18 Jul HOW TO MAKE A CHINESE HIT
How to make a Chinese hit? Gone are the days of simply hiring a big Chinese star, securing distribution and avoiding political scripts.
NO MORE SPRAY AND PRAY
In the article, “Moneyball for movies: Data science and AI in Hollywood“, Legendary Entertainment’s Chief Analytics Officer Matthew Marolda derided the old approach to film marketing as ‘spray and pray’. He described it as “…meaning, quite literally, spray the population with TV ads and pray they go to the box office.” He admitted that the old approach was not only inefficient but expensive and doesn’t work in today’s world. Today there’s another, cheaper, laser-focused option – big data. But is big data the answer to making a Chinese hit?
Read further to see how big data pointed me to my next script idea
How is big data useful to producers? In the article, “Big Data Hollywood: How New Tech Supercharges Content” Rob Delf, CEO of software-as-a-service (SaaS) rights management company Rightsline, said “From a big data perspective, that audience aggregation—that’s the holy grail for [studios]. We figure that a marketing spend at a large film studio for the year is probably $5 billion. Even just a 10 percent efficiency on that, to attract your fan base to actually go to the theater, has a huge impact.”
We’ve seen a revolution in the film business. Theatrical releases are just one component. More audiences are using mobile devices to consume content. Having big data allows producers to make smarter decisions regarding knowing what demographic to market to.
ATTRACT A NEW AUDIENCE
Additionally, studios can find new audiences by mining big data. If you knew a certain program attracted one segment of the market – say female viewers – what do you do if you wanted to attract more male viewers? Big data tells you what your desired audience is consuming. That data helps studios make strategic decisions on what content to purchase that will likely attract their target audience.
Moreover, the article “China’s Movie Makers Are Leveraging iQiyi’s Data to Make the Next Blockbuster” highlighted how data changes how productions are shot. It said “The use of small screens requires other tweaks to production. Cinema films are designed to be watched in the dark, with the viewer far from the screen. Qi Shu Youyu’s films (iQiyi’s production partner) are watched at arm’s length at best and in all light conditions.”
TAKE RISKS ON SMALLER FILMS, UNKNOWN TALENT
Big data also allows production companies to take risks on smaller films and unknown talent. The article “How Big Data Is Changing The Film Industry” said “Big data makes this refinement possible. Consumers provide an endless stream of feedback on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and personal blogs.” Studios can use this information to discern what genres and actors are in demand.
BUT THE DIRECTOR’S / WRITER’S VISION IS THE KEY
However, the article “Why Big Data Is Defining The Film Industry: 5 Things We Learned From Tribeca Talk’s ‘Big Data and the Movies’ Panel” – industry executives agreed that a creator’s vision remains key.
Conversely, MoviePass CEO Stacy Spikes said “We all say this movie’s gonna be big, and then no one goes. Being in the filmmaking community, it’s all about that passion. You can see it whether in a certain actor or actress or a director’s vision. Data at the end of the day can never grasp that.”
In conclusion, big data can niche down your audience. Realize theatrical content and mobile content use separate production techniques (widescreen / close up, dark/light scenes etc.). You can use big data to expand your audience to attract a new demographic. But it’s passion that wins the day. AI will never replace a director and writer’s vision.
MY NEXT SCRIPT IDEA THANKS TO BIG DATA
I had an ‘aha’ moment recently. I found a fantastic new Austrailian TV show on Netflix called Secret City. A whipsmart woman tries to solve a murder that threatens a Chinese superpower showdown. Incredibly – this is almost the logline to my last screenplay – The China Conspiracy. How does Netflix know these elements push my buttons?
I also discovered the Indian TV series Sacred Games. Does Netflix know I secretly listen to Main Ho Don on my phone? Maybe Netflix is telling me my next script should take place in India.
Software developers – please create an app that mines this data so writers can connect the dots on what their next script should be.