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873Re: [biopoet] Re: An agent-based-model of the Feature Film System (An explication of your critique Mike)

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  • JT Velikovsky
    Sep 14 11:51 AM
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      Hi Mike

      I just added a whole bunch of stuff (more images, and more explanations, etc) to make it all clearer:
      Thanks again for the feedback... it helped improve it a great deal.



      On 15/09/2013 2:03 AM, JT Velikovsky wrote:

      Hi Michael

      Thanks for the critique...
      (ie - any feedback is always good feedback...) 

      Though - hmmm - I'm not sure why you find it `vague waffle'...
      (seems a pretty harsh judgement...
       - I've presented it in lectures, and usually, it gets an overwhelmingly-positive response...?)

      But - this is still really helpful...
      - It currently leads me to think, (maybe... just speculating here)

      (a) possibly - (sorry, if this is wrong) you don't yet, understand: What you're looking at, there... (which - possibly means, I need to `reframe' it, so the explanation is clearer...)
      (b) maybe your expectations were different, to, what was delivered...
      (- which, is back to (a)... ie - I may well need to make the `explanation' of it, clearer...)

      When you say, `no real new ideas here'... - I'm not sure, that's correct...(?)
      To my knowledge, no other `agent-based model' exists, showing: the Film Industry as a System, in action.
      (or - If anyone knows of any others - please do tell me...)

      Six prior academics have written about (ie, published on) the remarkable similarity of: Csikszentmihalyi's systems model of creativity, and Bourdieu's `practice theory' of cultural production...
      But - to my knowledge - none so far has integrated/synthesized, quite as comprehensively as Creative Practice Theory does...?
      (ie - Pam Burnard's 2-D model, for Musical Creativities, comes the closest - way back in 2012.)
      ie her diagram (synthesis) is here: iehttp://storyality.wordpress.com/creative-practice-theory/

      So, Mike, perhaps - it may not be clear to you (yet?) that, the agent-based model, on there,
      is: a computer program, that runs (on which, the user can also `change the inputs' for extra added understanding), showing:
      How the system of film works, in action, for Film Writers and Producers... (in terms of: the Individual, the Field, and the Domain... and habitus, and `Internalizing the Domain over 10 years' (eg the Domain of: Film)).

      The `default settings' of the model (as, a very simplified version) reflect the `real-world numbers' of: How many films get made each year, and, at what rate... And just exactly, how many of them: succeed - and fail. (Only the films that move to the centre - ie the "inner green circle", are: judged `creative' - by the Field/Audience...)

      ie - When the model runs, it shows (ie reflects/demonstrates) how: 98% of screenplays presented to Producers (by: writers) do not get made (see: Macdonald's 2004 thesis), and, How it also takes around 10 years (on average), for any screenwriter to: absorb/internalize the Domain - of Film Screenwriting - before they finally produce a screenplay that a Producer then does want to produce. (ie as `Practise Makes More-Perfect', etc).
      - It (the model) also shows (in realtime, as it runs) how: Of the 2% of screenplays that do get made, 7 in 10 of those films `fail', as they are: not creative (ie - neither a Critical nor Commercial success)...
      It also shows that: Producers take around 10 years (on average) to also internalize `the Domain of Film Producing'... before, they produce a creative work (ie - a successful film)

      So, doesn't that exactly speak to your final point: "about how different movies compete within a given field and which enjoy success and which fail"

      ...It (the agent-based model) therefore has 3 purposes:

      (1) Many people seem not to be able to `get their heads around':
      (a) ecosystems, and how they work - and (b) iterative-and-recursive, confluence systems models (which - the Film Industry is, of course) - and (3) evolutionary algorithms...
      For reasons that (I suspect) stem from, more traditional `linear' - and `binary' (ie - Cartesian Dualist) thinking, (and possibly, given also that everyone has a different mix of Gardner's `7 intelligences', ie - spatial, aural, etc) - By which, I mean, not everyone is equally-as-good at `visualizing', all those things, in action, at once -- and, how they all interact
      (and also, say, the `resultant feedback loops', that result from: Selection, Variation, Transmission: Repeat - eg with ideas/memes in Culture)...

