ScriptBook is a new software project that claims to be able to predict which movie scripts are likely to succeed. And if those principles work for scripts, could they work for novels?
Describing itself as “Hard science for a better box office,” ScriptBook sets out to “assist stakeholders in the film business with their greenlighting decisions by providing an algorithmic assessment of a script’s box office potential prior to financing, producing & releasing a film. Research shows that 87% of films lose money at the box office. At ScriptBook our aim is to help profitable films become the rule and no longer the exception, without giving up on creativity and compelling storytelling.”
ScriptBook’s website comes garnered with tech event plaudits and film fest … ahem … credits. For now at least, the development team is reportedly being relatively cagey about the actual software itself. The company does at least share a January 2015 white paper with at least some outline details. “One of the better predictive factors to a film’s success is the screenplay,” it claims, adding “the film industry relies on outdated and error-prone methodology when considering scripts … The predominant method of acquiring a script involves literary agencies; they in turn employ story analysts to read scripts and make recommendations in what is known as ‘coverage.’ Scripts with positive coverage are then forwarded to the film studio or production company for consideration. Whether a script should be pursued starts with a subjective decision based on the story-analyst’s personal preferences.”
And the answer is apparently to take a leaf out of Amazon’s book. “Content-filtering is used by Amazon and Netflix to suggest products, books, and movies based on customers’ previous purchases. The music industry has adapted to using predictive intelligence by parsing song components in order to scout artists.” The big question of “will it work?” is still out there. That said, it’s hard to believe that it could make Hollywood’s 87 percent loser rate any worse.
Could this work for novels? Bear in mind that filmscripts are almost proverbially formulaic. There are also software packages out there that claim to apply the best principles of novel writing to your work, as you write it. The Marshall Plan Novel Writing Software, for instance, “practically writes the book for you!” according to its shout line. I suspect that J.K. Rowling needn’t fear a wave of software-driven competition. James Patterson, though, just might.