I get e-mail — Cinematic Appraisals: “Mind Science” or Pseudoscience

polygraphI got a very hurt e-mail from someone yesterday.

A few years ago, before I was at Freethoughtblogs, I wrote an article about a service offered to film producers called “Cinematic Appraisals”.  I had recently optioned my screenplay and I was generally up-to-date with everything, but a friend sent me a link to their site telling me I would have a field day.  It still reads like fake science and a potential scam, especially at $50/page, but I now also know that they are so unprofessional that they didn’t even realize I was the second highest Google result until a client pointed it out to them.

Of course, now that I have been reminded of their existence, I have to write about them again.

A potential client mentioned your blog as a top result when searching our company name, Cinematic Appraisals.

We are a small company that performs emotional response testing for investors and have no idea how we ever drew your negative attention. The Home page of our website states that we do not work for writers or agents (we refer them to The Writer’s Store, which offers a smaller-scale emotional response section at no additional charge with their script coverage).

Would you please do us the courtesy of explaining how our services have affected you and how you have determined those services are fraudulent, or of kindly removing the damaging post? Again, we are a small business who puts a great deal of time and care into the work we perform.

The really charming part of the website is where it explains it’s “patented” science, which sounds like someone holds onto an e-meter or is attached to a lie detector while reading the screenplay and they measure the “results”.  While there is some science being done to measure reactions to movies, as far as I have been able to find, there are absolutely no conclusions and nothing that could be extrapolated to reading a screenplay.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE MIND SCIENCE METHOD

Cinematic Appraisals’ patent-pending Mind Science Method is based on neuroscientific research (citation needed) conducted (by whom) over the last 40 years (citation needed). The Mind Science Method measures neurobiological triggers and reactions (how), assigning a proven value (citation needed) for each level (of what).

It’s long been known (by whom) that moviegoers psychologically fall into a state of “suspended disbelief” (citation needed) when watching stories play out on film (which is not the same as reading a screenplay), which is just the beginning of what goes on in the psyche and the body during film watching (citation needed). Viewers’ physiological responses also fluctuate depending upon their level of involvement with the story and action (citation needed). While watching something highly stimulating, the human body releases a host of limbic chemical responses (citation needed, which responses). The dose of chemicals released is proportionate to the level of emotional stimuli (citation needed), creating lasting emotions (citation really needed).

In other words, when the protagonist runs, the connected viewer’s heart rate will increase (citation needed). When the protagonist holds his breath, so does the connected viewer (citation needed). This state has been compared (by whom) to the state of partial hypnosis (not even “full hypnosis”? a state not entirely recognized by science, citation needed) —a state normally only achieved when dreaming (hypnosis and dreaming are the same? citation needed).

The Mind Science Method gauges this degree of connection with the material (the screenplay, they have, of course, been talking about watching movies, not reading) using our unique patented neurobiological algorithms (patented apparently means “not gonna tell you anything”). This allows the producer to tell when the screenplay produces this hypnotic-like state—and when it does not (citation needed). This allows a producer to reverse-engineer the screenplay to create one audiences will love (evidence?), before going through the expense of production.

Proven in the lab (citation needed) and the real world (citation needed) to correlate (ah, correlation) with neurobiological responses (which have apparently not been “proven” to correlate with success of a film).

The Mind Science Method has been lab tested (by whom) and is proven to correlate (but not measure?) with the actual psychophysiological responses of a subject to the screenplay. Testing measured neurobiological activity with a variety of electrodermal equipment including galvanic skin monitor, electromyrograms, a zygomaticaus, a corrogator, an EEG and EKG MP150WSW with Tel100C remote monitoring module data acquisition system (does this just mean lie detector?).

Over the course of years of testing and development, the Mind Science Method has been used to objectively (lol) rate more than 30 scripts for films with known gross box office receipts (and how did they do?), verifying the validity of our method (but not well enough for us to share the validity measures) and giving us a statistical basis (citations???) for predicting the success of a script with known Mind Science Method scores.

My response to the woman who e-mailed me was simple:

I am a blogger who writes about the entertainment world and skepticism. A producer who is a friend of mine alerted me to your website and I wrote about it, as I imagine you got from the original post, because the “mind science” as explained on your website seems to be pseudo-science and you provide no detailed explanation or scientific corroboration of your methods.

I am happy to write further about the science behind your service if you are willing to provide any peer-reviewed, scientific studies. Or any further information about what exactly the service you provide is, how it works, why it costs that much, any evidence that the responses you measure are accurate measures of emotions, any evidence that emotional responses are related to film success, or any projects that have been successful through your help.

Cinematic Appraisals: Scam or Science?

Their Site's Main Image

I’m a writer, which means that I have to spend a lot of time looking out for scams trying to take advantage of me.  There are fake agentsfake contests, and fake publishers who are all trying to get my money by promising me riches and fortune and, most importantly, an audience.  If anything can teach you skepticism, it’s trying to navigate the minefield of nearly, but not quite, professional writing.

I think you should go look at this.  It’s a “Mind Science” based analysis service for screenplays.  That seems highly unlikely to me, but here is an excerpt from the site:

Once your screenplay has been received, trained evaluators conduct an analysis using our proprietary Mind Science Method to ascertain individual scores for each line, each page, and for the screenplay as a whole. This scoring system evaluates the different criteria, story structure, dialog and action of each individual line.

Once the analysis is complete, a score is assigned that can be compared equally against the score of any other screenplay, if you have chosen to submit a second screenplay of a previously produced project.

After the initial page-by-page study is complete and individual score determined, the screenplay is then studied and examined by separate evaluators for its story structure and connection strength, yielding the second analysis based on content.

You will receive both the score and complete analysis in your final report, including a hardcopy of the screenplay with review notations.

The Mind Science score and analysis will allow you to gauge the degree of stimulation/mental connection the screenplay evokes. And, by comparing the score of a new script with the score of a script from a produced film in the same genre, you can compare its potential success apples-to-apples.

Does this sound like Scientology to anyone else?  It sounds like all they’re doing is providing detailed coverage and calling it “Mind Science”.

I mean, maybe what they do is legitimate in the sense that they provide a service, but they charge, get this, FIFTY DOLLARS A PAGE to review your screenplay.  That’s $6000 for a 120 page script.

$6000.

Everyone, for 1 dollar a page, I will read and review your screenplay!  I dunno how appealing that is, but it’s certainly a hell of a lot cheaper!  I’m no one, but at least I’ve optioned a screenplay and that makes me 100% qualified to use my own Proprietary Mind Science to evaluate your screenplay’s ability to engage an audience’s interest.  For $6000 dollars, who knows what I’d do (e-mail your inquiries).

Hell, pay an 8-year-old a dollar and see how long he can sit through it before getting up.  If it’s more than 10 pages, you’ve got a winner!

If you’re going to pay money to get feedback I recommend finding someone who is a screenwriter or actually works in the business — submit to ScriptSavvy or Carson Reeves, I can personally attest to both the quality and honesty of their services.

I realize that the Cinematic Appraisals Service is aimed at producers and people who are in genuine pre-production stages of getting a film made, not just struggling writers, but, until I see some evidence that what their doing actually has any evidence behind it or is more useful than, say, reading the script with a critical eye, I’m going to have to call this one as straight up bilking people out of their money.  Especially since I can’t find any information about them anywhere else on the net.  And taking money from producers, while potentially satisfying, means that there’s less money to make movies.

Writers Beware!