May 7, 2013

"A chain-smoking former statistics professor named Vinny Bruzzese... has started to aggressively pitch a service he calls script evaluation."

"For as much as $20,000 per script, Mr. Bruzzese and 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."
“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.”
Ironically, Bruzzese sounds like a villain in a movie about making movies. Cue the hisses and boos:
“This is my worst nightmare” said Ol Parker, a writer whose film credits include “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” “It’s the enemy of creativity, nothing more than an attempt to mimic that which has worked before. It can only result in an increasingly bland homogenization, a pell-mell rush for the middle of the road.”
Like any movie villain, he implores us to see it his way and sympathize:
“I understand that writing is an art, and I deeply respect that,” he said. “But the earlier you get in with testing and research, the more successful movies you will make.”...
“All screenwriters think their babies are beautiful,” he said, taking a chug of Diet Dr Pepper followed by a gulp of Diet Coke and a drag on a Camel. “I’m here to tell it like it is: Some babies are ugly.”
But as our villain delivers these lines, the heavy-handed moviemakers, who think we might be too dumb to get it, have him carry out ludicrous stage-business gestures — taking a chug of Diet Dr Pepper followed by a gulp of Diet Coke and a drag on a Camel — to make sure we understand he's the bad guy.

He's saying "Some babies are ugly," but he's ugly. Get it????!!!!

39 comments:

Steve said...

But it is often the ugly babies that are most entertaining.

Matthew Sablan said...

There's a difference in writing for art and writing for profit. The shorts on my blog? I write for me; if I planned to make -money- on what I wrote on my blog, of course I'd take them to an editor or book doctor (or script doctor in this case) to see if it was marketable.

You wouldn't open a restaurant before having people you trust try the food and make sure what you're making is sellable; if you want to pitch a movie/book to be published, then you do the same.

Or you can self-publish.

Nonapod said...

Interesting idea for a service. I wonder how many screen writers make use of stuff like TV Tropes to help build their scripts.

traditionalguy said...

The Gargoyle has a useful thought: Let the IBM computer Deep Blue do the males characters and Siri on Apple do the female characters and voila, it is a best seller.

traditionalguy said...

The Greek play writers, Shakespeare and the King James Bible have all the material that will ever be needed.

It is the end of history...like in Great Gatsby.

cubanbob said...

Minimimizing the risk and maximizing the profit. Who would have thought that show biz is just another biz. I'm amazed that script writers believed they get paid for producing art.

Freeman Hunt said...

Screenplays these days are already mostly terrible. This will not help.

Freeman Hunt said...

Here, I'll save someone $20,000:

Make a knockoff of an established brand.

That's how money is currently made in spite of terrible movies.

Matthew Sablan said...

There was a Forbes piece I talked about awhile back that is the same thing. There's a difference between writing what you want to write and what these script doctors are offering: To help you monetize your efforts.

Leland said...

Transformers was a book office smash! So why not Transformers 2 and 3? And talk about toys to screen; if it worked for Toy Story and Transformers, then you know Battleship! will be a box office power house! Clue was a hit too.

Can't wait for Sorry or Chutes and Ladders.

BTW, I only charge $15,000 a script.

CEO-MMP said...

Hard to be some sort of villain while you're chugging diet Dr. Pepper though.

Dragging off a Camel, yeah, that'll work--only if it's the unfiltered kind that killed John Wayne. Otherwise you're smoking something endorsed by a cartoon animal. Way non villainish.

A real villain would smoke an unfiltered black Russian cigarette. Or maybe a Newport.

Never a Virginia Slim. Better a Camel Light Menthol 100 than a Slim.



Matthew Sablan said...

Just remember: When Aquaman: The Movie happens, we are all at fault for it.

Gahrie said...

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1477834/

CEO-MMP said...

Steve said...

But it is often the ugly babies that are most entertaining."


Ugly babies don't make millions of dollars (unless they grow up to be in a band, bangin' on the bongos like a chimpanzee...).

Are we after art or money? Money of course. Money makes everything better.

Once you have money, you can make the art.