      - As a longtime Game Designer, I've never quite understood, why some people have such difficulty, with that (ie - if you can visualize how a 4-stroke engine works, then, you can visualize a fairly complex system in action), but -- of course, everyone has different skills/cognitive predispositions.
      (Nobody can ever see the same `symbolic model' inside any else's head, when a process is explained to them, in words... lots of scope for misinterpretation/assumptions...)

      So - the agent-based model (ie - that simulation), it turns out, is, actually quite helpful, in showing people `What actually happens, all at once' when the system (albeit a *very* simplified version of it) is `in full swing'...
      - In other words, each `agent' in the model (film writer and film producer in the Film Field) are all, concurrently, going through, all those `10 steps' in the Creative Practice Theory algorithm (derived from Csikszentmihalyi and Bourdieu's extensive empirical studies of creativity - and `How It Happens' in the creative arts and sciences).

      Though I know Mike you seem to use a different definition of algorithm to me... (I am not sure I actually know your definition)
      This article has a great example of the evolutionary algorithm, as I understand it:
      ie: Calvin (1997) writes:
      `...a full-fledged Darwinian process needs six essential ingredients to keep going... "a pattern that copies with occasional variation, where populations of the variants compete for a limited workspace, biased by a multifaceted environment, and with the next round of variations preferentiallydone from the more successful of the current generation."' (http://jom-emit.cfpm.org/1997/vol1/calvin_wh.html)

      ie With -- `ideas' (memes/films) in Cultural Evolution, all behaving exactly the same way as: genes, in Biological Evolution... ie:

      And so - the second reason, it (the agent-based model) exists:

      (2) It provides a clear explanation, for people who also don't quite see "the big picture" (with - Creativity in the film industry, say)
      As to: Why it's so useful, to look at the Top 20 RoI Films and compare them to the Bottom-20 RoI Films.

      If you look at the mounting `garbage pile' of yellow (unmade/bad/uncreative) scripts in the model, (as opposed to the green ones that are judged `creative' by the Field - and then get made into films, ie the `blue' (creative) and yellow (uncreative) film icons) -- as they are all spewed out into the film system by all the writers, as they each (writer-`agents' in the model) gain their 10 years of `paying their dues'... it becomes very obvious, why (as a screenwriter/filmmaker) you wouldn't want your film script to be an unmade (`yellow') one, and -- just how competitive it is to get it into the 2% of screenplays that do get made...

      And THEN, the `race/competition' isn't even over - it's only half-over - as then - you also have to ensure that, the film you make from that script, is not one of the `7 in 10' (70%) of films that are not judged `creative' by the Field (and therefore: `fail', as you say...)...
      So, seeing just how much material is being constantly produced by the system, really gives people a clear, `visual' indication of how "the big picture" works... and, why it's important to consider what Bourdieu calls "possible winning strategies".
      (ie - Who really wants to spend 10 long years of hard work, learning how to be a screenwriter - only to then have their first film fail... (the `7 in 10'), and then - they will find it near impossible to get a 2nd chance (make a 2nd film)...
      ie - What was that 10 years for?) (Of course, some may view `writing as therapy' and, not mind that `fail' result... but this StoryAlity Theory is for: serious creatives)

      And - there is a third thing that the model `shows' quite well:

      (3) Some people also are unable to (mentally) "extrapolate" the systems model (the Creative Practice Theory model of the Film Industry) over `Time'.
      (I am still not sure why.)

      For some reason - that also remains a mystery to me - some people don't manage to be able to "see" `the systems model of Film' (ie: Individuals, in Fields, and various overlapping creative Domains) running, in their mind, over time... they just: `draw a blank'...
      They look at the (genius!) 2-D model of the `systems model' that Csikszentmihalyi created (Domain, Individual, and Field interaction), and yet - they can't quite `extrapolate', what it means when there are thousands and thousands of writers, and producers, directors, audience members, critics, etc - all `doing their thing' (as `agents', with free will, but also with certain bio-cultural predispositions) over time...
      So - the model clearly shows: How it all works over time - and in fact, (LOL) what an `unholy mess' the whole system becomes, when viewed (allowed to `run') over time...
      I guess what I mean is, it gives them a sense of how `a new level of order' emerges -- when the system and all its components are running. Which films succeed, and - which ones fail.
      It seems, maybe, many people can only think of `3 things' at once. ie - Say, a film, a writer, and a producer, say.
      (But now multiply that by ten thousand, and: run it all, with all the interactions, recursive reactions, and confluences in the system - also, remember that each Writer and Producer may come from different cultures, etc...)

