Big Data meets The Screenwriter

By Deane Barker on May 6, 2013

Solving Equation of a Hit Film Script, With Data: A computer might write your next movie.

[…] a team of analysts compare the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success. His company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, also digs into an extensive database of focus group results for similar films and surveys 1,500 potential moviegoers. What do you like? What should be changed?

“Demons in horror movies can target people or be summoned,” Mr. Bruzzese said in a gravelly voice, by way of example. “If it’s a targeting demon, you are likely to have much higher opening-weekend sales than if it’s summoned. So get rid of that Ouija Board scene.”

Bowling scenes tend to pop up in films that fizzle, Mr. Bruzzese, 39, continued. Therefore it is statistically unwise to include one in your script. “A cursed superhero never sells as well as a guardian superhero,” one like Superman who acts as a protector, he added.

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Comments

  1. This is essentially how Netflix created “House of Cards”: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/25/business/media/for-house-of-cards-using-big-data-to-guarantee-its-popularity.html?pagewanted=all

    I guess I can understand this data-driven approach on some level, but to take it to the cynical extreme of not including bowling scenes? That would have nullified “Big Lebowski” which is merely one of the best comedy films ever. And I still contend that this type of data is correlative, not necessarily indicative of quality or likelihood to succeed. The best entertainment is almost always the result of a passionately-felt idea that creative people execute. It makes sense that they will (by accident or necessity) tap into some universals that just happen to be confirmed by “data.”

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