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The Universal/Common Story Structure – and Story Memes – of the Top 20 RoI Films

The Top 20 Audience Reach/Budget Films of the Last 70 Years. Data Source: The-Numbers.com. Analysis: JT Velikovsky

The Top 20 Audience Reach/Budget Films of the Last 70 Years. Data Source: The-Numbers.com. Analysis: JT Velikovsky

First, the 10 common memes (i.e. ideas / concepts / elements).

Given a study of the top 20 RoI Movies, These are the `big-picture’ details of an extremely High-RoI Feature Film Story: (Or, highest cost-benefit ratio film, for both artists and audiences)

StoryAlity High-ROI-Story Criteria (Velikovsky 2012)

StoryAlity High-RoI-Story Criteria (Velikovsky 2012)

#1 – Two-Part Structure – The story is in 2 `parts’: i.e. “Before”, when everything is `going well’; then disaster strikes; and the 2nd part is “After” – when everything goes badly for the hero/s due to `the disaster’. (Note the similarity to Aristotle’s 2-part structure of ancient Greek plays. Not that ancient Greek plays are movies.)

#2 – Villain Protagonist: the villain `acts first’, and “drives” the story – and the hero is constantly reacting to the villain’s actions (and/or their outright attacks on the hero/s).

#3 – Villain Triumphant – the Villain / `story-protagonist’ either: 1) wins (ie the hero either loses, or, dies), and/or 2) escapes justice, and/or 3) at the very least: escapes. (This is in 17/20, and arguably, all top 20 RoI films.)

#4 – No Character `Arcs’ – By the film story’s end the hero/s has not undergone a `transformational character arc’; if anything they are just even more like they were, at the start of the story.

#5 – The 3 Primal Themes – 1) Life & Death, 2) Family/Community, and 3) Justice/Revenge. In other words: all very “survival of the `fittest'”.

#6 – Present Day – the majority of the Top 20 RoI Films (17/20) are set in the Present Day (relative to when they were made). This is logical as period pieces and future stories are (usually) more expensive.

#7 – Temporally Linear – No `parallel narratives’ (like say Rashomon, or Pulp Fiction, or even reversed time like Memento, etc). As cinematically wonderful as those non-linear story structures are (I would suggest those three films are uncontested masterpieces) the structure of the top 20 ROI Films, is just plain: Linear. There are narrative ellipses (eg Starting with the Backstory: 30 Years Prior, as with Halloween and Friday The 13th), but otherwise the films are linear. The assumed exception is Primer but, as a time-travel story, it is actually linear.

#8 – A Love Story – This is not in all 20 (it is absent in The Blair Witch Project). But is in the majority (19 out of the 20). So include a love story in your High-ROI Film Story, if you wish – but it is clearly not essential for a Top 20 RoI Film.

#9 –  Be a Writer-Hyphenate – all 20 of the top 20 RoI films, the Writer (and conceiver of the Story) was involved in production (as Director, Actor or Producer, etc), and, did not simply provide the Story/Screenplay and then `step aside’ during production/further story development. Note also how this also correlates with DK Simonton’s finding in the excellent Great Flicks (Simonton, 2011) – whereby, overwhelmingly, the writer-director is more successful in realizing a quality (award-winning) cinematic vision. (Is this an argument for auteur theory? Yes, but only in the case of Writer-hyphenates with this empirical Top 20 RoI study, and, in the case of Writer-Directors in Simonton’s empirical study. Classical auteur theory posits the director as the `Author’ of the film. Contrapositionally, this new knowledge positions the Writer-hyphenate as `the primary author’ of the Top 20 RoI Films.)

#10 – Use the StoryAlity Story Structure Syntagm – see below, for the 10-Act Story Structure in all 20 of the Top 20 RoI films. These 10 key ideas/memes/points above (including, the story structure below) can increase the statistical probability of your film going viral. (Note: Do they guarantee it? No. Luck and timing/Zeitgeist plays a part; and this largely cannot be controlled. However – these (memes, listed here) are: 10 things that can indeed be controlled, by a film storyteller/writer/director/creative producer.)

The Film/Story/Screenplay Structure of All 20 Top 20 RoI Films

The StoryAlity Syntagm (Velikovsky 2012)

The StoryAlity Syntagm (Velikovsky 2012)

The Top 20 RoI Films – Screenplay Page-Counts:

The StoryAlity(TM) Syntagm

The StoryAlity(TM) Syntagm (Velikovsky 2012)

Act 2 – Ending at the 2% mark – Page 2 (of 90 pages) – An Ally Complains.

