Statistics? The Stuff Hollywood Dreams Are Made Of!



ScriptDoctorIf you snoozed through Statistics 101 because you thought it wasn't important to your creative endeavors, think again. In an unforeseen turn of events, even the fantastic world of film is turning to expert number crunchers for guidance.

Enter Vinny Bruzzese, a former statistics professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who entered the movie research business about ten years ago. According to The New York Times, the "reigning mad scientist of Hollywood" (and self-proclaimed descendant of Einstein...hmm) is having quite a bit of success as the "script doctor."

For up to a $20,000 per picture, Bruzzese and his team at Worldwide Motion Picture Group will compile a 20 to 30 page report detailing everything that's wrong with a Hollywood draft. Far from a list of subjective complaints, Bruzzese's study is based off a few prescribed criteria: comparisons with similarly released films; focus group results; and in-depth conversations with the script's writers. Of course, Bruzzese's suggestions are just that — writers are not obligated to take his advice.

Will this ensure a box-office smash? Well, as writer Ol Parker puts it, "It's the enemy of creativity, nothing more than an attempt to mimic that which has worked before. It can only result in a bland homogenization, a pell-mell rush for the middle of the road." The thought of viewing a story through the lens of math is, from a creative perspective, a bummer. He continues, "Look, I’d take a suggestion from my grandmother if I thought it would improve a film I was writing, but this feels like the studio would listen to my grandmother before me, and that is terrifying."

We're torn. On one hand, we stand by the artist's goal to bring a certain vision to life. On the other, perhaps two heads (or hundreds) are better than one. Upon reading the notes, one formerly skeptical Oscar-winning writer conceded, "It was a complete shock, the best notes on a draft that I have ever received." So, if Bruzzese's plans to move his business model to Broadway and television are any indication, we'd say it's time to crack open that stats textbook once again.

Photo: Via New York Times.