Demystifying The IMDb STARMETER

Solving the mystery of your IMDb Rank, the number rumoured to matter to agents, casting directors & producers.

Although only fifteen years old and arguably biased toward Hollywood, Western-made, and English-language films, the International Movie Database (IMDb), now owned by Amazon, is the only truly international film & TV industry catalog in existence and a tool that, in my opinion, the International Actor cannot live without.
Anyone can use, peruse and offer contribution to its database of movies, TV shows and movie-industry peeps for free, but certain features (including particular details of entries, such as contact information, film production status, and rankings) are only available through “IMDb Pro”, which is “designed for people in the entertainment industry,” and currently costs US$150/year. Apart from being an indispensable research tool for actors to learn about directors, casting directors, agents and industry, IMDb Pro has also recently expanded as a casting site where actors can read breakdowns and submit themselves directly to projects.



I first discovered I existed on IMDb a few years ago when I searched for myself and found I was listed as an actress from a TV movie I did as a teenager, and as a director from a documentary I made in my twenties. As IMDb only documents performances of the recorded sort, the vast amount of theatre I had done in the meantime was, of course, entirely absent. Also absent were student films or bit parts in larger films and television I had acted in some years ago, as IMDb was not the recognized pathway to film legitimacy that it is today. I felt simultaneously validated as an actor existing in its database, and misrepresented in terms of my experience. As I began the long process of taking control of my IMDb profile (renowned for its slow and user-unfriendly process), I was fascinated by a particular aspect of my profile-- my ‘Starmeter’-- over which I had no control, and which seemed to jump and drop dramatically without any rhyme or reason. I was curious, and wanted to do some research. Ultimately, I wanted to know what it meant and whether it mattered.




IMDb defines its Starmeter as “represent[ing] what people are interested in, based not on small statistical samplings, but on the actual behavior of millions of IMDb users.” They are quick to point out that this ranking does not mean something or someone is ‘good’ only that there is a high level of public awareness about them. “The primary measure is who and what people are looking at on IMDb...[from] more than 200 million unique monthly visitors.” 2 years ago, IMDb internalized its tabulation of the Starmeter ranking and now uses a secret algorithm which is ostensibly affected by:
  • Number of credits listed on IMDb 
  • Popularity of your projects listed on IMDb 
  • Number of pageviews (clicks to) on your public profile 
  • Number of comments on the “message boards” of your profile (worth more than clicks to).
Popularity contest? Kind of. While essentially an arbitrary measure of starpower, and vulnerable to rigging and exploitation as all online based ‘clicking’ ratings are—there is as yet virtually no alternative and it is now oft repeated that casting directors have been known to take this into consideration and use it in their pitches to producers, and that it can even affect distribution of a film-- the lower your number, the more powerful your pull. Very generally, 200,000 and below indicates consistently working actor, 2,000 and below well-known actor, and 200 and below celebrity.

So what can you do about it? As you can see above, not a lot, but a little.

You can do your best to make sure your profile is comprehensively represented and up to date (i.e., all your film & TV work is listed on IMDb, add your photo, reel, bio, media articles, etc). You can do your best to increase clicks and comments on your page (e.g., add your IMDb profile to your email signature and website to encourage more clicks). Starmeter rankings refresh every Monday by the way. Sites like Karmalicity are moving communities of actors to click for each other in movements called ‘Karmic Publicity’. I have not tried this, but the site is free and unaffiliated with IMDb or any social networking site, and I would be interested to hear from someone who has. Be aware however, that IMDb claims to work to thwart this sort of skewing of results, and in particular beware of offers to lower or restore your Starmeter ranking for a fee, they are almost certainly a scam. 

Or you can decide not to care. Many reputable magazines and industry people maintain that it means nothing. It's a very clever marketing ploy actually, as actors, motivated to get the Starmeter rank higher, do the work of marketing and getting new users and clicks to the IMDb site for them. I myself remain ambivalent about my Starmeter ranking. Don’t get crazy about it. Like the stock market, your weight, etc. it will fluctuate, and that’s ok. You haven’t changed:-)


I have listed my source information for this article below. If you found this post interesting or helpful, I’d love you to give my IMDb profile a click, or if it was really helpful, leave a comment on my IMDb message boards. Thanks so much:-) I'd also love to hear any questions or comments you have on this post below.

Source Material:

11 comments:

  1. Great article. I've always wondered what affected those ratings. And what I can do about them! Thanks for clarifying.

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    1. When my IMDB pro membership expired, my score went from the 20,000s to the 700,000s. When I renewed a month later, my score jumped almost 500,000 in one week back up.

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    2. Well yeah people are more likely to click on a page with a picture than one without.

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  2. You're very welcome Sam, thanks for your comments! I have an interesting update for this article. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a director I'd been trying to connect with at a networking event, and I sent him a quick email a few days before the event to say I was looking forward to meeting him. When I spoke to him at the event, I was surprised to hear him quote my IMDb Starmeter number to me in terms of where he might potentially slot me in one of his films!! He just said my number, with no reference, so it took me a minute to realize what he was referring to...So there you go: it may just matter more than you think (and more than it should). Has this happened to anyone else??

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  3. This article is from a while ago, but perhaps you still follow it... Do you think the algorithm might 'know' who is doing the viewing? Could there be 'super-members' who's viewing might have more impact on the star meter (A-listers, more well known movie makers)?
    Thanks!

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  4. Hm, that's an interesting thought Warren! I would be surprised if there were 'super-members'...my understanding is that they just want to weed out suspicious clicking, and apart from that, all clicks are treated equally. But the algorithm is secret, so we don't know!! Thanks for your comment :-)

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  5. Absolutely great article! Just saw your page on IMDbPro and plan to email you.

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  6. Great article, Michela! ... and talk about timing. I'm in the middle of putting together some material which I'll be using when I speak at a festival next year. During one of the topics, I'll be covering various aspects of IMDb/IMDbPro.

    Since I'll deal with the STARmeter rating, I thought I'd research some "who-says-what" articles on the subject. That's how I came across yours - which I think is the most informative:-)

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  7. Aw shucks, thanks for the compliment Wayne! So glad to have you as a reader, and please update us if you discover any new STARmeter info! xx

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  8. THANKS FOR THE INFO!! I find this so disturbing as a film maker and producer. I am getting ready to pitch to investors and get funding but they want a "high ranking star meter actor" and director!http://samhoustonswfilmfund.com/development-financing now I don't know if I want to go this route after this article. Thank you so much!

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  9. Starmeters are to feed our own egos (I think)Because someone has a certain score doesn't mean they can/cannot act. My opinion only folks, scores mean very little, if your heart is in the right place and you market yourself correctly. Don't sell yourself short either. Work on your craft, take as many gigs as you can, work on your range of characters and emotions. YOU'RE so much more than a score.

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