not?

                          This is one of those things that you really shouldn't agonize about.

                          NMS

                          Comment

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