Records Management as Portrayed in the Entertainment Industry


During the pandemic, we’ve all watched more movies and TV than usual. Since I am in the software biz, I can’t help but notice that the way systems perform onscreen is not how the software actually performs IRL. I'm not the only one who thinks, “Yeah, well if they hired an actual software engineer, then (insert here problem, mystery, looming disaster, etc.) would be solved in an hour.” Or conversely, the software is shown as bordering on magical with mid-air, drag and drop functionality, responsiveness to vocal commands, and AI that isn’t even slightly realistic. And, yes, I understand the concept of suspension-of-disbelief.


Similarly, watching how screenwriters handle records management is frustrating. In this case, it’s my Laserfiche brain taking over and causing me to mull over the serious implications of records management in the plot. For fun, I thought I’d share some of the RM violations or where RM would have quite literally saved the day.


Spotlight- This 2015 film won an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay and received several other nominations. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it follows the investigation of the Archdiocese of Boston by the reporters of the Boston Globe. There’s a climactic scene where the investigators are scrutinizing church directories to discover where priests are assigned. They are looking to match parishes where active priests were suddenly reassigned to parishes that are paying out settlements. There are hundreds of books the team must comb through, line by line, and highlight when they hit a match. However, if the Boston Globe reporters had Laserfiche, they could have digitized the directories. Then the data would have been searchable, making the connection between priest reassignment and settlement easy and quick to discover. Probably not as dramatic though.


The X-Files- (Note: this is the original series, not the reboot) Fans of the series know that many of the episodes had the characters searching through messy file rooms or unsecured storage facilities, and using slow mainframe computers. Additionally, when they weren’t conducting field investigations, Mulder and Scully spend a good deal of time rifling through paper case files and probing DoD systems looking for context and connections between cases. No wonder it took them ten seasons and two movies to discover “the truth.” From a records management perspective, the X-Files are a model of inefficiency. If only Walter Skinner (their boss) could have budgeted for a records manager who would conduct a backfile conversion. What if the RM had Laserfiche? My theory is that Mulder and Scully (and the RM) could have (SPOILER AHEAD) confirmed the existence of aliens conspiring with the US government in a season or two! Can you imagine what the disposition on an X-File would be? SOLVED- YES? - DESTROY immediately, SOLVED- NO?-RETAIN for 10 years.


Blade Runner 2049- In this sequel to the original Blade Runner, a new blade runner for LAPD, K, unearths a long-buried secret (SPOILER), replicants can reproduce biologically. He traces the discovery back to the original blade runner (Deckard), who has been missing for 30 years. Much of the movie is spent searching through disparate DNA archives. The archives are disparate because the original replicant vendor Tyrell is out of business, Wallace Corporation is now the current manufacturer. And there’s no RM to ensure that the DNA files are searchable across both systems. In his search for the replicant child K also searches LAPD records and adoption records. I’m thinking that there’s little governance or security on earth in 2049. Assuming K has the correct security permissions and earth in 2049 has standardized on Laserfiche that he would have found Stelline, the replicant offspring in a day or so.


Seriously though, did you know you can actually search the IMDB database for movies that contain records management?. And BTW, if you want to kick around how Laserfiche would solve the inciting incident in your favorite film or even want to have a real conversation about records management please shoot me an email: jdunn@cps247.com

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