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854Re: [biopoet] Re: "Lack of feedback" - StoryAlity & algorithms

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  • JT Velikovsky
    Aug 28, 2013
      Hi Mike, Bill, (maybe even Jeff)

      My thoughts are below....
      (and - some of them may shock you... or, not)

      But also - I first, just wanted to comment on this, Mike -

      P.S. Someone should tell Joe there's a cemetery two miles outside Sydney reserved exclusively for those writers who thought they had the definitive "formula" for given genres of art inc.movies.

      Here's the thing though, Mike (and, anyone) -

      - In 1995, while studying screenwriting at film school, I read the 100 most popular books on Screenwriting/Story Theory (ie for Films).
      (Nobody else, ever seems to have done that. Check it out... See if you can find, any other books [or indeed any kind of publication] that do that....)

      So I then, summarized each of their different "story systems/story templates/plot-algorithms" (sorry for using that word Mike, but also, see below - on Fibonacci)...
      So - that (free) 1995/2011 book, is here: http://uws.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky/
      - It's had over a million downloads, since about 2003 (Google: `JT Velikovsky screenwriters workbook', and you'll see `traces of it' everywhere on the net)
      It's been used in many universities, and film schools for many years, to teach screenwriting - as `an overview.' (as, it contains: all the different popular `film story systems'...)

      But - here's the odd thing: I now totally recant...
      - I now think: that book I wrote, that over a million people have read (and often thank me for, on email) is: really terrible.

      ie - Having (very recently) done this doctoral research - I am now positive, all those `100 most popular screenwriting texts' are lousy.
      And why?
      Because: none of them are ---> consilient.
      ...None of them use: an empirical nor even scientific method.

      All of them have: loads of fallacies, myths, and false ideas in them - that, all won't help anyone: write a screenplay that works
      (I have written 30 x feature screenplays - and have `tested' all the major story systems)
      Or --- if they do `work', and the `resulting film' is indeed, successful: then - it's *purely by accident* and is actually  *despite* a screenwriter reading (and using) those books - and, not as: a *result* of reading those screenwriting books...

      So - kinda odd that, nobody else in the history of Screenwriting seems to have: read 100 books on screenwriting - and summarized them down, into a page, each. (I just did it, for the fun of it.)
      Thing is, once I did that, I then went around - for the next 20 years - in the Film Screenwriting domain (as a pro Screenwriter, as a professional Story Analyst for film studios, as a Script Editor. etc etc) and very soon realized: nobody in the film industry actually knows what they're doing. LOL.

      Certainly, I also never met anyone who had read anywhere near 100 x screenwriting books, and most had read about 10 at the very most. Even all the film execs at Fox, etc.
      In fact many film execs never read anything. They are mostly just the `dumb money' guys. - Accountants, business graduates, and lawyers.

      But - yeah - the Screenwriting books - are all wrong. (And, yes - I do know how that sounds. It sounds like I'm either crazy, or a heretic,
      ...or - maybe even: a scientist - in a domain which has never actually ever *used* Science before. See: consilience.)

      (Also - I haven't read *all 2500* of them, but -- I have certainly read the 100 x most popular books on screenwriting (and, about 20 of them, many times), and I know which ones Hollywood uses -- as I've worked there - and the 10 most `popular' screenwriting books are the ones that most people actually use...
      (ie - Syd Field, Linda Seger, Robert McKee, etc etc.) - And - in those books - they all make the same mistake.
      I've witnessed this, over 20 years. I am not making this up.
      (Field's is especially bad - as he coined `3-Act structure' (which is: a nonsense) - and he also implies: that's somehow Aristotelian...
      He also didn't use: an empirical data set. Nor any Science - of any kind... Check all this for yourself. - Read his books!)

      So - that was the entire reason I `came back to study' after 20 years in industry:
      So that I could do this exact PhD. - which I had planned, for about 10 years now...

      ie - Do the study of the Top 20 RoI films, and do it, scientifically and empirically - and within a strict level of academic and intellectual rigour.
      (I could have done it `outside academia' 10 years ago, and I actually thought about it, many many times. But - that would be the same mistake all the top 10 screenwriting books made... Any schmuck can write - and publish - any old rubbish... See: all 2500 books on screenwriting. None of them are empirical... By which I mean: none use an empirical data set...)

      Anyway, so - yes Mike - what you must realize, about this statement:

      there's a cemetary for writers who thought they had the definitive "formula" for given genres of art incl. movies.

      - Almost the entire film industry runs on: loads of formulas.
      (ie - Apart from very-low/no-budget films, as: those guys can do, whatever they want. But then again -- those cheap indie films don't usually get much of an audience, right?)

