Tucked between the myriad of panels and lectures at the recent Story Expo in Los Angeles was a half hour session showing off a new tool for screenwriters called Scriptonomics. Scriptonomics is a website app that writers can upload their feature script onto. The app then analyzes the pages quickly using an algorithm that reads the text and fits the script into a mathematical model to tell you how sellable your script is.
I had so many questions! I may have harassed the speaker a little in trying to understand it, poor kid. Great for LA Screenwriter followers, though, because now you are getting all that beautiful information.
The idea of Scriptonomics is to essentially eliminate the job of script readers in Hollywood. When the app has read your script, it gives you a clear and concise analysis showing your scripts strengths and weaknesses while comparing it to other films in your genre. The makers of the site boast that they are regularly updating the the script database, while also making sure the scripts are relevant. Therefore scripts from the 1950s would not be in the library, but everything from the last ten years is being added so that the analysis can track current trends.
Scriptonomics gives you this analysis for you to submit with your script to potential producers as a selling point. The speaker walked the audience through the site using the film script for THE WATCHMEN. The analysis was definitely accurate with their test script, and the app only takes a few minutes to get through the pages (naturally it was a little faster since the script was already in the database). It all looked very nice, but it did inspire a lot of questions for me.
First of all, by only maintaining more recent scripts, the app could determine more recent trends like superhero/action films, but not recurring trends such as this summer’s return to character-driven romcoms. Secondly, I was surprised by their choice of script in THE WATCHMEN.
At the end of the analysis, Scriptonomics will give you a Pass, Consider, or Recommend just like any other script reader. Here is the thing though, THE WATCHMEN is a two hour and forty-five minute movie, meaning that the script could be approximately 165 pages long. There is not a script reader in the world that would not have a complaint about that page count, no matter how much they love the original material. Also, the film was not a critical or commercial success, definitely having some script issues. Why out of the thousands of scripts they could have chosen they picked this one, I have no idea.
When asked what the accuracy for the pass/consider/recommend is, we were told 82%. I pressed further. The purpose of storytelling is to emote — things like romance and comedy would be difficult for an A.I. to register as “successful” since their success level is incredibly subjective. According to the site, the accuracy for those scripts is “a little less” than 82%.
I am still incredibly skeptical over whether or not this can be successful but I am definitely going to test it out. If you are curious as well, do not worry about the security of the site. Register your script with the WGA before submitting (they only do English feature scripts at the moment) and create an account with the site. If you decide to end your account, your scripts are removed from the site. No one else on the site has access to your scripts at any time either.
[NOTE: The Scriptonomics site doesn’t appear to be working right now. We tried uploading a script in txt format (the only format currently accepted) and got an error message every time. Let us know in the comments if you have more success! And we’ll let you know when the site is back online.]
The recommended price is $59.99 per script or subscription. The site is currently in “beta mode,” so they have a button for donations, but technically you can have your script analyzed for free right now.
Personally, the site is so new that the idea of handing in an analysis with the script to a producer is not going to hold a lot of cache. That being said, if there is a way to get an early draft analysis before passing it onto friends, a company that does detailed coverage for a similar price, or a script consultant, it does not hurt to take advantage of this technology while you can.
Emily Jermusyk is a screenwriter and story consultant. She got her start in high school writing over 150 episodes of a soap opera parodying Knots Landing. If desired, Emily will talk to you at potentially-annoying-length about topics such as why the CW is her favorite channel, the current amazing state of underground comedy, and how she avoids TV/films about zombies because most of them do not chew with their mouths closed. Follow Emily on Twitter, and check out her website, Ruining Television.