The `Creative Practice Theory’ Agent-Based Model of the Global Feature Film Industry:
You may have seen this WaPo article on coronavirus by (Stevens 2020). (It’s the WaPo‘s most highly-viewed article, ever).
Likewise, Agent-based modelling is the easiest way to demonstrate how the global feature film (aka movie) system works.
`Agents’ in this model refer not to literary agents, but – to human agents with free will, namely: film Screenwriters and Producers, and also others in the Film Field (the Audience, which includes the critics, and film teachers).
As per Csikszentmihalyi’s systems model of Creativity (1988, 1996, 2000, 2006):
`For creativity to occur, a set of rules and practices must be transmitted from the domain to the individual. The individual must then produce a novel variation in the content of the domain, the variation then must be selected by the field for inclusion in the domain.’
(Csikszentmihalyi 1999: 315)
Another way to view this systems model of creativity – in terms of the Feature Film system:
If we create an agent-based model of the film system using the above model, then we arrive at the following model: (this video below also explains a little more about what agent-based modelling is…)
For more on Creative Practice Theory (which underpins the above agent-based model) see: Creative Practice Theory – What Is It?
Another explanation of the Creative Practice Theory agent-based model:
And – another (2 minute) instructional video, on how to use the Creative Practice Theory Agent-Based Model:
And finally – here is a link to the model. The link (or even, image) below will open the CPT (Creative Practice Theory) model in a new browser window:
Instructions, to run the model in your web-browser:
(1) Click the “RESET” button (top-left of the model)
(2) Click “GO“.
Of course, you can stop the model at any time (i.e.: the “GO” button is a toggle switch) – and you can change the various inputs, to see how this affects the system when it runs. (i.e.: Then press RESET, and then click GO again.)
This agent-based model is a simplified version of: How the Film System Works.
For much more detail about the background to the model, when the Java model itself opens in a new web-browser window, scroll down, and read all the text under the model itself.
Note that – in the model, both screenwriters and producers absorb knowledge (the red squares, which turn brown, when absorbed…) and they develop a habitus or “a feel for the game” over time (this is connected with all sorts of `acquired social skills’ as well as industry knowledge). New information (red squares) is also constantly being created by those in the Film Field (and technically – becomes knowledge when absorbed by an Individual/Agent in the Field).
This absorption of (screenwriting / film industry) knowledge – and acquisition of experience (including habitus) ties in with: the `Ten-Year Rule’ in Creativity. In other words – it is not until screenwriters (in the model / system) absorb 10 `units’ (or around 10 years) of knowledge, and acquire enough habitus over time – that they can produce a `creative’ screenplay (i.e.: a film script, that Producers in the system will want to acquire, and then try and finance and produce, as a film.)
Usually, it is around the 10th feature film screenplay (written) that is judged creative enough by the Field (industry experts/gatekeepers), to be acquired by a Film Producer, with the aim of turning it into a film.
Notably, in the real world Film system (and in the agent-based model) only 2 in every 10 films enter the domain of films judged creative (critical, or commercial success).
This is because: 7 in 10 films lose money, and 98% of screenplays presented to producers go unmade.
However – much can be learned about the characteristics of a viral film (as a meme) by examining the Top 20 RoI (Return on Investment) films, and comparing (about 30 of ) their characteristics with the Bottom-20 RoI films (the least viral films, or `the biggest money-losers’).
FAQ: (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: What is, `the Creative Practice Theory agent-based model’ – and why should I care?
A: The model above (when you `run’ it) shows: How the Film System works. – It’s a (simple) simulation of the Film system in the real world.
And – therefore, the model shows: How the Top 20 RoI films came about… At the same time, it also shows how the bottom-20 RoI films, came about… And also – all the other films, in between (there are currently about 500,000 feature films in existence, since the first one, the Australian The Story of the Kelly Gang, in 1906).
The reason I created the CPT agent-based model was – some people have trouble understanding (visualizing) exactly how Creative Practice Theory applies, in the real world. But – if you’re a filmmaker – then the model, as a simulation, is illustrating – your working life.
Below are the 10 (or – 11, or 12, depending) `steps’ (in Creative Practice Theory) that all the Top 20 writer-hyphenates (filmmakers) went through, in creating the Top 20 RoI Films (the top 20 most-viral films)… and is the `unseen system mechanics’ running behind (underneath) the agent-based model.