      Also a question, Mike - Did you load up, and run the model, on that page-? (ie - The 3 x "demo videos" are obviously, also just, further `explanatory tools'...)

      So - I am not sure why even they (the 3 x videos) would ever qualify as waffle...
      - If you think the entire content (or anything, really) there is: waffle, it means, you're now suggesting: Csikszentmihalyi's and Bourdieu's 2 `most-major' theories of Creativity and Cultural Production (which - have actually revolutionized the empirical and scientific study of Creativity) are also: waffle.
      Which - is akin to saying: `Darwin's theory of evolution is waffle.'
      (and, I can't really agree with any of that.)

      And, so, in short, the model "is what it is", because: When you look at the top-20 most-viral films in the culture (the top 20 RoI) - the 2 most important components are:

      (1) the writer-hyphenate (a writer-director, writer-producer, or writer-actor) - as, these are the people who `had the initial inspiration' for the Top 20 RoI Films (possibly the most intriguing question in the research of Creativity in Film - ie (a) Where do great ideas come from (b) And - how? and (c) Is there anything `special' about successful creative people like say Lucas, (who has 2 of the Top 20 RoI films), or Spielberg (who has 1) and - all 20 of the top 20 film `primary creators'?)
      In other words: studying the Creative (1) person (2) process and (3) product...

      (2) the Producer (a film writer needs one of these, if their movie is ever `going to happen' - but many are `Writer-producers' anyway...)

      So - if it isn't yet clear, the model shows, the (1) `persons' (all the writer-`agents' in the model, eg imagine one of the tiny `writer-people' icons in the model is: `a little George Lucas')
      (2) their Creative process (watch as he `absorbs the film domain and practises for 10 years - or so') and (3) the creative product, ie the actual little films in the model (ie - look closely in the model, as it runs, and you will see `the creative works themselves':
      [1. (green) `creative' screenplay `icons' - and 2. (blue) `creative' films `icons'] all moving over, into the `centre green circle'. -- as this is `the domain of works (ie films and screenplays) that are judged "creative" by The Field',
      ie in the model - as it runs - (1) Producers `judge' 2% of screenplays "creative" (worth making) --- and (2) The Audience-and-Critics judge only 3 in 10 `finished films' as: "creative"...)

      ie So - If you still think all that is actually `waffle', then -- I think, perhaps, (unless I misunderstand, and I often do) you've just described `How The Real World Works' as: waffle.
      (But also - you may be right... and maybe Terry Pratchett was wrong, and, it's not a turtle under Discworld, its: a giant waffle...)

      Moving onto your other criticisms: (I think, the explication below provides a valid defense, of, those criticisms...?)

      "Doesn't tell me anything interesting about how say writer/producer/studio head/cameraman/designer interact and contribute to the final product"

      Ah, good point... but also - that's probably because: that was never the intention with the model...
      The intention of the agent-based model, is: to give a clear, and realistic (as possible, given my constraints of: fast/good/cheap) real-world simulation - of How the film system works, for writers and producers, given: Creative Practice Theory (ie Bourdieu meets Csikszentmihalyi) as, the most-accurate model we have, to date, of: How the film system - and Creativity, works.
      ie - An agent-based model such as this, that would involve that (your suggested) level of complexity (ie `total realism', with every component in the model, in place) would be vastly-messier (and: `vastly busier') than the existing model -- which is simply intended to give the `simplest and most basic' demonstration of: How The Film System Works.

      ie Adding in 3 more Creative roles (say: (1) Studio Heads... (2) DoPs... (3) Production Designers) would then make the model (when it `runs', on your computer-screen) not just 3 times - but at least 27 times more complex (ie - we are now talking about exponential differences in complexity).
      So - the model, now, is currently easy-enough-to-follow, as it `runs'... (you can also use the `slider' at the top, to slow down the model -- and then `watch what happens' as the `agents' [Screenwriters and Producers] `interact' -- when the model runs... see which screenplay gets snapped up, which bit of `Knowledge' gets absorbed, etc)

