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Jan 16 2014

In the lab, studying screenplays

Ashley Miller is getting legal threats, from someone who says “From this point forward our attorney will be the only contact” and then promptly sends another email. The threats look very empty, but to be polite I will be careful not to cast aspersions on the enterprise in question. I won’t make any effort not to laugh, though.

The enterprise in question is called Cinematic Appraisals. I’d never heard of it before and now I have, so I hope they’re thanking Ashley for the free advertising.

Cinematic Appraisals has Science. It has a page about the Science, complete with a photo of Science In Action.

Cinematic Appraisals’ patent-pending Mind Science Method is based on neuroscientific research conducted over the last 40 years. The Mind Science Method measures neurobiological triggers and reactions, assigning a proven value for each level.

It’s long been known that moviegoers psychologically fall into a state of “suspended disbelief” when watching stories play out on film, which is just the beginning of what goes on in the psyche and the body during film watching. Viewers’ physiological responses also fluctuate depending upon their level of involvement with the story and action. While watching something highly stimulating, the human body releases a host of limbic chemical responses. The dose of chemicals released is proportionate to the level of emotional stimuli, creating lasting emotions.

In other words, when the protagonist runs, the connected viewer’s heart rate will increase. When the protagonist holds his breath, so does the connected viewer. This state has been compared to the state of partial hypnosis—a state normally only achieved when dreaming.

The Mind Science Method gauges this degree of connection with the material using our unique patented neurobiological algorithms. This allows the producer to tell when the screenplay produces this hypnotic-like state—and when it does not. This allows a producer to reverse-engineer the screenplay to create one audiences will love, before going through the expense of production.

They should branch out and do that with everything – poetry, novels, paintings, sculpture, ballet, hockey – everything.

More free advertising.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I’m DYING laughing at the incompetence.

    Very pleased to see Ashley is obviously hip to fake libel/legal threats, and that she didn’t take anything down or refuse to talk about it. Sadly, this kind of intimidation campaign works, as legally unsupportable and absurd as CA’s threats are. Too many people don’t understand US libel law (short version: this wouldn’t even get to court, I guarantee it, it’s pathetic. Yep, been sued for libel and won, I know what I’m talking about) and are understandably alarmed by such saber rattling.

  2. 2
    Pliny the in Between

    No wonder it costs $50 a page – if they have to read it through that microscope…

  3. 3
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    I dunno. I looked at that stock photo and it looks like science happening to me. Got to be legit.
    *headdesk*

  4. 4
    stewart

    With all that scientific expertise at their fingertips, it’s a shame they can’t adapt the system to work on their own lawyer letters.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Isn’t the stock photo just hilarious? Microscope! Test tube! Blue gloves! Dude with notebook! SCIENCE!!

  6. 6
    Eamon Knight

    They do Science the way Ann Gauger does Science, ie. by stock photo. Couldn’t they at least have found a more appropriate one? Something with a subject wearing an EEG harness hooked up to a multi-trace scope maybe?

    Those must be some scripts to require the safety gloves!

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    No because nothing else would look as SCIENCE. The whole point is to look very SCIENCE and for that you need the blue gloves and the microscope and the pipette and the petri dish.

  8. 8
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Stewart, #4:

    Thread won.

  9. 9
    Anthony K

    Isn’t the stock photo just hilarious? Microscope! Test tube! Blue gloves! Dude with notebook! SCIENCE!!

    I found it jarring, and as a result my disbelief was no longer suspended, and my connection to the microscope-peering protagonist weakened. A real shame, too; I’d nearly developed an inexpensive, energy-dense, and environmentally safe electric vehicle battery before my trance-like state ended.

  10. 10
    stewart

    Ta, Crip.

  11. 11
    chigau (違う)

    Could a Scientist please identify the molecule in the foreground?

  12. 12
    Shatterface

    It’s not just the science that’s hilarious, it’s the notion you can tell how exciting a sequence is based on the script. Suspense is far more to do with direction, cinematography and editing. There’s a reason most people recognise the names of directors more than writers.

  13. 13
    Anthony K

    But, Shatterface, they’ve correlated their work with box office receipts. Audience members’ heart rates go up when the protagonist runs. This is indisputable fact!

  14. 14
    Robert B.

