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