You may not know this about me, but I’m pretty famous.
In 1991, I played on the short-lived, much-hated TV show Baby Talk alongside the likes of George Clooney, Tony Danza and Scott Baio. Then I ran the gamut of filmmaking, from an editor position for The Pianist and Game of Thrones, to acting in HBO’s Chernobyl in 2019, to special thanks for the 1995 documentary Inside the White House.
Of course, none of these things actually happened, especially since I’m listed as a woman on IMDb, and the gigs span different roles, countries and decades. Any person looking at these credits would realize something strange was up.
But not IMDb. A verification weakness in IMDb’s credit system has allowed me to claim credits for a variety of work I could not possibly have been involved in.
I informed IMDb about this issue. While they did not respond, they have removed nearly all of my fraudulent credits.
An actress with a wide range of talents
There is no technical wizardry required for this simple trick.
All you need to do is sign up to IMDb and start editing any page. I did this for my own profile (so that I wouldn’t damage a real actor or filmmaker’s profile), but I believe it’s possible to edit anyone’s. This seems to have happened to Jason Parham when someone credited him for playing in an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which never happened.
On my profile page, you’ll see a wide range of credits covering three continents and four decades, including:
- Starring as “Lola” on Season 5, Episode 1 of the 1985 Mexican drama Mujer, casos de la vida real [archived]
- “Mindy” in Season 2, Episode 9 of the 1991 failed TV show Baby Talk [archived]
- Special thanks credit on Inside the White House (1995) [archived]
- Second assistant editor on the Oscar-winning 2002 film The Pianist [archived]
- “Jurate” on a 2008 episode of the popular Lithuanian TV show Moterys meluoja geriau [archived]
- Second assistant editor on the first episode of Game of Thrones [archived]
- “Third woman in Fengjie restaurant” in the 2018 Chinese crime drama Ash Is Purest White (original title Jiang hu er nü) [archived]
- “Civilian” on the first episode of the 2019 HBO hit Chernobyl [archived]
- “Rita” in the 2020 Jamaican TV comedy Arnold's Caribbean Pizza [archived]
Understanding IMDb’s verification system
We haven’t received any response yet from IMDb, but Parham states in his article a description of the process:
"Credits and other information [for IMDb] are submitted from a variety of channels, including studios, distributors, publicists, entertainment professionals (an actor, a producer, etc.), and IMDb users....[Submissions] first undergo “processing steps” before being listed, which vary depending on the type of data and may include manual verification and semi-automated checks based on the identity and reputation of the source."
Nonetheless, lacking clear confirmation of how the credit verification process works over there, we can look at what worked and didn’t work with our experiment.
At first, we tried acting credit for both a small, very localized Lithuanian TV show and a big, international hit – Game of Thrones. We received the credit for the Lithuanian title pretty quickly, but our GOT credit got blocked. Of course, that may have been because we applied for some pretty extreme credit the first time:
Yes, we tried to get credit on the first episode of GOT for playing “Winter” as A$ap Rocky.
Maybe a bit too far. However, we can see that it was easier to get acting credit on a Lithuanian TV show (which I hear is very popular in the country) than to get acting credit on a global hit TV show.
Next, I went with a more conservative approach to test the ability to get acting credits on country-specific TV shows. I applied to TV shows in India, Mexico, Jamaica, and a recent film in China. I stayed outside of the US to see if my first assumption was correct.
For the most part, it was. I got leading roles in the Jamaican and Mexican TV shows. However, I was not successful with a starring role in India’s College Romance. The market may be too big, or the TV show too popular, to go unnoticed.
For that reason, I went with a smaller role in the Chinese film – pretty much an extra, an unnamed character in Ash Is Purest White (original title Jiang hu er nü).
This gave me an idea. Perhaps smaller characters in bigger titles provide a bigger chance for my credit to be verified. So I looked up the very worst US TV shows from the 1990s and found Baby Talk, which featured Tony Danza and George Clooney, among others.
I also wanted to widen my credits to different categories, so I applied for writing credits to the horrible Cop Rock musical.
I got into Baby Talk as a random character named “Mindy,” but Cop Rock didn’t go through.
Nonetheless, I got into an American TV show, so I decided to push my luck. I applied for an uncredited role in Chernobyl and Game of Thrones, and Second assistant editor credits for The Pianist and Game of Thrones.
The reason I applied to Chernobyl first is probably why I was accepted: my bio lists me as a Lithuanian actress, and Chernobyl was filmed in Lithuania. Unfortunately, I didn’t get acting credit for Game of Thrones, although both my Second assistant editor credits were approved.
Overall, the approval process seems to be much more lax for country-specific TV shows, TV shows with relatively little action (Baby Talk), uncredited roles, and certainly small positions like Second assistant editor.
Writing credits are the hardest to get, it seems, and acting roles in big shows, like India’s College Romance or even a minute role in Game of Thrones seem to go through some human verification.
All in all, I’ve had a pretty great career, with lots of great memories that I’ll cherish forever:
Unfortunately, after I reached out to IMDb for comment and context on their verification issues, my acting and editorial credits disappeared.
Well, at least I still have thanks for whatever I did for Inside the White House.
What’s the possible impact here?
It is very difficult to imagine a privacy or security implication similar in gravity to the ones that we deal with here on a daily basis at CyberNews.
However, there are two different ways this could have a wider impact:
- Lying about or exaggerating one’s profile, possibly for a job. This disadvantages the employer, as they are hiring the person under false or inflated pretenses.
- Editing someone else's profile. While we didn’t try to edit a real person’s profile, this seems to have happened to Jason Parham. However, my colleague created my named profile, and I then created an account and was able to edit Bernard Meyer’s profile. It is most likely possible to do that to others. Again, not sure if you can only add small roles, or if it’s possible to remove certain roles from others’ profiles.
Certainly, It would be good if IMDb could tighten up their verification processes. As mentioned above, we reached out to both IMDb and their parent company Amazon, but have not received any response yet.