Look at Tarantino: he made his money with Kill Bill, now he can afford to make art films like Django Unleashed.

edutcher said...

Back when they used to make real movies, it wasn't the script or the story that made it fly.

Good direction, inspired acting, the right stunts, a great score all went into a hit.

Many hit movies have left the script on the floor.

traditionalguy said...

Looking over the list of Academy Award winners on AppleTV website semed odd that so many were blockbusters, but a few were just good plots, such as It Happened One Night and On The Waterfront.

lgv said...

When I first heard the topic, I thought maybe Nate Silver had gone to Hollywood.

All he is doing is fine tuning what is already being done. Perhaps adding a pinch more math. That's why we have Spiderman 38 and Batman, the Return, part 7.

Sequels and prequels fit the model well.

When my mind searched for an alternative to the formula, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" was the first movie that popped into my head, since it was relatively recent.

I wonder if his model incorporates specific actors or is it just a script analysis? Casting makes a big difference, too. Else, they wouldn't pay certain actors 20x more than another.

Synova said...

Any script writing book will essentially do that same. You need a story "spine" and you need "beats" and you need the acts and scenes and "the dark night of the soul" and the triumph. There are differences for genres but each has it's own. And then there are the brilliant sorts that can alter the pattern because they understand the pattern, and they understand story, so *well* that they blow you away.

But usually, when you don't see the pattern, it's there. When there isn't a pattern it's just a mess but you don't know why... you think that the character exposition sucks, the conflict is lame, whatever.

Peter said...

It's not as if popular culture is not processed to death already.

Just as bland mass-market beers created a market for craft beers, Velveeta culture products will create a market for more crafted culture products- ones in which the concept of an "author" is still present.

Mitch H. said...

Sounds like the same sort of snake oil one of the villains in Adaptation was selling - except that script seminar guy - Brian Cox? - was pushing Method rather than Science.

KenK said...

No one but a blockhead ever wrote a word except for money. True as ever. Especially in Hollywood.

Chip S. said...

I suspect that Vinny's revising a script about a CCNY dropout who parlays two semesters of stats into a "script evaluation" con that gets him an estate in Topanga Canyon where he hosts orgies on weekends.

William said...

I don't know if Girls was all that good, but it was all that new. No one before had ever been so relentless in dramatizing and detailing bad sex so the series seemed to be something new and different. If you have never before seen the carbuncle on a fat girl's ass, the first view has a dramatic impact and immediacy similar to the scene where the Hollywood producer woke up in bed with a horse's head. We like the familiar until it becomes stale. Perhaps they can develop a computer program that will define the expiration date of frequently used characters and situations......I'm developing a series about an overweight, bulimic vampire and the tragic, hilarious problems she encounters as a guidance counsellor in high school..

ricpic said...

Twenty grand for the magic formula...that doesn't exist. Sweet racket ya got goin' there, Vinny.

Jim said...

Tom Laughlin of Billy Jack fame claims that there are nine secrets to writing a screenplay based upon Jungian psychology that will guarantee you a blockbuster. I'm not making this up.

Synova said...

"Just as bland mass-market beers created a market for craft beers,..."

But it's still BEER. And you can't decide to, oh, make it without hops on account of you're an ARTIST and too much of a special snowflake to be bound by stale formula.

Methadras said...

“This is my worst nightmare” said Ol Parker, a writer whose film credits include “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” “It’s the enemy of creativity, nothing more than an attempt to mimic that which has worked before. It can only result in an increasingly bland homogenization, a pell-mell rush for the middle of the road.”

Tanslation: Damn it!!! My little arthouse films will fail due to the money drying up in the repetitive remake schtick this statistical asshole will use against me.

Synova said...

Take the "novel" formula "rule", for example, that the "story question" should be introduced as early as the first few pages (at the latest). You might not ever realize that the author did that, but if it's a good book they almost certainly did do that. It's possible that the author didn't even do it on purpose, but only because they've internalized the necessities of a narrative arc and introduction of themes.