      So - if we added those other 3 x creative filmmaking `agents', (in fact - a truly-accurate model, would include all the people involved in a feature film production) then - it would be a truly-messy browser screen - just, a big `blur' of blobby, jumbly things... and, not really very helpful... (cue: Jake, in `Raging Bull'... "It defeats its own purpose!!!" :)

      (I would be very happy for someone to do it, ie to build that model that you suggest (as, they could easily just `add more components' to this one), but -- that's well beyond all the `aims and objectives' of the current model... which it seems to achieve -- given most accounts to date...)

      So -- the model itself, is just `an educational tool' - to aid in understanding... ie - for those who can't quite `visualize' (and therefore, understand) just how `complex' the Film system is - when it all runs... (as it has been doing for just over 106 years, in the real world...)

      - If you wanted more information on how those roles (eg Studio Head, DoPs, Prod Designers, etc) integrate with a film production (How they each `do' their own Creativity), then I would certainly suggest reading Peter Bloore's (brilliant) "The Screenplay Business: Managing Creativity and Script Development in the Film Industry" (2013)... though -- even that really has very little, on `on-set film crew' ... as it's all focussed on the creativity of the: Producer, Writer, Director, Script Editor and/or the Script Development Exec...
      and, that creative relationship is all `complex' enough...  

      But, at the same time, it is probably fairly-obvious anyway, how those roles (Studio Head, DoPs, Prod Designers, all production and post-production crew, etc) interact - and contribute creatively to a film production.
      There is also a vast amount of literature already out there, of: interviews with, those sorts of people... (other film crew)
      The key point is, The Story has to be great. Or: the film bombs.
      DK Simonton in `Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics' (2011) finds that, the 4 `core' creative roles (for - cinema award-winners, in terms of Creativity) are what he calls, the `dramatic' cluster: (ie - writing, directing, acting, and editing)

      `What can money buy? If you have enough cash in hand, can you make a great flick by any reasonable comparison? … First, money can buy love, if you define love as lots of people loving your movie. The more you spend on your film, the more money it tends to earn on its opening weekend and during the course of its domestic theatrical release. These are both impressive effects. Second, if you’re the kind of filmmaker who defines love as winning all sorts of best picture awards and nominations, then tough luck. The correlation is practically zero. Third, the same null effect is found for awards and nominations in the dramatic cluster. You cannot get honours for directing,  screenwriting, acting and editing simply by throwing buckets of dollar bills around the set. If anything, the association is slightly (even if not significantly) negative. Nonetheless a handsome production budget can finance prestigious awards in the remaining three clusters: visual, technical and musical. Just pay the sizable salaries of top-flight cinematographers, production designers, visual effects supervisors, sound editors and mixers, composes, songwriters, etc. Are these crewmembers hired guns?  Fourth and last, if you want to get the approval of film critics, then less is more. Huge budgets are more likely to provoke contempt than acclaim, probably because such expenditures result in flicks full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. The visual, technical and musical fireworks only betray the emptiness of the dramatic centre – a hollow shell, however brilliant…’ (Simonton2011: 53-54 - bold emphasis mine)

      So as per the above, the key thing is always: The Story...

      (and - this is exactly what: the Top 20 RoI films tell us... and - what makes films `Creative' -- or not -- overall...)

      And penultimately (just in terms of, my explication of your critique):

      "or about how, say, genre paradigms change [or about how different movies compete within a given field and which enjoy success and which fail.]

      (I will come back to the bracketed bit, above... soon...)

      Again -- `How genre paradigms change' is: exactly what the study of `film memes' is all about...