    It actually looks more like a crystal than a molecule to me, chigau, but I don’t recognize the structure. I think you’re going to have to narrow down to a chemist.

  15. 15
    Pierce R. Butler

    Gee, I wonder what the microscopist would look like if she took off those glasses and unbraided her hair (and, of course, unbuttoned her lab coat some)?

    The suspense has my heartbeat accelerating!

  16. 16
    Ken At Popehat

    YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MIND SCIENCE. IT’S SCIENCE! OF THE MIND!

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    I am schooled!

  18. 18
    Martin Cohen

    How do the observers react after a nose runs?

    (“Who knows what it is to be running? Only he who is running knows!”)

  19. 19
    AJ Milne

    I would just like to say that this comment thread is my favourite thing on the internet today. And I love you all dearly.

    … also, I think some of the SCIENCE has rubbed off on me, from that photo, just from my having seen it. I am so SCIENCED it’s almost uncomfortable… Like I’ve suddenly got a pipette lodged somewhere one really shouldn’t generally put pipettes. Or something.

  20. 20
    sailor1031

    Can’t be ‘science’ without a blackboard covered in second order differential equations together with meaningless long S’s and a matrix or two. And what’s that bobbly thing? Is it some kind of 21st Century Orrery?

  21. 21
    24fps

    @Shatterface: “It’s not just the science that’s hilarious, it’s the notion you can tell how exciting a sequence is based on the script. Suspense is far more to do with direction, cinematography and editing. There’s a reason most people recognise the names of directors more than writers.”

    Not entirely true, actually. If the script isn’t structured properly, then no amount of directing, fancy shooting or rapid-fire editing is going to make it work. I’ve been making films for over 20 years and if you can’t see it on the page, it’s not going to happen.

    The reason you recognize the names of directors more than writers is because media finds film sets more engaging than writers’ desks. It’s more active and more public. Plus there’s they myth of the director as brilliant auteur, which is frankly bullshit – it’s a highly collaborative process, making a film. Writing is still the foundation. Even in documentary – structure of the story makes the difference in engagement of the audience.

    That said, the Cinematic Appraisals people are peddling hokum. You don’t need algorithms to know when a script is working. Anybody who would pay money for this is an idiot. Anyway, audience response only happens once you get them in the theatre. Getting them there in the first place is far, far trickier.

  22. 22
    Michele Walsh

    Excuuuse me! I have been a “reader” aka “story analyst” for over twenty years. Producers don’t read scripts – they give them to people like me to read. We do a synopsis of varying lengths (some producers just want a snapshot others want more detail) followed by an analysis of the script’s strength and weaknesses. It’s sort of like reviewing a movie that hasn’t been made yet. I am pretty good at spotting the good stuff – you can make a really bad movie from a good script but you can never make a good movie from a bad script, no matter who you cast. True story: a producer had a terrible script that was to be a sequel to the immortal CHINATOWN. It was awful. My friend, a reader, told him it was terrible. The guy said “I don’t care. I got Jack (Nicholson)!” The film was made and it flopped – big time. Yes, people react to what is happening – ON THE SCREEN. Most people find a film/TV script incomprehensible and that microscope won’t help.

  23. 23
    Ophelia Benson

    Michele Walsh – you what now? You do an analysis of the script’s strength and weaknesses, just like that, out of your head? No microscope, no pipette, no test tube, no blue gloves? But then where’s your SCIENCE?

    :D

  24. 24
    Michele Walsh

    Ophelia:
    I love my science and keep it safe at home. My dad was a physicist and gave me a deep appreciation of real, hard, lovely, awesome science. And a deep and undying aversion to whatever this is. Besides, isn’t all science test tubes and stuff?

  25. 25
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes, I think real appreciation of real science entails deep and undying aversion to attempts to steal its prestige like this.

  26. 26
    Kausik Datta

    I believe this would be of interest to Ophelia, Ken/Popehat and Ashley.

    “In defamation cases, the public-figure status of a plaintiff and the public importance of the statement at issue — not the identity of the speaker — provide the First Amendment touchstones.”

    Bloggers = Media for First Amendment Libel Law Purposes, rules the Ninth circuit.

  27. 27
    Ophelia Benson

    Wo, very good. Thanks Kausik.

  28. 28
    Sili

    Much neuro. Such science. Very lawyer.

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