If you're used to analyzing you might not realize that the story question was stated right at the beginning until you're nearly all the way through the novel, or when you're reading it a second time through.

The thing is, that if the author knows what the story is actually about, the "story question" just sort of appears... but very often the author has no clue what the story is about and couldn't tell you if you asked, but by golly they are following the dictates of their muse and refuse to be restrained by false restrictions... just ask them.

Sometimes an author is so awesome she can get the story question and "hook" both into the very first sentence such as "There are some mistakes that "oops" just doesn't cover."

You now know what the story is about, and you know that the author knows what the story is about, and you have good reason to expect before you read farther that there will be a pay-off.

Or there can be a "hook" and the story question sneaks in a bit farther down the page and stays "stealth" until 3/4 of the way through the book... "Hey, Max. Do you think that intelligent pond scum would keep pets?"

And if you like "literature" instead of science fiction, you'll find the same except it will be naturally appropriate to the genre.

Movies are no different... they just have a different basic structure and different manifestations according to genre.

That doesn't mean that this guy is any good at what he claims to do or that if you *don't* know what you did wrong that he'll be able to tell you and that your $20K will be worth spending.

If he is any good at it, his endorsement could become a foot in the door to get your script read. But he's going to need to build a reputation first.

(I do get, BTW, that writers who want to think of themselves as artists and need their craftsmanship to remain under the radar, perhaps even under their *own* radar, won't care for the idea.)

Smilin' Jack said...

“This is my worst nightmare” said Ol Parker, a writer whose film credits include “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” “It’s the enemy of creativity, nothing more than an attempt to mimic that which has worked before. It can only result in an increasingly bland homogenization, a pell-mell rush for the middle of the road.”

Yeah, yeah. Hey, does anyone know when Spiderman 19 is opening?

Chip S. said...

What Synova said.

Anyone can buy a cookbook. Great chefs are still rare.

Synova said...

I'd just about bet money that "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" has a structure that can be analyzed and would prove to be recognizable as following a standard rhythm for movies in that genre or one of a number of common structures. Even the title projects what "type" of movie it's going to be and what you should expect from it (which almost certainly isn't a twist and a blood bath at the end.)

It may well be a very *good* movie, but that's not what the question is.

Sam L. said...

Riiiiiiiiight.

Astro said...

As if there hasn't already been a rush to sameness and repetition.

Frankly, for most of the crap movies (which is most movies) released, his advice is probably sound. It's a commodity, not an art form. Does J J Abrams care about art? Or anything besides making a buck?

Isn't the same sort of thing going on in 'creative writing' classes?

Matthew Sablan said...

If people want more creative, unique movies, -stop paying to see boring, repetitive movies.- The market rewards success. Do you think they'd make Batman: The Return of the Origin Story if they didn't know it would sell?

Icepick said...

What'll be bad is when this service gets coupled with a program that writes the scripts. But what will REALLY be terrible will be when the machines start turning out better scripts than the script writers. Don't think it won't happen....

Balfegor said...

What I don't understand is why formulaic stuff isn't better done. If all they're doing is taking a formula and reproducing it on the screen with expensive actors and glossy special effects, there's really no excuse for not putting together well-paced movie with a tight script. And yet, so often, they still feel sloppy.

Chip S. said...

But what will REALLY be terrible will be when the machines start turning out better scripts than the script writers.

This would require that the studio execs be replaced by script-evaluation software.

Most scripts start out a lot better than they end up, thanks to the input of the suits.

mishu said...

Bowling scenes tend to pop up in films that fizzle, Mr. Bruzzese, 39, continued.

Yeah, the Big Lebowski didn't have that boffo first weekend but I'm still glad it got made. I don't think I'm alone here.

Chip S. said...

If his company's website is any indication, Bruzzese favors a heavy-handed writing style. Consider this description of the credentials of the hot blonde "moderator" in charge of, among other things, "positioning workshops":

Elizabeth is widely known for her innovative probing techniques, strategic thinking, and powerful debriefs.

There's also a "night freelance research staff". I'm guessing that's a big cash cow for the firm.