The Internet Movie Database is an essential tool for all aspiring filmmakers. Even established ones. It is the single best source for information for and about people in the motion picture business. Trust me, whenever someone in Hollywood hears your name for the first time, they immediately type it into the IMDb. The IMDb usually tells them all they need to know: whether you are credible. You're not anyone, unless you're on the IMDb.
Surprisingly, considering its industry-wide use and acceptance, the bulk of the information is provided by users. Therefore, it is open to manipulation. And, if you a young filmmaker marketing a low-budget indie film, you should manipulate it, but be smart about it.
1). Getting your film on the IMDb.
In the old days, the hardest thing was getting you undistributed film onto the site itself. The managers only want to include "real" films. Therefore, unless your film featured some well-known individuals, you had to provide evidence that it had actually been screened before the public. Fortunately that is not a problem anymore for the independent filmmaker anymore. Go and register your film on the sister website withoutabox.com. Withoutabox is a fabulous service that helps independent filmmakers submit their films to festivals. And, at the basic level, it is free. More importantly, if you register your film with withoutabox.com, it automatically goes onto the IMDb. Viola! Problem solved. What are you waiting for?
2). Rating your film.
IMDb users can rate your film on a one-to-ten scale, one being the worse, ten being the best. Obviously, since film festivals and potential distributors will check the IMDb, you want a good rating. So what do you do? You send out an email to all of your cast and crew and friend and families and ask them to give your film a good rating. You do the same thing on Twitter and Facebook. A couple days later you check on film and discover that eighty-seven people gave it a ten-star rating. Whoopppeee! Sadly, however, you overall rating is now only 1.2. Why? The IMDb has an algorithm to detect cheating. And, once the program flags your film, it will be a long, hard slog to get it out of the basement.
Personally, I've frequently had this problem without any cheating involved. I have written mainly faith-based films which people either love or hate. They elicit a tremendous amount of ones and tens. It usually takes months of genuine release before IMDb algorithm brings the overall rating up to reflect reality.
How does the young indie filmmaker get around this and still get a good score? Easy. Get all of your friends to rate the film but make sure they are varying the vote. Make sure most of votes are in the five-to-nine rate. Throw in an occasional one-or-two, too. That way, it looks more honest, and you'll end up with a higher overall score in the end.
3). User reviews.
Of course you want your potential distributor to see a host of glowing user reviews about your film on the IMDb, and I'm sure your friends, family, cast and crew are perfectly willing to provide them. However, you have to make them credible. Whenever I check out an extremely low-profile indie film, I am always suspicious when I see ten or fifteen glowing, 10-star reviews. I test my suspicions by simply clicking on the users to see how many other reviews they have written. If this is the only film they reviewed, I know it is by someone with a vested interested. All credibility is lost. Therefore, if you want to review your film (or have others do the same), take the time to review at least five or six other films as well. It will give your review more credibility. Also, if you're doing a question and answer session at a film festival, be sure to ask the audience to review the film on IMDb themselves when they get home. If they really liked your film, they just might!
4) . Credits.
Okay. You just made your indie film. It was low budget, so, not only did you write, produce and direct, you also did the cinematography, production design, location scouting, make-up, hair, wardrobe, set decorating, casting, transportation, lighting, editing, craft services, etc., etc., etc.
Don't be an idiot. Don't list every job you performed. Nothing is more embarrassing than having fifteen credits on the IMDb and having them all on one film. Distributors aren't going to notice that and think, "Wow, this man is Orson Welles reincarnated. We must have this film!" No. What they will think is: "Man, this most be a really low budget piece of sh*t. They couldn't afford to hire anybody." Trust me, if you are the director, you are going to get all the credit for the success of the film anyway. It is unnecessary to give yourself credit for every job you performed. I don't list everything I did on films. Here's my rule of thumb: I don't take a credit unless I am seeking work in that discipline.
Those are my accumulated words of wisdom. Good luck gaming the IMDb, my fellow filmmakers.
Here's my IMDb listing: Sean Paul Murphy