Act 3 – Ending at the 5% mark – Pages 3 to 4 (of 90 pages) – An Obstacle Appears. 

Act 4 –  Ending at the 8% mark – Pages 5 to 7 (of 90 pages) – Pursuit/The Chase.

Act 5 – Ending at the 14% mark – Pages 8 to 12 (of 90 pages) – The Shape Of Things To Come and The Thematic Dialog Line.

Act 6 – Ending at the 23% mark – Pages 13 to 20 (of 90 pages) – Trouble In Paradise.

Act 7 – Ending at the 38% mark – Pages 21 to 32 (of 90 pages) – Paradise Lost.

Act 8 – Ending at the 61% mark – Pages 33 to 53 (of 90 pages) – The Descent Into Hell.

Act 9 – Ending at the 85% mark – Pages 54 to 73 (of 90 pages) – The Battle Royale.

Act 10 – Ending at the 100% mark – Pages 74 to 90 (of 90 pages) – The Villain Triumphant.

As a graph, this story structure looks like so:

10-Act StoryAlity Structure Graph

The 10-Act StoryAlity Structure Graph

An analysis of the Top 20 RoI Film Stories, revealing the StoryAlity structure:

The Top 20 Audience Reach/Budget Films of the Last 70 Years. Data Source: The-Numbers.com. Analysis: JT Velikovsky

The Top 20 Audience Reach/Budget Films of the Last 70 Years. Data Source: The-Numbers.com. Analysis: JT Velikovsky

STORYALITY™ STRUCTURE – for all Top 20 RoI Films

StoryAlity Spirality

1.    PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – STORYALITY™ STRUCTURE 

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Micah at home with new camera, Katie arrives home The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Katie jokes about the cost of the camera An Ally complains

3

5 %

They need some way to make “it” appear“This is great, we’re gonna get proof!” An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Micah tries to get Katie to strip, on camera Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Katie confesses about the shadow/demon that has haunted her since she was a teen. “So, basically, this thing sticks to you, Katie… It’s not the house, as such…” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

The Doctor leaves, as, he can’t help them… Katie and Micah argue over calling the Demonologist to help them Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

The chandelier swings wildly: proof of a demon/poltergeist in the house. Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Micah gets the name “Diane” from the Ouija board… The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Katie is desperate, she can feel “it” watching her The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Micah is dead, Katie possessed Villain Triumphant

 

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: At the 14% mark, the psychic Doctor confirms in dialog that, it is Katie that the demon sticks to, and is after/wants. This foreshadowing /dramatic irony is fulfilled from Act 7 onwards.

2.    MAD MAX

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Max works on his pursuit car, a call comes in The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Charlie and Roop argue over who’s driving, then Charlie and Roop crash out An Ally complains

3

5 %

Goose crashes out An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Max chases The Nightrider Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Max puts on the “grumpy-mask”(Max in the `grumpy-mask’ takes the place of a Thematic Dialog line here) The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Toecutter mourns the death of Nightrider, vows vengeance “Remember him when you look at the night sky!” Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

The police are outwitted by the lawyers. Jonny the Boy warns/threatens Max and Goose: “We know who you are!” Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Jessie knees Toecutter in the groin and runs off… The Nomads gang pursues her. The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Now hell-bent on revenge, and with The Interceptor car, Max interrogates the mechanic, asking where the Nomads are? The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Max drives off, more gangs are still at large Villain Triumphant

 

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Max putting on “the grumpy-mask” – ironically foreshadows the events of Act 7 onwards.

3.    THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Heather shows off her home, and the books on The Blair Witch legend The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Mikey is late, they have to go get him… An Ally complains

3

5 %

Heather delivers the to-camera-piece on the 1940’s murders An obstacle appears

4

8 %

The Townsfolk tell about old Mary Brown Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

The two fishermen tell of local witches “You damn kids never learn” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

The 2 boys berate Heather for getting them lost Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

They are lost and the DAT (sound recorder) will be returned late, they will be late for their jobs Paradise Lost

8

61 %

They hear noises in the night, Josh’s gear has been disturbed/slimed The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Heather finds Josh’s teeth in the bundle The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Josh is missing-presumed-dead, Mikey and Heather are dead Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: The fisherman’s line “You damn kids never learn”- ironically foreshadows the events of Act 7 onwards.

