Stuck in a kafkaesque and career-threatening conversation with IMDB's help desk

  • 3
  • Problem
  • Updated 1 year ago
  • Solved
  • (Edited)

Hi everyone,

I really don’t know what else to do – I desperately need help. I am stuck in a conversation with IMDB’s helpdesk that has taken on the most kafkaesque character. Without exaggerating, I have never encountered anything like this in my 30+ year professional career.

I know this is going to be a hard read, but I really don’t know how to keep it briefer without distorting the situation.

Let me start by saying that I have been an active IMDB member for 14+ years now, and I also have a Pro account and am a regular contributor. Never in 14 years have I submitted anything that’s not based on thorough research. And if I submit titles I have been working on myself, I have always been honest as I don’t believe in over-inflating oneself’s achievements. And I would never submit a project of mine if it wasn’t compliant with IMDB’s rules.

I am a producer and director from Germany. I have come to moderate fame through dubbing over film clips in a funny way (call it fandub or mashup) in my native vernacular, a German dialect called Swabian. I started 2006 on YouTube under the moniker ‚Dodokay’. It’s basically something ‚Bad lip reading’ in German, and is has spawned a TV show and a successsful live tour in my home country.

My latest project is a theatrical film based on the same principle. I actually got the rights for legendary Fritz Lang’s last film ‚The 1,000 eyes of Dr. Mabuse’ from 1960 and was allowed to use the original footage und build a completely new film from it, which I did. From scratch. My film is called ‚Die 1000 Glotzböbbel vom Dr. Mabuse’, which is – as you can guess – a funny translation of the original’s title. And that’s about where the similarities end. My film is by all means a completely new work of art and it is already accepted as such by all major German artist’s associations, the press and collecting agencies. I wrote a new storyline with new characters, places and plot (I only reused the main antagonist’s name), almost completely re-edited the film from scratch, altered the image by re-framing it from 1,85:1 to 2,35:1 and restoring it, and – more importantly – together with a small crew added visual effects to many shots (superimposed faces, letterings, signs, backgrounds etc.). I even had product placement added in that is now nominated for an award due to its originality. I shot additional footage, mostly inserts of newspaper articles, letters, buildings, places, pictures, and even myself as the ‚Dodokay’ character. I had a completely new score composed and built an effects track from scratch. And finally, I dubbed over the complete dialogue with the voices I do in my online, TV and stage shows with completely new dialogue – they speak with different voices as different characters about different things. This means that audio-wise not a single sample from the original film has been used, the film’s imagery has been changed horizontally (95%) and laterally (100%) if you will, and the original story is non-existent anymore. The film has its completely new movie poster and a trailer with footage shot especially for thir purprose. In short: This is nothing like an alternate version or restoration, I created a new film from the original footage.

The film is on its theatrical run in Germany and Austria since August 30th 2018 and has had about 22.000 patrons so far. I know this is not a lot for American standards, but it is so for the German-speaking world and for such a language-wise constricted enterprise. The majority of critics like it and, and more importantly, see it as what it is: A (qutoe) remake and new form of art that has arguably not been done in movie theaters since Woody Allen’s ‚What’s up Tiger Lily’ in 1966. I know I’m not Woody Allen, but I changed ‚my’ original film much more that Woody Allen did his.

All of this is very easily verifiable, and one doesn’t even have to speak German to do so.

But it’s obviously not enough for IMDB to accept my film as a separate title. The funny thing is: When I first submitted it at the beginning of August, it was accepted and went online, because quite obviously nobody at IMDB cared. But as a few actors didn’t show up online – which was understandable to me as they are long deceased – I investigated with IMDB’s helpdesk and in the course of this explained the film’s nature. As a result, the film got erased from the database immediately. Without warning and with a simple remark that the film is not eligible for IMDB. This baffled me, as I am very much familiar with IMDB’s eligibility rules. And I thought, somebody surely must have read my first sources for proving the film’s existence and nature. I responded accordingly and asked for an explanation.

