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Credit Check

IMDb has become an industry standard-bearer. Here’s one mistake that can cut someone’s credits in half.

It was a dark day 20 years ago, when I made this stupid mistake. One that comes back to haunt me over and over again — and the worst aspect is that I know it will always be there.  

I’m talking about the time I misspelled someone’s name for the credits roll on a feature film. I had gone according to payroll records, under the assumption that the names had to be correctly spelled. Little did I know that this crew member had been receiving checks under the incorrect name and he experienced no trouble from his bank.  

As I’ve written before, credits were a big deal before there was ever an IMDb. They serve as proof of an actor’s or crew member’s experience. Since IMDb became a major factor, ensuring the correct spelling of every single person’s name has become even more important.

Mechanism Digital once worked with a woman who was born in China with a traditional Chinese name. As her career blossomed, she began to use an Americanized name most of the time. That left her projects divided under two different names. A situation like this might also happen if people use a nickname or a shortened version of their name. The takeaway is to make sure you use the same name with IMDb at all times, or else you won't end up in a single search; the longer your IMDb page is, the more “cred” you have in this industry.  

Name spelling is not the only thing to double-double check. Getting the job titles right is equally important. In our work, the titles are often given to us by the studio — and sometimes we can give ourselves the title.

The crew member whose name I misspelled didn't get too mad at me (or, he hid it well). That was a relief, considering that the final cut of a movie cannot be changed, and changing a name on IMDb takes a surprisingly large amount of patience and time. Since “The Mistake,” he's grown into a very successful animator, and I like to think I didn’t affect his career in a big way — but it still haunts me to this day because it could have been avoided.  

If you're unsure of how to spell someone's name, or even if you are sure, always ask them for clarification.

Originally published: 02/25/2022

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