      On Cultural Evolution – and Memes

      1. StoryAlity #44 - Biological Evolution, Cultural Evolution, and Creativity: Film
      2. StoryAlity #45 - On Movie Memes and Memetics (and: How Memes Work)
      3. StoryAlity #45B - On Tracking Memes in The Meme Pool
      4. StoryAlity #46 - On Mayans, Memes, Creativity, Darwin and Dawkins
      5. StoryAlity #47 - Why are some Screenplays/Films more `viral’ Memes?
      6. StoryAlity #47B - More on Memes & Film (and: 3 solved problems in Memetics)

      ie - When a filmmaker combines 2 `old' Genres to create a `new' one...
      Or - takes a current Genre - and then adds some `novel new twist' to it (without actually creating a `new' complete Genre),
      -- And if the Field (the Film Audience & Critics/general public etc) finds the resulting combination `creative', then -- that new meme (ie Genre) (eg say a Zombie film crossed with a Western?) will: spread like a virus...

      If the meme (the new variation, in a Genre) is not all that exciting (doesn't exhibit `hybrid vigour', and survive and thrive, thus `infecting' filmmakers with how cool the idea is) then -- that meme (that `Genre-hybrid' experiment) `withers on the vine'
      (Note how: `Cowboys and Aliens' is one of the top-20 biggest money-losers... but note also, how the idea of `Cowboys - and Aliens' - ie `Western meets Sci Fi' is not at all new, ie see: Gene Autry in `The Phantom Empire', (1935)... note also how Lucas titled Star Wars Ep# 1 (The Phantom Menace)... and note how many people see Star Wars as a `space western'...
      but so was Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon... the inspiration for Star Wars, 1977)
      But note, also - Firefly (ie - again - sci-fi meets western) was also, a massive cult hit... (despite, being cancelled after 1 series, and the spinoff feature - the `diehard fans' [ie mostly Joss Whedon fans] are still campaigning to bring back that series... )

      One big reason Sci FI and Western hybrids (in all probability, given: probability theory) haven't gone so viral so far, is that: the `cost-benefit ratio' is so low...
      ie - Both those specific Genres are extremely expensive to make, as films... So Producers, being risk-averse, tend to avoid that...

      (As we all know - Sci-Fi usually requires lots of CGI-effects, and, wild-and-crazy sets, and costumes, and sharks with laser-beams on their heads, and, robots and spaceships) -
      and also: big epic Westerns also require a cast of thousands -- and loads of "empty alien horses" to bring on, during the battle scenes (or - maybe just make them: X-Wings and Tie-Fighters, etc... :)
      (See also: Avatar, for a space western, with lots of: `empty alien horses'... and a weird alien hammerhead-rhino-thing too)
      (and yes this is all a reference/allusion to: "Bring on the empty horses!!!")
      So - again, the agent-based model, here: http://storyality.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/storyality-43b-the-creative-practice-theory-agent-based-model/
      is not meant to demonstrate all that stuff.
      ie Genre hybrids and hybrid vigour, etc... That's beyond the scope of what it `aims to show'.

      An agent-based model certainly could easily be built, to illustrate all that stuff, certainly...
      All it would require is: someone to `mod' (modify) a relevant agent-based model, from http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/ that shows: What happens when 2 different Genes are combined in a film (or tv show or novel etc), and then which ones then `go viral' in a biological ecosystem... (as a rough example)...
      And then just swap `Genres' for `genes' and you have an explanation of it... (ie a model/simulation, of it)
      - I might even give that a go, if and when I get time...

      But -- Mike, it sounds like, what you are seeking (maybe) is: an empirical investigation of: Which Genres, over time, have had the most impact, and how did they actually emerge and evolve. (ie Which Genres went most - and least viral - in the culture)...
      Someone could do that -- but it's a massive amount of empirical work... You would have to track, say, the 20-most-popular (and 20 least-popular) genres, every year in film, since 1906 (when features started) and -- one problem is: books (novels) and TV (series) also `cross-pollinate' the film industry with memes (ideas, processes, and products) all the time. You'd have a super-complex model to build, there... all very time-consuming... (but would be utterly amazing and a very useful explanatory tool)

      ie - Dont get me wrong, what you are suggesting would be invaluable `Creativity' research!
      -- It might even lead to: being able to predict, which Genres would become popular in: 1 year, and 2 years, or 5 years, 10 years, etc - given the popularity and virulence of certain genres in the past, and, also - right now...
      But perhaps this is the exact problem... almost all literary critics, are more happy to `sit back and speculate', and - not do the empir

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