Batman vs. Superman is just a few days away. A birthday present to me. If you clicked here you probably did so because you were like, “No way BvS will flop. This movie is going to make KaGillions! I gotta see what this fool is to even question this.” Slow down, take a breath, and stay with me on this. I’m not planning on diving into the metrics on how a movie can make a ton of money and still flop financially (Let me just say, I’m on the fence about this argument as I’ve never seen the accounting). I’m not going to argue that with all the hype maybe somehow the movie will not be a financial success (apparently one AI claimed it was most likely not to make a profit). I mean, even if it’s terrible… Even if 76% of voters back in 2013 thought that Ben Afleck was a terrible choice for Batman (I wonder what it would be now with that he has that sweet, sweet back-tat?)… Batman vs Superman is going to be epic no matter what and will have a massive showing at the box office. But that’s not what I’m asking about right now.
What I want to do is look at the creation of this story from a different point. Let’s go back in time to a world before Batman vs Superman was even a twinkle in the eye of David S. Goyer. Let’s say we’re a studio with the option to pick up the rights to make a Batman Vs. Superman movie. How do we make the best one? Certainly, there is a lot of creative precedence. Of course, there is a massive cult following of the two iconic superheroes and of the infamous battle between them and you want to give the people what they want. So, how do you submit to the expectations of the audience while maintaining creative integrity?
Answer: Constraints. If you haven’t heard the phrase “Creativity Loves Constraints” then google it. Maybe I’ll do a post on it in the future, but the idea is that some constraint focuses creativity.
First of all, we’ve already constrained from the nebulous anything to Batman vs Superman. That’s fairly specific and tight constraint wise. But we want to be sure that we make a financially successful movie and a creatively memorable movie, right? So, let’s tighten in a little further. But how?
Data Analytics. While there are a million questions we could ask film analytics to answers I’m just going to give one example here. It comes from another blog: Math Miners (www.mathminers.com). Basically they took search and social media to determine who should win in a battle between Batman and Superman. Now, whatever side you are on in this debate (Superman, obviously) you have to pick a winner to write a Superman vs Batman movie. Big data and what I’m trying to coin as film analytics (big data analytics for film) can’t do this for you, but it can give you accurate insights to help constrain your choices.
According to Math Miners’ data analysis Americans are much more passionate about batman than Superman. Superman is more often searched in foreign markets, but they seem much less passionate about him. It would appear that Superman ought to lose.
BUT WAIT! This is where analytics and creativity make beautiful babies. Sure, you can go on what seems like the obvious route (there, I ruined the movie for you), but you can also make a creative reversal. Maybe Batman loses? Now you have to really justify this reversal, but you can be certain that Batman lovers are going to have a strong reaction. So, you need to justify and redeem the situation. Perhaps, Batman lets Superman win as part of an elaborate plan and we only realize that later on? Now the audience still doesn’t know who would win in a real fight, but they are really engaged in the story… (I’ve really spoiled the movie for you now!)
Point is, that at every step you can take accurate data to guide your decisions and you can even test them to come to the optimal mix of story and financial product. Film analytics is less like Kryptonite and more peas. Maybe you don’t like them, but they can really help your film fly (like Superman) instead of flop (like… not Superman).
What do you use to track trends or pick story ideas? Have you used any analytic tools or methods and if so, which ones?