Movieguide® and Computerized Scriptwriting
By David Outten, Contributing Writer
A recent Los Angeles Times article was entitled, “Can a computer write a script? Machine learning goes Hollywood.” It tells of a Lexus commercial written by IBM’s Watson technology. It also features a preview for the 20th Century Fox movie titled “Morgan”. Both efforts are quite impressive but there’s a huge problem.
Computers can analyze thousands of movie scripts, millions of tweets and Facebook pages and many other factors and come up with entertainment or commercials that use significant data to create compelling content, but what you choose to analyze makes a huge difference.
The article discusses using computers to examine such things as diversity. What you do not see being analyzed is what Movieguide® has been analyzing for 30 years. More than half of all movies submitted to the MPAA are R-rated. They generate the lowest box office results of all ratings. If Watson is not told to consider this, he won’t. Watson will write R-rated scripts.
Another issue, as Movieguide® understands, is you can only measure what’s been made. Year after year, Movieguide® analysis reveals that movies with strong violence (VV) do best. This is because Hollywood invests huge sums in sci-fi and superhero movie production and marketing. It looks as if Americans crave strong violence. Watson would probably go nuts making violent movies.
But, only 12 percent of Americans are frequent moviegoers. What about the other 88 percent? Who is going to be analyzing their desires? There’s not much available to analyze. What we really need is some common sense.
The percentage of Americans who want to live in a “good” neighborhood would be virtually 100 percent. The percent who want their children in “good” schools is the same. The percent who want “good” entertainment may not be 100 percent, but it is well above 12 percent. Watson will not see this group. They’re invisible.
What is “good?” To start with its not violence. While movie fans may love to root for superheroes, no one wants to see their neighborhood destroyed so they can see a superhero fight an evil villain on their block. What is “good” the Bible refers to as “the fruit of the Spirit:” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are qualities almost everyone wants to see in their children. Would Watson make movies modeling such traits?
The question of what to analyze is not just a Hollywood question. Governments around the world are in massive debt, does anyone analyze why? Does anyone analyze the impact of media on the ability of families to raise children who make the best citizens? Does anyone analyze the impact of media on the ability of families to raise children who help reduce deficits rather than increase them? Does anyone even consider the media choices of convicted criminals?
Perhaps, the most important analysis that you never see done is the impact of doing God’s will vs opposing God’s will. Jesus said that those who hear his teaching and obey are likewise men who build their house on the rock. Those who do not follow his teaching are like those who build on the sand. Imagine putting Watson to work analyzing the accuracy of this warning. What are the benefits of obeying God?
It would be VERY INTERESTING to see what kind of script Watson would write if his instruction was to make a movie that would encourage better neighborhoods, better schools and a world more like heaven. It would be really exciting if the heads of the major studios took this as their priority.
Artificial intelligence is garbage in garbage out. Feed Watson hundreds of horror movies, and he’ll learn to make one. Feed him the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then what would he do?