Online media resources

Fast, cheap and out of control

The amount of information available on the World Wide Web has exploded over the last five years, with plenty of it devoted to movies and television. And while much of that is geared toward fans and consumers, industry professionals can also find useful material, particularly in online databases.

There are three basic types of film-related databases on the Web. First are free collections of bios, credits and background on movies and TV shows (such as the Internet Movie Database); second are directories that list and catalog related Web sites (Yahoo, CineMedia); and third are business-oriented databases available by paid subscription only (In Hollywood, Hollywood Creative Directory, Hollywood Network).

The Internet Movie Database is the Web’s oldest and largest film database, with credit lists and reviews of more than 130,000 movies and filmographies of over 500,000 people. According to Col Needham, founder and managing director of the site, “The aim of the database is to cover every movie from every country from every era.”

Free to visitors because it is supported entirely by its advertisers, the site grew out of an online movie discussion group in the early 1990s. Today, Needham estimates, over 1.3 million pages of information are called up per day. The company itself comprises 16 people scattered around the world, who check facts submitted for the site. “The information isn’t automatically added,” Needham says. “Each section is managed by somebody who has become an expert in a certain area. The nice thing is that we have millions of users who are all too happy to point out any kind of errors.”

Many of the numerous Web site directories now online also grew out of people’s personal projects. Yahoo started as the bookmark col-lection of two graduate students, but now guides visitors from around the world to sites grouped into 14 categories, with 95 million page views a day. Their media and entertainment section includes some features of interest to people in the industry, including upcoming release schedules.

CineMedia is another personal list that went wide. Created by Dan Harries in 1994, when he was a media professor in Brisbane, Australia, the directory of film-related Web sites moved with him to the American Film Institute in 1995, when he became AFI’s director of online media. “It’s heavily utilized by people in the film and TV industry,” he says, with a lot of people logging on from servers at studios.

Pay services generally have to provide a little more inside information than other online databases. Brookfield Communications, for example, runs In Hollywood, which has credit lists and filmographies, but also lists recent screenplay sales, greenlit movies and the status of projects around town.

Since 1987, Brookfield has tracked film industry information on its Studio System database, used by studios and agencies, and an abridged version of that information appears on In Hollywood. “We saw the Internet and In Hollywood as a way to distribute the information that was previously available only to the big studios,” says Matthew Kumin, the company’s online manager.

Those who need lists of personnel at production companies, agencies and distributors can find them through the Hollywood Creative Directory, where $199 buys a year’s worth of access to the company’s on-line registry, which is updated weekly.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Network, founded by Carlos de Abreu, offers online advice from industry insiders such as attorney Mark Litwak, actor John Saxon and screenwriter Jeff Arch, as well as Hollydex, a database of thousands of people connected to the entertainment industry. “We are building a network that bridges the gap between established Hollywood and emerging talent from the global community,” de Abreu says, “as well as providing a place to chat and to cybernetwork.”