Max Wasserman, Ph.D.Applied Math, Northwestern University

Title: Properties and Applications of the IMDb Film Connections Network

Abstract: Modern filmmaking is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the effect of Hollywood movies on our culture is profound. However, the influence of films on other films is not easily quantified, as artists, unlike scientists, have no obligation to cite their sources of inspiration. Fortunately, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)---a popular, user-contributed website containing extensive information on movies and other visual media---happens to include a section that lists examples of "connections" or references between films. From this list of film connections, one can construct a complex network that is analogous to the scientific citations network. Analysis of this film connections network reveals surprising insights about temporal and thematic effects on the spread of influence in filmmaking. Connections between films released 20 to 25 years apart are more prevalent in the network than connections between films released 14 to 19 years apart. This observation is utilized to develop an automated, objective metric for estimating the cultural significance of a film. This metric out-performs several other expert- and network-based measurements at identifying films present in the United States National Film Registry. These methods can conceivably be applied towards evaluating the significance of other creative works and even scientific research.