      A truism: You will *not* get your film financed by a studio - or production company - for anything over $50k, (let alone $2m or upwards) if it doesn't adhere to: `the formulas.'

      ...Blake Snyder is still the current most popular `fad' in Hollywood/worldwide (UK & Australia, etc)... (ie - the Save The Cat! formula).
      Save the Movie! The 2005 screenwriting book that’s taken over Hollywood—and made every movie feel the same...

      But - every single movie executive - before they ever greenlight (finance) a movie - will ask you: Which *exact screenplay system* did you use in this script-? (eg Was it Snyder's? or - McKee's? etc)
      ie Because - they (all film investors) are all: risk-averse. - There are huge sums at stake.
      (So - If you didn't use `any' system in your screenplay, or you just used/made up `your own system' - they will all run for the hills. I have seen it so many times in 20 years.)
      They (film investors) don't want to lose money --- and they all (completely erroneously) think, that: all those popular screenwriting books, actually *work.*
      (But --consider --  if they do work, then: *Why do 7 in 10 films lose money, and anyway: 7 in 10 have in fact, always lost money...?*
      As: 10/10 films/screenplays are: based on those screenwriting books/formulas.)

      So, anyway... yeah.
      - There certainly are: algorithms and film story systems. - Hollywood has been using them for 100 years.
      (This is exactly what my thesis is: all about... the research is all done...)

      Anyway - More specific replies, below...

      On 28/08/2013 9:15 PM, Bill Benzon wrote:

      On Aug 28, 2013, at 5:50 AM, tintner michael wrote:

       "to carry on a conversation as though no one's looked at this before the current century, that's just foolish"

      If you're discussing the possibility of an algorithm for a story or movie, you're discussing something that dictates the entire structure - every scene, every speech within a scene and the structure of the scene and those speeches (as well as the physical action).

      The stuff you're citing is like an extremely crude and shadowy x-ray of works as opposed to detailed anatomies. It's a *start* But only the barest of starts. And it's not yet influential is it? The vast majority of literary critics remain untouched  by it.

      But then NO ONE has detailed anatomies, do they? I don't see you and JT having detailed discussions or citing such. This talk of algorithms is mostly nonsense having little relation to the algorithms actually running in real computers.

      [JT] ...Guys - nope, *not at all*... !!! - Stop!

      ie - That is, in fact - exactly, what I have been talking about -- the entire time...?
      (Check out my blog sometime... it's *all on there*: http://storyality.wordpress.com/an-index-to-this-blog/)

      ie - The Fibonacci Sequence, is an algorithm...
      - It's a recursive algorithm. [Start with: 0, 1, and - Take the last 2 numbers and add them together. Repeat, forever.]
      The closer you get to infinity, the closer that, each number - divided by the previous number, gets to: The Golden Mean (1:1.601...etc)
      ie (2/1), (3/2), (5/3), (8/5), (13/8), etc = 1:1.6...etc

      So - the whole time we've been talking algorithms, I've really been saying: earlier this year, I discovered The Fibonacci Sequence (which is: an algorithm), and therefore, the Golden Mean - in the Story Structure of: all of the Top 20 RoI Films.
      Nobody seems to have heard me say this, yet.

      - It is all there - for anyone who wants to test it...
      (But also - who else exactly, has the time to examine those 20 x films in detail? - It took me AGES to do :)
      - Seriously. It was an *incredible* amount of time and sweat.
      But, thankfully, it paid off.

      - It's all there, on the blog - and it's also, in my `StoryAlity' book, that I published, last May....

      ie - The Golden Ratio / The Golden Spiral / The Fibonacci Sequence in the Top 20 RoI (Most Viral) Films


      ie - This is the algorithm: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21, etc -

      And - it's all right there, in the plot-structure of all 20, of the most-viral feature films, ever.

      ie - They all (all 20 films) do the exact same thing - in their story - in: Minute 1, in Minute 2, in Minute 3, in Minute 5, in Minute 8, Minute 13, Minute 21 etc.
      - Check it all...

      - This all hasn't yet had an impact, as - it hasn't had time to yet...
      ie - the book (StoryAlity) only came out in May this year.
      And anyway: I've actually been keeping it quiet.
      ie Seeing, just how long it takes, for people to realize: What it is - and What it means...

      Also - I note - seems nobody else, has woken up to Bloore's book yet, either.
      (as, I see, mine is still the only review of it, on Amazon... quite incredible... his book is just sitting there, too...)

