Alan Smithee

As a parting nod to last weekend’s Oscars ceremony, this week’s Film Term Friday entry is all about directors.

Today’s phrase is “Alan Smithee”. It’s a pseudonym that one or two of the directors who didn’t win on Sunday might now be thinking about using. In short, it’s a name used by directors who want to disown their work.

Before 1968, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) didn’t allow directors to be credited under a pseudonym. But following a dispute over 1969’s film Death of a Gunslinger (when two directors worked on the film but neither wanted to take full credit) the guild agreed to allow a different name to be used for the director’s credit. The first name they suggested was Al Smith, but this was considered too common. So over time the surname changed first to Smithe and then to Smithee. The guild’s ruse worked so well that it even fooled the great screen critic Roger Ebert, who praised Smithee’s storytelling even though he’d never heard the director’s name before.

There have been quite a few films directed by Alan Smithee ever since, and even more television shows. But the DGA retired the term a few years ago, after Eric Idol starred in a film about a director called Alan Smithee, who was trying to disown his own work. The film was so terrible that it gathered a tremendous amount of negative press and drew too much popular attention to the use of the name.

Bonus trivia: Alan Smithee is an anagram of “the alias men”.

If you want to make a film for your business that you’re proud to attach your name to, get in touch with Pearldrop!

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