Actors and other entertainment industry professionals have a love/hate relationship with Amazon’s Internet Movie Database. While IMDb remains an invaluable tool for both information and networking, actors have expressed concern that it contains too much private information (such as the famous lawsuit filed by Huong “Junie” Hoang over IMDb posting her real age). Actors now have yet another reason to be rankled at IMDb.
According to the Herald de Paris, IMDb’s “Starmeter” ranking system — which supposedly ranks the popularity of an individual — has been subject to rigging. The ranking itself might be irrelevant to most working professionals in the industry, but employers have allowed rankings to affect hiring decisions because the lower the rating, the higher a professional’s supposed popularity is. Professionals have recently reported receiving e-mails from several supposedly third-party companies that offer to reduce one’s Starmeter rating. A contributing editor for the Herald who is listed on IMDb, Anna Wilding, signed up for one such service and saw her rating drop. However, shortly after she stopped the service her rating shot up to 5,000,000 though in her fifteen years on IMDb she never ranked lower than 100,000. Wilding then received an offer from a company called IMDBPROMO.com asking for $999.00 to restore her ranking. While IMDBPROMO.com claims no affiliation with IMDb, it is not known how it can manipulate the Starmeter rankings so drastically.
This isn’t the first time IMDb’s Starmeter rankings have come into question. The “science” behind the rankings has never been clear, with many cases of professionals who are relatively unknown in the industry receiving drastic boosts in their rankings with no apparent explanation. The Herald concludes that actors and other professionals have been paying these third-party companies millions of dollars to manipulate their rankings.
The investigation happened to be published a day before IMDbPro announced a new “casting service”, Pro Casting. It promises to “simplify and enhance the process by which casting directors and filmmakers find the right actor for any role while making it easier for actors to discover and apply for casting notices.” The press release notes the service’s Starmeter as a key part of Pro Casting, which highlight why the manipulation of Starmeter rankings can be so harmful to actors and other professionals.
This Starmeter issue ties into a larger issue in the media of social networking number misrepresenting a celebrity’s popularity. It is common knowledge that these numbers can be wildly inflated by purchasing “fake” followers on popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, some executives take a lot of stock in a celebrity’s social media numbers as an indicator of a professional’s popularity.
The Herald has contacted SAG-AFTRA regarding the issue, and considering the union’s already fractured relationship with Amazon it is unlikely that this will be the last we will hear of it.