scriptbook software

Gather ’round the campfire, young ones, but be silent and remain nimble. For the Hunter Killers are on patrol tonight and their motion sensors can detect movement. It is time we told ya a story. It was time we told ya how the world ended. For first, the machines came for our movies. And then they came for us. And we let it happen ’cause we got greedy. We got too lazy to read our own screenplays, so we let them do it for us. Let me read to ya from an ancient document, a “movie news post,” to show ya how the end of the world began…

A new start-up claims that its new algorithm can examine a screenplay and predict its financial viability before a single frame is shot. The ScriptBook program, which is expected to make its debut sometime next year, wants to be the best friend to movie studios and producers, helping them determine whether or not a movie is hit before they commit to actually making it. In other words, here’s an early contender for one of the worst-sounding ideas of 2016.

Speaking with CNBC, ScriptBook CEO Nadira Azermai explained that this program will know the elements that make up any great story and will award screenplays high marks if it hits the right beats:

We went back to what make a story great. How a story should be structured and the key elements, what kind of dialogue, what kind of journey is the hero on. There are certain rules to stories even if you go back to Shakespeare and the three-act play.

He also said that ScriptBook will be a vital tool for movie studios, whose old-fashioned method of actually hiring real human being to read screenplays and formulate their own honest gut reactions to other people’s work just isn’t cutting it anymore:

If your job was reading scripts and you read 10, you will have your own choice. But you need the objective sense to see what builds a great story. A film studio has thousands of scripts and they have a huge backlog. All the scripts need to be read and assessed and we can do that at a speed of light.

This sounds, for the lack of a more polite and dignified response, like complete and utter B.S. ScriptBook may be able to read screenplays at the speed of light. It may be able to determine whether or not a movie hits familiar beats or follows the rigid structure taught in so many lousy screenwriting books. We’re living in an era where we carry around tiny computers in our pockets, so yeah, ScriptBook probably works. This feels more like a joke in a satiric comedy about how lazy Hollywood is getting than a real thing an actual news outlet is writing about.

Azermai claims that ScriptBook will also provide users with a “creativity measure” that will examine aspects beyond the plot, which just sounds like total insanity. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent much of the past few weeks writing about Quentin Tarantino and maybe it’s because the offbeat Anomalisa is my favorite movie of the year, but it’s hard to imagine a computer system detecting what makes so many great screenplays truly special. How would a rigid computer program react to Pulp Fiction, which throws traditional structure to the wind and luxuriates in its characters having conversations that are entirely irrelevant to the plot? How would it react to anything Charlie Kaufman has written?

Although Azermai says that ScriptBook is being tested with four major studios, it’s hard to imagine this actually catching on. It’s hard to believe that film producers, men and women who rely on their good taste and instincts to sniff out the special movies hidden in a pile of rejects, will embrace this technology. However, this may sound like a good idea to accountants, which is not a positive sentiment when you’re dealing with art and entertainment of any kind.

Between this and the United States government going all-in on Cyberdyne Systems’ SkyNet Program, it sure is a scary time to be alive.

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