So, the `agents’ (Screenwriters – and the Producers) in the CPT agent-based model, all go through these above steps… These are the necessary (but not always sufficient) steps. (i.e.: Maybe you just have no talent. Or maybe you’re just unlucky. Then again – maybe you have huge talent, and are also very lucky. – Who knows. There’s a whole lot of variables, in Life.)
Either way – all of them (these: people) go around, absorbing knowledge (about film), and practising for about 10 years, developing their habitus (`feel for the game’ of filmmaking), and, finally – after about their 10th feature film screenplay for writers (or 10th film, for producers) they (maybe, but not always) produce a work that: the Field (the audience and maybe the critics, etc) judges “creative” (i.e.: either by the film’s viral – or critical – success).
But notably, some of the filmmakers `stop’ at `step #10′ (some of them never receive symbolic awards, such as: an Oscar…)
Importantly, the model shows what happens in the Film System, over Time…
Q: Why did you only include Screenwriters and Producers? Why not, also include, all other creatives that also contribute to the creative artifact (i.e.: a feature film)?
A: Well, it’s just that if we did that, then – while it would certainly be a much more accurate simulation of the real-world Film System – the model itself would then also become exponentially complex – and, would be a big, blobby, jumbly, mess onscreen (like many bad films, really) – and, with so many components (agents) – that it would be quite difficult to see, what is actually happening in the model… (Note also that – using the slider at the top of the model, you can slow down the model – or also – speed it up).
Also, the 2 most important factors in the Top 20 RoI films are – arguably –
(1) the writer-hyphenate (writer-director, writer-producer, or writer-actor) – and
(2) the producer. These are the two `key’ elements… so, these are the focus of the model.
This is actually also why Time is so important, in the model – note that, as you watch the model run – If a writer-hyphenate doesn’t firstly come up with a great (viral) film idea, and then write a script (over time), and then find (or – take on, the role of) a Producer, then: nothing else happens, with that film…
i.e.: their proposed film story doesn’t ever get financed, and then, made… So – the Field can’t then judge the finished film – as, either: Creative, or – otherwise. (As: that film, never actually exists – as a `created artifact’).
So – the `key’ to the agent-based model:
Q: What does all this (the CPT agent-based model) have to do, exactly, with The Top 20 RoI films, again…?
A: If you look closely, when you run the agent-based model, there are actually 2 kinds of scripts:
(1) `green’ ones (ie: scripts judged `creative’ by the Field, i.e. scripts that are admired by Producers, Actors, Directors, and/or film studio Story Analysts, etc) – and –
(2) `yellow’ ones (i.e.: scripts that are not judged “creative”, i.e. worth making).
Let’s zoom in, for a `close-up’ on the model – and see, what’s just about to happen, in one part of the model:
In the image above, the Producer (the little guy in the black suit-and-tie and holding a briefcase) has only `experience’ of 7 out of 100… (i.e. 7%). The problem here is, he really needs experience and habitus of 90% or more (i.e.: about 9 years) before he will likely produce a Creative (i.e.: `good’) film…
Also he’s actually about to Option/acquire a “bad “(yellow) screenplay – as – it’s been written by a Screenwriter (the little `white icon’ guy) who also, only has experience of 10/100 (10%).
So – together, (assuming the film gets financed and made) they are very likely going to: create a film that will be a yellow icon film (a bad one, one that is not judged “creative” by the Field/Audience, once it is screened.) […Maybe just `run’ the model yourself – to see how this all works…]
Note also: (Film) `Knowledge’ = the red patches. (These turn brown, when absorbed. But – they are soon replaced by more Knowledge, in the Domain of film).
So, `knowledge’ (books, films, blogs, anecdotes) = the red patches on the `ground’ (In the model, this is representing, how Domain Knowledge is produced by the Field (e.g. as say, books on filmmaking, or on screenwriting are produced). As this Knowledge and experience is absorbed over time by Individuals, to also become (part of) the habitus of the Individuals, it becomes a brown colour in the Model, but – then is soon replaced by more Knowledge ie – more red patches, again. As: people keep writing books.)
Note that – in the model, Knowledge is constantly being produced, and sometimes lost, and also sometimes changed in the system, as everything evolves, both – as individual units – and, as a whole… as a holon, and a holarchy. (For more on holons and holarchies, see also: Arthur Koestler – The Ghost In The Machine, 1967.)
