in Sources to Search

Sources to Search: Brushes With Fame in the IMDB Database

Usually when you’re researching someone famous, you’ll know about it. But sometimes, people have unexpected experiences. Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk – hardly a notable actor –  appeared as himself in the thriller Machette Kills (28% on Rotten Tomatoes). And 2014 U.S. Senate Candidate Greg Orman served as an executive producer for the Jeff Goldblum film Pittsburgh. His IMDB page also lists a recent television appearance.

And these profiles can be fairly robust – and help point you to their appearance in documentaries. California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s page, for instance, includes a wide-ranging filmography of TV appearances, documentary interviews, and more – almost 50 credits in total.

In total, IMDB’s database contains records on nearly 7.5 million people – a significant chunk of the population – and nearly 80 million film credits. So while most of these people aren’t stars, a wide range of appearances do get credited – possibly providing useful records. it’s also a potential opportunity to find video footage. There aren’t a lot of resources out there to tell you about archival TV appearances, and so IMDB can be particularly valuable in that respect.

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To search the database, use the advanced name search to help get clearer results than the main search bar provides. You can also add filtering for variables like gender and date of birth. The search itself is pretty firm (ie Gavin Newsome won’t return results), and you don’t need to include quote marks around the search.

The Watch periodically highlights data sources that can be valuable, but are often overlooked. Sign up and subscribe to get our posts with helpful tips in your email.