4.    EL MARIACHI

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

AZUL is on the phone in his prison cell The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

The Prison Warder turns the lights on, and, annoyed, Azul turns the lights back off An Ally complains

3

5 %

Azul wants the money El Moco owes him. El Moco wonders if he should indeed break Azul out of prison, if this is his attitude? An obstacle appears

4

8 %

El Moco’s men arrive to kill Azul, Azul’s men kill them – and Azul escapes… Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

The Mariachi is hitchhiking, by the road… People drive by.V/O: “That day was much like any other… No love, no luck, no ride… No change.” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Azul shoots 2 of El Moco’s men in the bar Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Mariachi is pursued at his hotel by Moco’s men Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Mariachi has a nightmare / premonition of the graveyard The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Mariachi is knocked unconscious – and driven to Moco’s ranch The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Domino is dead, Mariachi is now missing a hand (his guitar career is likely over), and also his guitar is gone Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Mariachi’s line about “no love, no luck, no ride – no change” – ironically foreshadows the events of Act 7 onwards.

5.    NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

John and Barbara arrive at the cemetery to place the annual wreath for their father The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

John complains about the 6 hours of driving, to get there and back An Ally complains

3

5 %

The ghoul attacks and kills John An obstacle appears

4

8 %

The ghoul chases Barbara, she tries to escape but crashes the car Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Barbara screams at the faceless corpse upstairs, she screams when Ben appears. 3 ghouls are approaching outside the house”Do you live here?” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Barbara becomes catatonic and hysterical, she wants to go out and get Johnny Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

On the news, Barbara sees that some of the victims have been partially-devoured Paradise Lost

8

61 %

On the TV, it is revealed the Venus probe is responsible, and that the dead are coming back to life, as flesh-eating ghouls The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

The TV says the radiation is increasing. Harry tells Helen he needs the gun that Ben has… the power to the house goes off. The Battle Royale

10

100 %

The last survivor in the house, Ben, is killed by Sherriff McClelland’s men Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Ben’s line to Barbara “Do you live here?” – ironically foreshadows the events of Act 7 onwards: she does not live there, and in fact – they all will die there.

6.    ROCKY

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Rocky fights Spider Rico in the run-down boxing gym The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Rocky is head-butted by Spider Rico. A female fight fan calls Rocky a “bum” An Ally complains

3

5 %

Rocky shares some booze with the local hoboes An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Rocky tries to court Adrian, she ignores his advances Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Rocky’s boxing gear has been cleared out from his old locker – and put on `Skid Row’. In the bar, Rocky says: “Hey, Andy, are you crazy? This man is champion of the world. He took his best shot and become champ. Huh? What shot did you ever take?” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Apollo Creed decides to give a local fighter a fight Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Adrian doesn’t understand why anyone would be a fighter, Rocky says you have to be a moron Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Rocky gets furious at Paulie and pummels the beef carcass The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Creed ridicules America, the fight begins The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Creed wins the fight, Rocky is beaten to a pulp Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Rocky’s line: “Hey, Andy, are you crazy? This man is champion of the world. He took his best shot and become champ. Huh? What shot did you ever take?” ironically foreshadows the events of Act 7 onwards: Rocky “takes his best shot”, although he ultimately loses the fight to Creed.

7.    HALLOWEEN

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Young Michael Myers watches in secret as his sister fools around with her boyfriend The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

It’s late, the boyfriend has to leave An Ally complains

3

5 %

Michael stands before his shocked parents, holding the bloody knife An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Dr Loomis and Nurse go to collect Michael from the sanitarium – but he escapes Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

As Laurie drops the key at the Myers house – as Michael is inside, watching her. The boys (teasing Tommy at school): “He’s gonna get you, He’s gonna get you / Boogeyman is coming! / Don’t you know what happens on Halloween? / Boogeyman, boogeyman, boogeyman!” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Annie yells “Hey jerk – speed kills!” at Michael as he stalks them – he halts… Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Myers drives past Loomis and Brackett having stolen murder-weapons from the hardware store Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Myers carries Annie’s corpse into the Wallace house The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Laurie discovers the dead Annie, Bob and Linda in the Wallace house. Myers pursues her. The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Many are dead, and Myers has escaped. Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: When Tommy Doyle carries a pumpkin at school, the boys line: “He’s gonna get you, He’s gonna get you / Boogeyman is coming! / Don’t you know what happens on Halloween? / Boogeyman, boogeyman, boogeyman!” ironically foreshadows the events of Act 7 onwards: although Tommy Doyle himself is spared.

