The rise of big data is taking hold in Hollywood.
Studios are becoming more and more reliant on consultants to make decisions at every point of production.
A major advocate of this trend is former statistics professor Vinny Bruzzese, who has started aggressively pitching the script evaluation services of his company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group (MPG), according to a New York Times profile.
For as much as $20,000 per script, Bruzzese and his analysts will break down the script and compare it to other movies in an extensive database. MPG uses data from focus group results for similar films, a survey of 1,500 potential moviegoers, analyses similar film genres and how they have fared, and ad tests for movies.
The price sounds like a bargain compared to traditional script doctors who can charge between $250,000-$300,000 per week, according to Variety.
Do MPG’s insights really help? Unfortunately their contributions to movies remain closely guarded secrets.
The only insights mentioned in the Times were that bowling scenes and demonic possessions don’t work in movies and guardian superheroes do better than cursed superheroes.
We, however, are not sure where Bruzzese is going with this advice. Films with bowling scenes range from “The Big Lebowski” to the climactic scene of “There Will Be Blood.” “Cursed” superheroes could hint toward “Hellboy” and “The Hulk.” However, 2007’s “Ghost Rider” spun off a sequel last year. Spider Man could be considered a cursed hero and his movies have made more than $3 billion at theatres worldwide.
Regardless, MPG is proud of its track record for script consulting and other services, as described on its website:
Since 2005, we have conducted research testing hundreds of films, 109 of which each went on to gross domestically over 100 million at the box office. 45 have been nominated and have won Golden Globes and Oscars. Of those 45:
- 67 Golden Globe nominations, leading to 21 wins.
- 85 Oscar nominations, leading to 27 wins, including Best Picture.
We have tested films in every genre, including animation, documentary and short films, compiling a significant database of benchmarks with which to compare results.
Clients include every major motion picture studio and over 100 production companies, both indie and mainstream.
Screenwriters aren’t so sure.
“It’s the enemy of creativity, nothing more than an attempt to mimic that which has worked before,” said Parker. “It can only result in an increasingly bland homogenization, a pell-mell rush for the middle of the road.”
Others including producer Scott Steindorff (“The Lincoln Lawyer”) believe “everyone is going to be doing this soon.”
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