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Can a screenplay algorithm save Hollywood?

ScriptBook promises to know, for sure, if a film is going to be a smash hit or not.
Daniel Cooper, @danielwcooper
December 7, 2015
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Hollywood may be full of focus groups and statistical analysts, but deciding which movie to back still comes down to the gut feeling of a cigar-chewing studio mogul. Now, a Belgian startup is hoping that its algorithmic script-reading software can know, with a far greater certainty, if a screenplay is going to be a success or not. ScriptBook is the brainchild of Nadira Azermai, who plans to unleash the software to the public for the first time at next February's Berlin Film Festival.

According to the pitch, ScriptBook is capable of reading, and understanding, most mainstream screenplays that you upload to it. Its natural-language algorithms read the story from start to finish, creating a report of what works and what doesn't with the piece. For instance, it's promised that ScriptBook will know who the main character is, how good the dialog sounds and if the story elements are successfully resolved. The software is then promised to be able to predict how much cash the picture will make at the box office.

The team still has two months upon which to work on their project, and so were unwilling to show us any live demos. There's a lot of expectation here, since being able to effectively do-away with huge swathes of development executives could prove pivotal in the movie industry. There are also plenty of questions hanging over the system, since there's no guarantee that a piece of software can appreciate the nuances of cinema. The only way that we'll know for sure is if the company can show its smarts, something that we're eager to test out for ourselves when it launches next year.

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