This was the starting point for the most bizarre ‚conversation’ of my life. And it has been going on for more than a week without result until I gave up and found this website. I kept explaining on a daily basis – in a clear and friendly manner – the film’s nature, only to get non-answers with links to IMDB’s eligibility rules, which – in a twist of irony – keep explaining to me that my film does fit those rules like a glove. This is the very definition of a kafkaesque nightmare. I will gladly submit the complete conversation if needed.

With endless patience I kept asking the service reps to respond to my questions or escalate my problem to a superior, which they simply ignored and just kept responding with the same preformatted answer to read the guidelines. I still did not give up, all the while knowing that my film would undoubtedly be published on IMDB if someone would take three minutes to listen to my explanations on the phone or in person, or at least take the effort to read my very clear and unmistakable sources. But instead the helpdesk people kept assuring me that they read everything I submitted to them, but they very obviously didn’t, as they kept sending me the same links to their rules that ... I won’t repeat myself.

Eventually I asked for at least a reason that I can convey to the people I work with – the original film’s producer is alive and kicking and my co-producer, and I have a crew the careers of which also rely in part on IMDB. But again I only got a ‚Your film is not eligible’ and I’d have to submit it as an ‚Alternate Version’ of the original, which it isn’t according to the very standards they keep sending me. Back to square one, no answer, no understandable reason for the rejection.

This is not only like talking to a parking meter, it is infinitely infuriating. The helpdesk people kept coming back with another non-answer in a friendly or at least neutral tone, but in reality the whole conversation conveyed an atmosphere of annoyance if not hostility. Those people make me look like a disobedient child or some nerd from a small country that’s not interesting to IMDB, and a stupid one at that. I keep sitting on my side of the wire, asking myself why they don’t answer my questions. Is my nose too big? Do I smell? And of course I can’t tell them that as I can basically feel that someone over there is on the brink of blocking my account and erasing all my entries, rendering my career on IMDB non-existant. I know people that have experienced that.

So, where do we stand? The film is in theaters and still not on IMDB and I am facing serious problems here. Critics, press and professionals turn to IMDB for reference, and the film is not there. This makes me look like a fool, as IMDB has become an indispensible career-building tool. I am in talks for directing international co-productions, and if I am going to apply to the DGA or the ASC, the first place they will turn to for information about me is IMDB. And it makes me mad that IMDB has risen to that status and doesn’t do everything in their power for the people who helped it achieve that very status.

As much as I accept that IMDB reserves the right to reject submissions, the least I expect is to be treated as a serious user (avoiding the term ‘client’). The helpdesk has quite obviously NOT reviewed my claims.

I am aware that this is not an everyday project, but I am absolutely positive that if someone at IMDB lets me walk her or him though the project on a step-by-step basis, letting me provide an explanation to one eligibility question one at a time – and sources translated into English, if needed – my film will be online quite fast.

And that would actually mean the world to me right now.

Thanks for reading and best regards,

Dominik Kuhn

STARPATROL Entertainment

Photo of starpatrol

starpatrol

  • 5 Posts
  • 18 Reply Likes
  • frustrated

Posted 1 year ago

  • 3
Photo of Vincent Fournols

Vincent Fournols

  • 2901 Posts
  • 4891 Reply Likes
To be honest, I did not read your full prose, but, from what I understand, there are existing of such occurrences in IMDb: Tang shou tai quan dao "remade" as La dialectique peut-elle casser des briques?, i.e. same images, different dialogues made up by a third party (Marguerite Duras did the same, but that was her own creator choice). And I think I recall that Woody Allen did the same in his young days with another kungfu movie.
In terms of IMDb movie connections, it is registered as an "Edited from".
My 2 cents tell me that these are distinct pieces of work and distinct registration in IMDb is legit.

(PS: I can list several released movies, even in Western countries, which are not in the IMDb...)