8.    AMERICAN GRAFFITI

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Curt, Steve, Terry and John meet at Mel’s The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Curt thinks the $2k Moose Lodge scholarship is small – and doesn’t want to go off to college anyway An Ally complains

3

5 %

John bemoans that cruising the strip isn’t what it used to be 5 years ago, the town is dying An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Curt sees the gorgeous Bond Woman in the t-bird Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Terry accidentally reverses, and has a fender-bender“Well, that’ll be the day, when you say goodbye – Yes, that’ll be the day, when you make me cry –  You say you’re gonna leave, you know it’s a lie – ‘Cause that’ll be the day when I die” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Curt’s old teacher tells him to leave Modesto Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Curt chases after the blond goddess but to no avail Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Curt vouches for the Pharaohs as they rob Mr Gordon’s pinball machines The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Curt goes to the radio station with his dedication for the blond goddess, John races Bob Falfa The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Curt leaves town to go to college. Postscript: John is killed in Vietnam Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: the Buddy Holly song “That’ll Be The Day” plays in Act 5, underscoring that this is the last day Curt will spend in Modesto before leaving for college. Notably, the lyrics from the score in American Graffiti are literal, rather than ironic counterpoint.

9.    CLERKS

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Dante wakes up, the dog has stolen his bed The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Dante complains about getting called into work today, it’s his day off An Ally complains

3

5 %

The Chewlie’s Gum rep talks a Customer out of buying some cigarettes An obstacle appears

4

8 %

The Chewlie’s Gum rep turns more Customers against Dante, and smoking Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Ronnie nags Dante about going back to study/school. Ronnie tells Dante that although she has blown 36 guys, she has only slept with 3 – and – they were only guys she loved. The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Dante learns that “the love of his life”, Caitlyn (who, admittedly, cheated on him 8 and ½ times) is getting married Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Dante and Randall cope with stupid, annoying customers (e.g. the perfect egg shopper). Randall sells cigarettes to an underage girl. Paradise Lost

8

61 %

A policeman asks Dante if he was here all day (and therefore sold cigarettes to an underage girl), Dante says yes. Caitlyn appears. The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

The Police confirm how Caitlyn had sex with a dead guy in the toilet. Dante and Randall fight. The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Ronnie has broken up with Dante. Dante and Randall are resigned to working at the store. Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: when Ronnie tells Dante she only slept with 3 guys, and they were only guys that she loved, ironically after Silent Bob gives him advice on women, Dante later realizes (too late): that Ronnie does indeed love him, and that he loves her.

10.          ONCE

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Guy busks, singing in the street. The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

The Junkie steals Guy’s busking money. An Ally complains

3

5 %

Girl applauds his playing. An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Girl has a broken vacuum cleaner, she will bring it for him to fix Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Girl and Guy play his song together (Falling Slowly) at the music store, and begin to fall for each other. “I don’t know you, but I want you, all the more for that… Take this sinking boat and point it home, We’ve still got time. Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice, You’ll make it now” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Guy plays “Broken Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy”, and tells how his ex broke his heart. Girl asks, if he will go back to her? No, he says. Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Girl wants to write lyrics to one of his songs Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Girl tells Guy she loves him (in Czech), he doesn’t fully understand/realize The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

They drive, and celebrate the recording of the demo; Guy asks her to come over The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Guy and Girl go back to their respective, ill-matched partners Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: when Guy and Girl play/sing the words to “Falling Slowly” they are falling for each other, and – ironically from Act 7 onwards, they both make the wrong choice – and finally go back to their old (mismatched) partners.

