In your average science class at your average university, one common assignment is to edit, update or otherwise make better a wikipedia entry. For all the incredible attention to plot points in many online resources, one facet that escapes mention is that of specific setting. Can I ask that any readers who teach cinema ask their students to edit wikipedia entries with setting information?

For instance: in September, I found a pile of books about Hollywood studios, inclduing John Douglas Eames’s The Paramount Story: The Complete History of the Studio and Its 2,805 Films (London: Octopus Books, 1985). I read through it and noted that not every plot summary mentioned where the film was set. When a narrative setting was present, sometimes it was general – “the suburbs” – and sometimes it was specific – “Nashville.” As a comparison, I checked a couple of lowest common denominator sites, imdb and Wikipedia, fairly certain that there’d be a greater percentage of specific narrative settings in the entries. I was wrong. There’s more on the Gary Cherone era of Van Halen than there is on the setting of many films.

Here’s how it broke down: for the 13 film Paramount films released in 1975. In the book, 8 films had a specific location given. Wikipedia listed a specific location for 8 films. Imdb listed a specific location for 5 films.

Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York (book: suburbs, Manhattan, Wiki: New York City, imdb: Harrisburg PA, New York City)
Posse (book: Texas, Wiki: nothing, imdb: nothing)
Mandingo (book: Falconhurst old South, Wiki: plantation, imdb: New Orleans)
Once is not Enough (book: Hollywood, Wiki: Hollywood, Beverly Hills, imdb: nothing)
The Day of the Locust (book: Hollywood, Wiki: Hollywood, imdb: Hollywood)
Nashville (book: Nashville, Wiki: Nashville, imdb: Nashville)
Hustle (book: Los Angeles, Wiki: isolated beach, LAPD, imdb: nothing in two summaries)
Three Days of the Condor (book: New York, Wiki: New York City, Maryland, imdb: nothing)
Bug (book, capsule: town, Wiki: nothing, imdb: small town)
Dog Pound Shuffle (book, capsule: nothing, Wiki: no entry, imdb: nothing)
The Dove (book, capsule: sailing around the world, Wiki: Fiji, Australia, South Africa, Panama, Galapagos Islands, Los Angeles, imdb: “around the world to many beautiful locales”)
Framed (book, capsule: nothing, Wiki: nothing, imdb: small village)
Mahogany (book, capsule: nothing, Wiki: Rome, Chicago, imdb: Chicago, Rome)

(Wiki and imdb originally checked on 26 September 2011, sort of rechecked as I posted this)