(Edited)
Photo of starpatrol

starpatrol

  • 5 Posts
  • 18 Reply Likes
Hi Vincent - oh! Very good, thanks, I did not know of that one! I actually think that this kind of work might become very common in the future, given the possibilities YouTube & Co. opened up. I am curious if anyone at IMDB reacts appropriately. Thanks and best regards!
Photo of Ed Jones (XLIX)

Ed Jones (XLIX)

  • 17421 Posts
  • 19803 Reply Likes
What was the last contribution submission number when you tried to resubmit this for insertion?
Photo of Ed Jones (XLIX)

Ed Jones (XLIX)

  • 17421 Posts
  • 19803 Reply Likes
This may be required or asked for by an IMDb Employee. I think Michelle Handles this type of issue, but I could be wrong. She might see this or one of the other IMDb employees in about 8-10 Hours from now, when they are at work. Be patient. Cheers.
Don't forget the Contribution number! Thanks.
Photo of Will

Will, Official Rep

  • 4016 Posts
  • 5195 Reply Likes
Hi starpatrol,

Thank you for letting me know about this case and apologies for your experience. Please let me raise this internally and as soon as I have an answer I'll let you know.

Regards,
Will
Photo of starpatrol

starpatrol

  • 5 Posts
  • 18 Reply Likes
Hi Guys, thanks so much for the replies! The last contribution submission # was 180729-095016-185000
I am looking forward to any further development in this matter.
Best, Dominik
Photo of Will

Will, Official Rep

  • 4016 Posts
  • 5195 Reply Likes
Hi starpatrol,

Thank you for raising this and apologies for this case, on review this title does deserve its own separate title page on IMDb, however please do not include any of the cast/crew on the original title on your new listing as that would mean they are credited twice for the same work on IMDb.

Please feel free to re-submit the title to us including only the cast/crew attached to your re-edit linking to this GS thread in the explanation field. As previously stated on this thread you may add a movie connection linking your title to the original version using the edited from option.

Let me know if you encounter any problems.

Regards,
Will
Photo of starpatrol

starpatrol

  • 5 Posts
  • 18 Reply Likes
Hi Will, thanks a lot! It's so good to read a comprehensible reaction. I will re-submit the title within the next day without the original cast and crew, although I have one question/suggestion: In both What's Up, Tiger Lily and La dialectique peut-elle casser des briques?, the original actors are credited as Archive Footage respectively. Wouldn't that be the prudent thing to do? Thanks a lot and best regards, Dominik
Photo of Adrian

Adrian, Champion

  • 1260 Posts
  • 1499 Reply Likes
Starpatrol,

I would not think that either of those movies meet the requirements for "archive footage" attributes. Basically, that attribute should be used when no underlying source is known, like TV news footage or unsourced interview footage. I would think those credits need to be removed from those two mvoies.
Photo of Ed Jones (XLIX)

Ed Jones (XLIX)

  • 17360 Posts
  • 19787 Reply Likes
Will thanks for the"Spike Lee" LOL
Do the Right Thing!!
Photo of Eboy

Eboy

  • 1620 Posts
  • 2059 Reply Likes
I can’t really comment on this case, but I believe ”no underlying source is known” is not really correct eith ”archive footage” attribute.

https://help.imdb.com/article/contrib...#

”The "on screen credit" rule =
If someone's appearance is credited on screen it automatically qualifies as a valid archive footage credit, regardless of what type of archive footage it is. This supersedes any of the potential exclusions below.”
Photo of Adrian

Adrian, Champion

  • 1261 Posts
  • 1499 Reply Likes
Eboy,

You probably should have read the very next line of that guide.

If someone's appearance is uncredited and covered by a movielink entry (i.e., footage from a film is recycled as a "prologue" or flashback in a sequel or subsequent film in a series) it does not qualify as "archive footage”.

