UPDATE: I’ve ended the one name experiment and gone back to using, as far as credits go, both first and last name (Ryan Koo) like the rest of humanity. I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the one-name thing, though plenty of people still call me “Koo” and always will. The post below is my original experiment with self-branding.
I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I needed something to push myself over the edge. And so in writing my first article for the print edition of Filmmaker Magazine — now available digitally and hitting newsstands soon — I used “Koo” for the byline. No Ryan, no Bilsborrow. In the process I went from having three names (five if you count my hyphenated middle name, Tze-Ren) — to one. Yes, as far as bylines and credits go, from this point on I’m going simply as “Koo.” But why would I change my name (again)? Aren’t people going to think I’m a douchebag for doing this?
Probably, but it’s what most people call me anyway. Ever since I was a little kid, going from school to school, my classmates would always call me “Koo.” I never asked anyone to do it — you know, “my name’s Ryan, but my friends call me Koo” — none of that. Instead, it’s followed me quite naturally wherever I’ve gone, and so today I’m embracing the single name — ala Madonna, Beck, McG, and many others (mostly musicians). I’m aware this move has a high potentiality to backfire, with people thinking “who does that guy think he is?” — but the more I thought about it, the more it felt right. Ever since I axed the Bilsborrow from my name, it hasn’t felt quite right, so I’m killing off Ryan Koo after only four months, and shortening my handle to Koo — and I won’t be shortening it any more!
This isn’t an opportunistic, self-promotional decision — this will actually hurt my searchability online, as a search for Ryan Koo effectively leads people to me, whereas a search for Koo will not. However, I’m a relative nobody right now, so it will be fun to watch over the years — as I actually get some movies made — to see how my Google rank is affected. If I can manage to “own” Koo, then it will be a good personal branding decision — if not, well, we’ll see.
I’m not going to go on and on about this, because, if you don’t want to be seen as an egomaniac, don’t make a big to-do about your personal decisions. So let’s talk about the Filmmaker issue — my article’s on Google TV and the opportunity it represents for independent filmmakers (which I’ve written about briefly before here on NoFilmSchool). The issue is chock full of brain candy, including Lance Weiler’s article on storyworld bibles and Anthony Kaufman’s take on the Do It With Others movement. Roberto Quezada-Dardon — who is sticking with the hyphen — has an article about HDSLRs in 2010, and the issue’s cover story is on this year’s crop of 25 New Faces (which makes my own selection as one of the Faces dated by two years). So head on over to the Filmmaker web site and check out the issue, or head to your local newsstand and get yourself a copy. Look for the article with the shortest byline!