“The data crunchers are invading Hollywood.”

It’s been a little while since I shared an interesting news article about data use, I think. It’s totally possible I’m losing track. Perhaps I should look at some of my blog data….

Solving Equation of a Hit Film Script, With Data appeared in the NY Times Sunday May 5th. It is a fairly fascinating story about script evaluation, or the use of data mining, content analysis, and comparative statistics (I think, it’s a bit tough to tell exactly what methods are being employed) to make recommendations about how to ensure a hit script.

Take this example — “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.”

I can’t help but push back a bit here, fascinated as I am with this potential use for data. The Big Lebowski comes to mind immediately. It just barely made budget in its opening weekend in the US (but did net a profit) and has become a cult classic favorite. I’m sure there are even better examples than this one too, of movies that didn’t make as much in opening weekend or in the theaters as desired but were truly genius films. In another example used in the article, Fight Club was once predicted to flop, and certainly didn’t.

It seems to me there’s a deeper question of purpose here… if the purpose of studios is to make movies that make money, paying attention to the data these analysts generate might make sense. The analyst interviewed for the story notes too, that he just provides recommendations, take them or leave them. But if the purpose is to make high quality movies, different metrics or indicators might be necessary. Without more detail it’s hard to know whether the data points used by Mr. Bruzzese and others include or relate to quality as well as sales (the two are not mutually exclusive, of course). Which of course takes us down the can-creativity-and-innovation-be-measured road… and I’m not sure about that. But thought you too might enjoy thinking about this, instead of whatever you’re supposed to be thinking about on a Monday morning.

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