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New Use or Misuse of Mathematics?

A new use of mathematics is just being introduced...and it concerns many. Are you concerned?

Vinny Bruzzese, a former statistics professor at State University of New York at Stony Brook, has started a new company called Worldwide Motion Picture Group. Sounds harmless enough, right?

Their service is to use statistics to analyze new scripts for movie executives. The cost is $20,000 per script.

In return, Bruzzese's staff take a draft script and:

  • Use statistics to compare its story structure and genre to script resulting in movies
  • Use statistics to search databases of focus groups for similar films
  • Use statistics to survey 1500 potential movie patrons, determining their likes, suggested changes, and basic reactions to the draft
The overall focus is expected financial outcomes if the script is made into a movie.

On one side, the fear is that statistical research such as this will lead to "an increasingly bland homogenization, a pell mell rush for the middle of the road." (in the words of film writer Ol Parker.)

On the other side, film executives think such statistical analysis could "minimize guesswork" and lead to financial success amidst shrinking budgets.

Who is right? So far, Bruzzese, known as "the reigning mad scientist of Hollywood," has analyzed more than 100 draft scripts.

Is this a good use of statistics...not to measure the mean, but perhaps to produce it?

Source: B. Barnes' "Solving Equation of a Hit Film Script, With Data," NYT, May 5, 2013