Anyone can be a big name director/producer/star...on YouTube. If you are already an Internet sensation, or plan to succeed in that arena (and beyond!), it might be in your best interest to either incorporate a corporation or organize an LLC (or whatever is applicable to your corner of the world). Short of that, you can always work as a sole proprietor or general partnership or other business structure, before you make the big plunge into something more formal. You will get better quality info from self-help books or professionals than this little article, so I'll leave it at that.
Anyway, let's say your name is Jeffrey Champ, and you're a budding filmmaker. You can always call your sole proprietorship company Jeffrey Champ Productions, and you should be good to cash in checks made to that name. However, creative people tend to do business as some sort of creative name, and that's where filing for a fictitious business name (FBN) can help your cause. The law varies from state to state (and if you're not in the U.S., I wouldn't know...period), but the basic process is to file an FBN statement in the county you're doing business and find a local paper to publish your FBN statement for four weeks. The entire process should cost about $100 in filing fees and publisher fees, but don't quote me on that!
With a properly filed FBN, our hypothetical Jeffrey Champ could run his sole proprietorship as SPQR Piggies Productions or any crazy name short of adding Inc., LLC, GmbH, Bank, or other deceptive suffix (the law varies, of course). In other words, YOU the YouTube filmmaker can accept checks written to your screen name on your path to greatness!
Pop quiz, kids! Here's a 16mm film I "Swiss Army Knifed" (wrote/directed/shot/edited/scored/produced) back in college. It's called Cleaning Service:
Using the information given in the article, what did I do wrong when it came to using the film's production company name? (Yes, there are a lot of things wrong about the production itself, but that is another story. Anyway, highlight the paragraph below for the answer.)
(Answer: SPQR Piggies, Inc. is not an actual corporation nor the FBN of an actual corporation. Even if I wanted to use SPQR Piggies as an FBN - Ryan DeRamos d/b/a SPQR Piggies - the government wouldn't allow me to use the Inc. suffix. I'm glad to have made that mistake while in college.)
Ryan DeRamos is an independent filmmaker, songwriter-producer, and blogger. He recently produced the majority of music for the upcoming Mutiny Universe production Élan Vital. Ryan looks forward to contributing more articles at Rama's SCREEN.