So – when the model runs (the link is below, so you can run it, in your web browser) – the green (or: “creative”) scripts move over into the `centre green circle’ (the domain of works judged “creative” by the Field). These are the `good’ scripts, and have a good (well, around a 29%) chance of becoming good – i.e. of becoming “creative” (blue-coloured icon) films…
If you look at the little `film’ icons in the model – there are `good ‘ / blue (i.e. “Creative”) ones – and also yellow (“uncreative”/boring/bad) ones…
In the model, (as in the real world, metaphorically/symbolically speaking) the “creative” (i.e.: blue-icon) films move over into the `centre green circle’ – or (in other words) into the `domain of works judged creative by the Field’.
And – therefore – if you are a screenwriter, or a producer (any kind of filmmaker) you really want to have one of the “creative” scripts, and, “creative” films. (Most simply, `Creative’ means `novel and appropriate’). It also basically means: a lot of people like it.
And – notably, 98% of screenplays are not judged “creative” by the field, and 7 in 10 films then made from those “creative” scripts – are also, then – not judged creative by the Field (i.e.: the Audience and Critics, etc.) The Top 20 RoI films and the Bottom 20 RoI films are the `extreme examples’ of “creative” and “uncreative” films – as judged by the Film Field, at large.
So – again, a `key’ to the agent-based model:
(and – I guess, maybe in the interests of equality, I should have put little `dresses’ on some of the icons, but – I just didn’t have time to do that. Also – that’s probably accidentally discriminating against a whole gender here. Who knows. – The model `icons’ are really meant to represent: all possible sexes, and all possible genders… and, races – and ethnicities… and: all bio-cultural predispositions).
As in the above key, usually – (on average) it takes around 10 years for a screenwriter to: internalize the domain, and this means that they spend around 9 years, writing around 9 feature film screenplays that are not-so-hot, and then – around their 10th year, after a lot of hard work, they finally manage to `get it all together’ (i.e.: Premise, Theme, Structure, Characterisation, Dialog, Style, Tone, Pacing, Voice) and – finally, write a feature film screenplay that is *great* (i.e.: that producers read, and judge “creative” – i.e. `novel and appropriate’).
The same `10-year rule’ in Creativity also applies to Film Producers (in fact, to most creative fields), as oftentimes Producers also spend around 10 years, `internalizing the domain’ of Film (specifically, of Film Producing) and – may then, produce a film that the Field (the Film Audience and Critics) judge “creative” – ie `novel and appropriate’. (This is all an average, as, some people manage to do it, in 5 years. Some take 15… and so forth.)
So – this entire process, including the other steps in Creative Practice Theory, listed above – is: what the agent-based model is intended to illustrate, and simulate.
So – the agent-based model is really just, an informative / `educational’ tool – to show, How The Film System Works, when all the key elements/`agents’ are `in action’: lots of people (`agents / individuals’), all running around in the Field, and making choices, and, going to parties, and pitching movie ideas, and watching lots of movies, absorbing knowledge and experience and developing their habitus, and thus, writing lots of `bad’ film scripts, making `bad’ movies, until — finally — some of them manage to make: great ones (i.e.: “creative ones” – as judged by the Field).
Notably – there are 2 (major) forms of Creativity, in film:
(1) viral (commercial) success,
(2) critical (e.g.: awards) success.
The viral films, are: the high-RoI films. – Those are the ones that the StoryAlity Theory is mainly focussed on…
Q: So – What’s the `difference’ between StoryAlity Theory and Creative Practice Theory, then?
Nothing, really. Except – StoryAlity Theory is `the whole theory ‘(of: film virality, i.e. – Why do some films succeed in going viral, and not, others?) – and – Creative Practice Theory is just one major component of StoryAlity Theory.
To be specific, Creative Practice Theory (or: CPT) looks at the
(1) Creative Person – and – their:
(2) Creative Process (which, is identical, across all the Top 20 filmmakers, in these broad terms – the ten or so `steps’, outlined above) – and then, further to that – Creative Practice Theory Narratology (or: CPTN) looks at the:
(3) Creative Product – (i.e. the actual film) – and to be specific, the film storytelling / filmmaking techniques – in the Top 20 RoI Films. In short, CPTN examines closely the content and the form of `the film’ itself. (In fact, of all twenty, Top-20 RoI films).
So – once you put both things together, (i.e.: Creative Practice Theory – and Creative Practice Theory Narratology) — you then have: StoryAlity Theory.
There is a StoryAlity Screenwriting Manual, here.