      And - We all, also, need to wait till Jan 2014 when the next Top 20 RoI Film (as: predicted by StoryAlity Theory) comes out.
      Then it (might?) all be *fairly impactful*...
      (I'd expect. - I could be wrong. About: everything.)

      For that exact (Jan 2014) prediction of the StoryAlity Theory - see:
      ie: http://storyality.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/storyality-70-predictions-of-the-storyality-theory-a-top-20-roi-film-in-january-2014/

      As for 'algorithms', take a look at the old AI and cognitive science work on story grammars. It's very detailed, and the stories they're dealing with are toy stories, just a couple of sentences. 

      Joe and I would probably both agree and disagree - the list of movie structure/how-to-write-movies books he quotes - Syd Field et al - is by far the best and most useful work that has been written about the arts, even if extremely crude. (And literary critics have approximately zero of use to tell you by comparison).

      [JT] Yep... though I find stuff like Graphing Jane Austen is: just amazing.
      Someone (ie - an academic/PhD student) now, needs to do: that exact same study - for the (current) top-20 bestselling novels...
      - It would (will!) be amazing.
      AND...It will certainly *really* help all novel-writers...
      And - will tell us, much more about: (evolved) human nature.

      But analysis of structure can go far deeper . An analysis of love stories for example should go beyond the crude vague typologies into some of the basic recurring scenes - e.g First Meeting Scene, First Kiss, First Declaration of Love, Seduction, Meeting Parents, First Argument, Proposal, Marriage Scene, Discovery of Infidelity etc etc.

      The same can be done for every genre. 

      Oh, I know. I've spent hours and hours of doing detailed descriptive work on a handful of films, mostly animation. Most of that's on my blog, New Savanna. Click on the tags for 'Fantasia', 'Dumbo', 'Apocalypse Now', and 'greatest siam' to see the barest beginning of detailed analysis.

      [JT] So - I analyzed all the Top 20 RoI (Return On Investment) Films, second-by-second, for 30 x different things:
      Genre, and Themes (which, by coincidence, is where: Literary Darwinism came up trumps), and Character, and Plot, and: everything that I could think of...
      Having also, been: a professional film story analyst for about 20 years. (For: the major film studios.) ie - After 20 years of doing it, (being a professional Film Story Analyst) I kinda know `what to look for'...

      (ie Though - I note: having seen many others [all my colleagues, and - there are many] do it, for 20 years (ie - my colleagues who are story analysts also) -- the things that most `professional film story analysts' look for? Are - actually: dead wrong.

      It took me about 10 years working in the industry, to work that out... (ie - This is also why: 7 in 10 films lose money... The story analysts also: don't know what will work)
      (ie The empirical evidence [ie - which exact films were hits, and flops, and what their `deep structures' were] didn't `match' with: all the conventional Screenwriting Theory,
      ie With - the 100 most popular books on screenwriting)

      And - it took me 10 more years, after that - to wait around, for someone to do a study of the Top 20 RoI Films.)
      Then, after 20 years waiting - and thinking deeply on all this, and researching it constantly - I finally realized, reluctantly: I would just have to do it myself...
      - And thus: http://storyality.wordpress.com/
      (ie - Thus, my doctoral thesis, and, the StoryAlity book, and the weblog this year, and the doco, and - even the Game! etc)
      ie `Creative Practice Theory - The Game'... (just, to teach people: How it all works...)

      For eg - The 30-min (free) interactive online film (about: StoryAlity Theory) is here:

      Scenes recur within stories/dramas because they recur within real life, and the arts reflect real life. (And the ultimate object should be to understand how people live their lives -how they come to love,marry, follow careers, go to war etc - wh. is what the arts actually show us. They are certainly not addenda to evolutionary psychology textbooks).

      And the artist has actually to think in terms of these scenes, and which he is going to select, in creating his work.

      (The more you look at things from the *writer*'s POV, the more of value and real relevance you will see).

      Then you can break down the structure of those scenes -  the actions and speeches within each type of scene - .comparing dramatic structure with the structure of real life scenes, speeches and actions….

      Well then, don't talk about how you can do all this. Pick an example and actually do it. Go through the film frame-by-frame and see what's there. And figure out how to describe it. That would be far more useful than having abstract arguments over algorithms and such.