Photo of gromit82

gromit82, Champion

  • 7244 Posts
  • 8966 Reply Likes
I tend to agree with Eboy on this point. If the actors from the original film are credited on screen in Dominik's film, then they qualify for archive footage credits in Dominik's film under the "on screen credit" rule, which would take precedence over all the other archive footage rules.

And even if they aren't credited, it seems likely to me that their footage is an integral part of the film's narrative, which would mean that they might qualify for archive footage credits under the "Forrest Gump" rule.
Photo of Adrian

Adrian, Champion

  • 1261 Posts
  • 1499 Reply Likes
That directly contradicts the guide gromit82. And, the Forrest Gump rule wouldn't apply because it isn't real life footage but edited movie footage for which the movielink rule applies. (Note: It's not that it is really important, just that they need to change the guide if this is true. This only affects a handful of these types of movies.)
(Edited)
Photo of gromit82

gromit82, Champion

  • 7244 Posts
  • 8966 Reply Likes
Adrian: The guide at https://help.imdb.com/article/contribution/filmography-credits/archive-footage/G4X4TVH6HXYBW8WM?ref_...# specifically says, "If someone's appearance is credited on screen it automatically qualifies as a valid archive footage credit, regardless of what type of archive footage it is. This supersedes any of the potential exclusions below."

It also says, "If archive footage is an integral part of the film's narrative, it's eligible. Additional examples: scenes from Poor Cow creatively used as flashbacks in The Limey; President Clinton's appearance in Contact." Poor Cow was a dramatic film, not real life footage, so that indicates that the Forrest Gump rule allows footage from movies to count as archive footage for which a person can receive an IMDb archive footage credit.

I admit that the guide at https://help.imdb.com/article/contribution/filmography-credits/attributes/GJNF5SNFE43G4S22?ref_=help...# says:
(archive footage)
A cast member appears in some footage from an unidentified production, usually newsreel, behind-the-scenes, or home movies. This is helpful to explain the appearance of a person in a documentary released after their death. If the footage is from an identified production, then it should instead be described by a "featured in" movie link, and no cast/crew entry should be created for the new title. (See our special guide for rules.)
However, I believe that the linked guide more accurately describes the IMDb policy on archive footage credits, and the guide does not require that the source of the footage be unidentified. These guides should probably be revised to avoid having them contradict each other.
Photo of Eboy

Eboy

  • 1620 Posts
  • 2059 Reply Likes
Time out everybody. Like I said originally (at least that was my intention), I didn't specifically meant this film. My point was aimed to a comment ”no underlying source is known”.
Photo of Will

Will, Official Rep

  • 4016 Posts
  • 5195 Reply Likes
Hi all, 

There are some good points raised here. We do show some editorial discretion with (archive footage) credits where appropriate. In this case it is fair to credit the original cast given the unique nature of this title under the on screen rule, the integral part it plays in the film's narrative and under the public interest rule, however we wouldn't want this to become "the norm" leading to duplicate credits across the board on name pages for any archive footage credit where a movie connection would be the better choice.

I hope this helps.

Regards,
Will
(Edited)
Photo of Ed Jones (XLIX)

Ed Jones (XLIX)

  • 17360 Posts
  • 19787 Reply Likes
A Double Spike and a Siskel and Ebert 2 Thumbs up!!
Photo of starpatrol

starpatrol

  • 5 Posts
  • 18 Reply Likes

Guys, my film is back online at IMDB an I want to thank everybody here for contributing to that. This forum is aptly named – experiencing the solution for this misunderstanding is really satisfying. I am quite happy, to say the least!

Thanks again and best regards,

Dominik


Photo of Jeorj Euler

Jeorj Euler

  • 7272 Posts
  • 9491 Reply Likes
[clap]
Photo of Ed Jones (XLIX)

Ed Jones (XLIX)

  • 17421 Posts
  • 19803 Reply Likes
Image result for success sign

This conversation is no longer open for comments or replies.