11.          NAPOLEON DYNAMITE

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Napoleon waits out front of his house for the school bus The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

The kid on the bus asks Napoleon what he will do today, Napoleon rebukes him An Ally complains

3

5 %

Napoleon tells his Nessie news, the jocks react An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Napoleon tries to get Kip to come pick him up from school Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Napoleon and Kip are advised by Rex the martial arts teacher, they need 3 things: a buddy; a disciplined self-image(a good outfit) and self-respect from having an ideal romantic partner (Starla the female bodybuilder in Rex’ case). The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Napoleon’s tater-tots are crushed by the jock sitting next to him Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Pedro is going with Deb, but Napoleon has no date for the dance, and he decides to draw Trish to impress her Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Summer, Trish and Don hand out VOTE FOR SUMMER pamphlets and buttons, Pedro feels sick and goes home The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Napoleon performs Pedro’s skit (the dance) The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Napoleon, Deb and Pedro are still outsiders Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Rex tells his class (including Napoleon and Kip) they need: a buddy (someone who has your back); a disciplined self-image (better clothes); and self-respect (as Rex claims no-one thinks Rex is a failure since he goes home to Starla the bodybuilder every night) – and, ironically – Napoleon ends up with: a buddy (Pedro), better clothes (a brown suit bought for the prom), and Deb.

12.          OPEN WATER

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

At home, Daniel and Susan pack for their trip The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Daniel must wait for Susan to get off the phone An Ally complains

3

5 %

The remote island and wildlife (lizard) are seen An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Daniel and Susan buy things at the markets, he puts his head inside a shark’s mouth Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Daniel and Susan are troubled/attacked by wildlife/a mosquito in their hotel room. On the boat, Davis the dive instructor tells them “You don’t really have to worry about sharks…” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Seth bullies another diver into joining him on the dive Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Daniel and Susan resurface: the boat is gone Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Daniel sees Susan has a shark-bite on her leg The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

A thunderstorm rages, something (a shark) rubs against Susan’s leg The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Daniel and Susan are dead Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Davis the dive instructor tells them “You don’t really have to worry about sharks…” but ironically, when left out at sea, this becomes the main thing Daniel and Susan have to worry about.

13.          FRIDAY THE 13TH

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

The camp counselors play and sing The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Claudette complains to Barry – someone will see them! An Ally complains

3

5 %

The unseen stalker kills Barry and Claudette An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Annie needs a life to Camp Crystal Lake Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Ned, Marcie and Jack joke about sex – Steve uses an ax to remove a tree stump.Marcie: “Sex all you ever think about?” Ned: “No, no. Absolutely not. Sometimes, I just think about kissing women.” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Annie is killed by the unseen stalker Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Ned sees a stranger enter one of the shacks – and follows Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Brenda is blinded by the lights coming on at the archery range, her dying scream is heard The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Alice finds the dead Annie and Steve and runs from Mrs Voorhees to the shed The Battle Royale

10

100 %

All the counselors are dead except Alice, and Jason is still at Camp Crystal Lake Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Marcie asks Ned if “sex is all he ever thinks about”, and he jokes about it – but ironically, whenever any of the camp counselors is having sex, Mrs Voorhees takes revenge for her son and kills them – as the counselors were having sex when they should have been watching her son Jason – which is why Jason had his swimming accident, and became retarded.

14.          SAW

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Adam wakes up in the bathtub The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Dr Lawrence says calling for help is no use, he’s already tried that An Ally complains

3

5 %

They find the tape An obstacle appears

4

8 %

They find the saws in the toilet Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

At the crime scene, Paul is dead – having crawled through the razor-wire.John/Jigsaw: “Hello, Paul. You are a perfectly healthy, sane and middle-class male yet last month you ran a straight razor across your wrist. Did you cut yourself because you truly wanted to die or did you just want some attention? Tonight, you’ll show me. The irony is that if you want to die you just have to stay where you are, but if you want to live, you’ll have to cut yourself again. Find the path through the razor-wire to the door but hurry. At 3:00 that door will lock and then, this room becomes your tomb. How much blood will you shed to stay alive?” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Lawrence says that Jigsaw tried to set him up for murder Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Diana sees an eye staring at her from her bedroom closet Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Adam shows Dr Lawrence the defaced photo of his wife and child The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Tapp and Zepp grapple, Zepp escapes, Tapp chases Zepp The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Adam is dead, Dr Lawrence is likely dead from blood loss, Jigsaw wins Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: John/Jigsaw actually points out the irony, within the dialog itself; all the deathtraps John/Jigsaw sets up throughout the story are intended to reflect this same irony (i.e. It is only when facing our impending death that we truly appreciate life).