      [JT] But - like I say, the whole `argument about algorithms' wasn't actually abstract (for me) in the slightest...

      ie - The Fibonacci Sequence is: an algorithm...
      - It also controls a whole lot of biology.
      (See: the breeding cycles of rabbits - and cattle, and also - how sunflowers - and most other plants grow - ie in the structure of their branches - etc)

      And - It's also (ie the Fibonacci Sequence) *right there* - in the story, in all Top 20 RoI Films - if you take the time, to examine them deeply.
      (And, I did... and it took me a really long time. And: it wasn't easy. And - I have been reading film scripts for 20 years, professionally - ie and analyzing them for film studios. ie - I've done it (story analysis) on *thousands* of scripts - and also hundreds of films.

      And - this was all so much harder, as: I didn't even know `what I was looking for' -- until, I had found it.
      As a strategy, (and to avoid a `research bias') I just: assumed the existing screenwriting convention was wrong (which is why: 7 in 10 films lose money), and so I just looked at all the data (the top 20 RoI Films), with a totally open mind.
      Then - after months of head-scratching, I suddenly saw: the Fibonacci Sequence in there...
      (and, cue: Thus Spake Zarathustra theme... a la Dawkins noticing: biomorphs in action)

      - There is even loads more other stuff in there too. ie - See the StoryAlity blog. It's all just `quietly sitting there'... LOL
      Also -- I bet I haven't even found it *all*, as incredibly - nobody before, has ever looked at this data-set -
      ie - the 20 most popular/viral feature films.
      (And - btw, all of them are also, utterly amazing films... just, BTW.)

      But - maybe read all x 70 posts on my research blog - and, you'll likely, understand it all...  (or > not)

      So - yes.
      This is all: brand-new knowledge -

      The closest thing to it is, probably, this book - Something Starling Happens, below...
      (but that book/research is hugely flawed... not at all, scientific or empirical... ie - he constantly changes his theory about, to suit all the data. - Karl Popper would slap him.)
      ie - this guy, Todd Klick says: every minute, the exact same thing happens in every film (which - is clearly, B.S. anyway, just, given: plain old Logic...)
      But - I do love what he tried to do there :)

      And - also, loads of the 10 x biggest `script gurus' (most of whom I know, and have worked with) all pretty much, avoid me now - as: this research (accidentally) it makes them look kinda silly. (That wasn't my intention, in doing the research... I really just wanted to know, for myself...)
      - I was just super-curious, after: 20 years of watching some films fail, and some succeed...
      I kept asking: But - Why?) (ie Why do some films [even novels etc] go viral - and others, not?)
      (also - as a professional screenwriter for 20 years, I kinda had a `vested interest', as well... in knowing: the reason/s why some films succeed - and others don't... ie my paycheck depended on it)
      Turns out (from my research) there are: at least 30 x things you need to do `right' in your screenplay.
      (Just 1 of which, out of the 30, is: the Fibonacci Sequence, in the story structure. Of course it isn't `simple', and it isn't even: very easy to do. ie - Do 30 x different things in a screenplay. Otherwise - every movie would be a hit.)

      And - I also only started (slowly) pubbing all this research (on my blog), about 6 months ago...
      - It certainly hasn't yet `hit the headlines'... and - I really don't know, when (or even - if, LOL) it will `break'.
      People here and there, are picking up on it...
      (ie - People in the film industry, who actually understand what it's implications are - are usually: completely shocked by this research.)
      But - for example - this guy `gets' it:

      So - I've been rolling it all out slowly, and just testing the waters...
      (In a way -- this here, has all been a really good test... I think nobody here yet quite understands, anything I've been saying, yet...)
      (Maybe we should even `revisit' these emails after Jan 2014 - and see what we make of them all... :)

      But, actually - just today, there was published, another little interview that I did on it - here:

      So - I am just slowly `feeding it out' - and `testing it all', so that -- when it `catches', there are no surprises for me...
      (ie - So there's no obvious `gaps in the research'/evidence - or - in all of my arguments... Not that, I'm actually `arguing' anything, I'm just: presenting the empirical data/research.)

      - And - If it's true (ie - my doctoral research - and, it all, certainly is...), then, it actually means: a whole lot of changes (likely) need to be made, in the Screenwriting & Film domains
      (and - thank God... I just spent 20 years, working in there - in loads of different roles all at once - and including, in Hollywood -- and: I can personally verify - that entire domain (well, both Screenwriting and Film) is: a complete mess. - I am deadly serious... )

      So, this work - is just an attempt to address: all that... ie some problems I `noticed' -- from spending 20 years in the Film Domain.

      (so - it might work....? Who knows.)
      and yet - also - I might also die, before anyone actually `gets it' 
      (I have noticed -- that happens sometimes, with: Creativity... LOL ;)



      JT Velikovsky
      Film/Story/Screenplay/Transmedia Analyst
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