StoryAlity Theory is intended to provide practical tools for screenwriters/filmmakers, who want to increase the probability of their film going viral, in the culture.*
(* Results may vary… – We also need to remember that – there is always a writer involved – a beautiful and unique snowflake – who has certain biological and cultural predispositions, to begin with. – Of course, life experience and therefore habitus differs, in each case… Even identical twins have different folds in their brain membranes, so, they think differently. Everyone is different. And yet – amazingly – there are also certain human characteristics that totally unite humanity. – It’s amazing and beautiful, and possibly even gives you a big lump in your throat. ‘Scuse me a sec, while I go get a Kleenex. – For the things that unite humanity, see this post for more.)
Q: JT – Remind me again, why you did all this? Why did you make this Creative Practice Theory agent-based model, thingy..?
A: Well, the agent-based model really has 3 main purposes:
(1) This way, it’s easier for many people to `get their heads around’: (a) Film / Creativity ecosystems, and how they work – and (b) iterative-and-recursive, confluence systems models (which – the Film Industry is, of course) – and (c) evolutionary algorithms… (e.g.meme: selection, variation and transmission). (Films are memes, as are all the ideas/concepts in their stories. Feature film stories are, in fact, memeplex holarchies.)
(2) The Creative Practice Theory agent-based model provides a clear explanation, for people who also don’t quite see “the big picture” (with – Creativity in the film industry, say.) As to: Why it’s useful, to look at the Top 20 RoI Films – and compare-and-contrast them to the Bottom-20 RoI Films. (And thus, we arrive at: the 30 key characteristics of: highly-viral feature films).
(3) Some people also find it tricky to (mentally) “extrapolate” the systems model (the Creative Practice Theory systems model of the Film Industry) over `Time’… So – the model (when it runs) also helps to show, How It All Works, over Time.
So, yeah… that’s, pretty much, the reasons I did it…
It’s all highly bio-cultural: namely, both biology – and culture – play their parts in these sorts of systems… (with regard to: Creativity, and specifically, Film).
And so, if you haven’t, then maybe see also: Creative Practice Theory – What Is It?
And possibly, see the entire StoryAlity blog, for more.
Also, one other excellent way to view the (revised) systems model of creativity is – as revised by Dr Susan Kerrigan, PhD in 2013:
Maybe also, see: Frequently Asked Questions about StoryAlity Theory.
Comments always welcome.
High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher
The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky
JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/
The Creative Practice Theory agent-based model was created with NetLogo – http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/ and please note that:
`NetLogo is a multi-agent programmable modeling environment. It is used by tens of thousands of students, teachers and researchers worldwide. It also powers HubNet participatory simulations. It is authored by Uri Wilensky and developed at the CCL. You can download it free of charge.’
The agent-based model computer program is an adaptation of the NetLogo Wolf-Sheep Predation model (Wilensky 1997), adapted by the author (Velikovsky) under Creative Commons, by changing various lines of computer code, adding others, and changing the interface, graphics and the model instructions for users as required. As both models represent an ecosystem in action (and the film industry functions as an ecosystem), many parameters directly correlate.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1999), ‘Implications of a Systems Perspective for the Study of Creativity’, in R. Sternberg (ed.), Handbook of Creativity, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 313–35.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly and Wolfe, Rustin (2000), ‘New Conceptions and Research Approaches to Creativity: Implications for a Systems Perspective of Creativity in Education’, in K. A. Heller, et al. (eds.), International Handbook of Giftedness and Talent (2nd ed. edn.; Amsterdam; Oxford: Elsevier), p 81.
Kerrigan, Susan (2013), ‘Accommodating creative documentary practice within a revised systems model of creativity’, Journal of Media Practice 14: 2, pp. 111–127, Doi: 10.1386/jmpr.14.2.111_1
McIntyre, Phillip (2008) ‘The Systems Model of Creativity: Analyzing the Distribution of Power in the Studio’, 4th Art of Record Production International Conference, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Nov 2008: published in Journal of the Art of Record Production, Issue 4: Supplement to ARP08, The Peer – Reviewed Proceedings of the 2008 Art of Record Production Conference http://www.artofrecordproduction.com/content/view/214/126/
Wilensky, Uri (1997) NetLogo Wolf-Sheep Predation model (NetLogo), Northwestern University Evanston, IL. (http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/)
Suggested Citation for this StoryAlity weblog post:
Velikovsky, JT (2013) `The Creative Practice Theory Agent-Based Model’, StoryAlity weblog post, WordPress.com: https://storyality.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/storyality-43b-the-Creative-Practice-Theory-agent-based-model/