Why the data-driven approach is necessary¶
In the 1930s, screenplays were written with a typewriter, by qualified insiders who understood the Warner print formatting. In the desktop PC and web age, anyone with a copy of Final Draft Pro can produce a script. The market is flooded, and quality has nose-dived. Everyone is on the lookout for the new best thing out there, but overwhelmed with the material that needs coverage and triage.
As Netflix’s success has shown, in the digital era, film is a data business.
And as Adobe Story’s Pace analysis (https://helpx.adobe.com/story/help/pace-beta.html) has shown, linguistic analysis can be extremely helpful to writers.
Scenario A: Too Many Scripts, Not Enough Time¶
You are a development executive at a major studio. You receive 200 script submissions a week, in the post, via email, and online (e.g. the Black List). You have 10 readers, each processing 20 scripts a week, or 4 a day, at a cost of $50/script. Each reader can do 1 coverage in the morning, and another in the afternoon. Just keeping them at work costs you $40,000 a month, and you still have 200 reviews on your desk at the end.
Most get a
PASS. 15% of them are
CONSIDER. But 1-2 get a
RECOMMEND. You can’t produce them all - you need to prioritize. How can you run all 200 through a mill to get to the RECOMMEND pieces faster?
You’ll always, always need the human element. But before all of that, there are basics.
Scenario B: 20 Departments Doing 20 Different Breakdowns¶
Not everyone needs to know everything: mainly money guys, producers, the director, and DoP. Actors just need sides for their audition. The armorer just needs to know when guns are featured. The Propmaster and Location Manager need lists. Background actors need the scene they’re in.
So each department goes to work on their own individual breakdown of the script. This is just insanity. It takes days to manually note it all down, and it’s pointless. The Director marks up his shooting script, the DoP marks up his shot list for each scene, and so on.
Scenario C: Not Being Able to See The Forest¶
A writer can sometimes take 10+ years to produce the first draft, and the script is never finished, even after 400 revisions/versions and twice as many mark-ups. Working on a 120 page document can be draining, and it’s too easy to lose perspective.
Software can help provide a instant “Helicopter View” for editorial and scheduling, on top of providing insight into plotlines, weak spots, and opportunities a human’s conditioned eyes would miss.
Scenario D: Needing To Mark Up Screen & Interactivity Technology¶
Film is no longer 35mm negative. Digital technology is changing everything every year. Amongst the things we now need to describe are:
- 3D perspective (e.g. background/foreground focus etc)
- 360 VR perspective (e.g. Oculus)
- VFX plates & CGI characters
- Multi-angle video streams (from DVD)
- Sensual perception extension (e.g. Motion seating)
- Video On-Demand “Rabbit Hole” navigation through themes/screen elements
- Dynamic product placement (e.g. purchase item in this scene)
Scenario E: Identifying Trends, Patterns, & Past Success¶
Computers can process a lot of textual data very quickly: we no longer need a human to spend 2hrs on a script. We can put 500 scripts through the mill, and answer business questions of the past, and estimate future strategy/performance.
- Are we producing too much crap?
- Is the gore level getting worse and desensitizing the audience?
- What are the common elements to the most successful scripts we’ve produced?
- What percentage of characters are stereotypical?
- How often does a character appear across titles, and is the continuity intact?
- What subjects haven’t we covered?
- Which writers produce the strongest audience response?