15.          PRIMER

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Aaron, Abe, Robert and Phillip at work, in Aaron’s garage The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Abe and Aaron want to try a different project than Robert’s planned project An Ally complains

3

5 %

Abe and Aaron discuss how to break away and try their own research idea An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Abe and Aaron gather the materials to use in their experiment Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

The static-charge of the machine works (the test-confetti floats)”Abe had taken on the task of quantifying and explaining the device. But as weeks became months… their enthusiasm became a slow realization that they were out of their depth.” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Abe and Aaron know they have invented something of value but need to keep it quiet Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Abe reveals Abe’s time-travelling double to Aaron Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Aaron and Abe argue about whether to tell anyone else about their time-travel device The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Aaron’s double drugs Aaron and imprisons him in the attic The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Abe and Aaron threaten each other, their friendship is destroyed. Aaron escapes to a foreign country Villain Triumphant

 

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Aaron’s V/O line that “Abe had taken on the task of quantifying and explaining the device. But as weeks became months… their enthusiasm became a slow realization that they were out of their depth” is ironic as – later, they realize that ethically they are out of their depth, once Abe and Aaron begin trying to outsmart each other, using the time machine.

16.          THE EVIL DEAD

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

The 5 friends drive along the road The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Scotty complains that Ash’s car’s steering needs fixing, it jerked right out of his hands An Ally complains

3

5 %

The bridge is out/damaged An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Scott explores the shed, and finds the creepy skulls, saws and chains Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

The trapdoor to the cellar slams open, by itself.They figure it’s “just a wild animal” in the cellar, they also see a THE HILLS HAVE EYES poster in the cellar, and Scotty jokes that the evil face on the dagger resembles Ash’s old girlfriend. The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Through the windows, The Evil Dead is stalking the 5 friends, inside the shack Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

The bridge has been destroyed, they are now trapped here in the woods Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Scotty has been attacked, Linda is possessed The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

The projector and other objects in the cellar all come to life by themselves The Battle Royale

10

100 %

All are dead except Ash, who is possessed Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: There are numerous examples of dramatic irony  – 1) they figure it’s “just a wild animal” in the cellar, 2) they see a THE HILLS HAVE EYES poster in the cellar, and 3) Scotty jokes that the evil face on the dagger resembles Ash’s old girlfriend. All these things come ironically and true: Cheryl becomes the wild animal in the cellar; the Evil Dead watches them from the hilltops, and Ash’s girlfriend Linda becomes a demonically-evil beast.

17.          E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

ET collects plant specimens The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

The alien ship must leave An Ally complains

3

5 %

Keys and the FBI men appear An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Elliot throws the baseball into the shed, it is tossed back – he runs off, terrified Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

ET emerges from the shed, eating the trail of Reece’s PiecesElliot: “I found him, he belongs to me” The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Harvey barks at ET Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

The FBI are getting close to discovering ET’s location at Elliot’s house Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Keys and the FBI men bug Elliot’s house The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

ET dies and comes back to life, Elliot and the kids put their escape plan for ET into action The Battle Royale

10

100 %

ET is gone, Elliot and the kids are sad, Keys and the FBI have nothing to show for all their work Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: Elliot states “I found him, he belongs to me” but – ironically later – `Keys’ the FBI agent feels exactly the same – Keys: “Elliot, he came to me too. I’ve been wishing for this since I was ten years old, I don’t want him to die.

18.          THE FULL MONTY

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Sheffield, 25 years ago – a thriving hive of industry The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Gaz, Dave and Nathe steal a steel girder, Nathe complains “What if we get caught?” An Ally complains

3

5 %

They see The Chippendales male strip act are a success, but – it means getting nude An obstacle appears

4

8 %

They sneak into the toilets of the “women only” show – Nathe has to find Dave’s wife Jean Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Mandy tells Gaz he will lose custody of their son Nathan, if he cannot raise $700 in child support.When Gerald’s wife finds him chatting with Gaz and Dave, Gerald tells her he is “just chatting with some friends from work”… The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

Gaz’ strip-tease demonstration goes badly Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Guy’s dance routine audition goes badly, and Gerald knows him – his community standing/reputation will be mud Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Looking at girly magazines, the men realize they will be judged harshly on their physical appearance The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Some girls on a park bench mock Guy for being in the paper The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Although the show was mounted, Gaz has not raised the $700 money needed to keep joint custody of his son Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: when Gerald’s wife finds him chatting with Gaz and Dave, Gerald tells her he is “just chatting with some friends from work”… this is dramatic irony as, although none of them are currently employed, they are indeed “friends from work” in that they are all in a strip-act dance troupe together.

19.          STAR WARS

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

As usual, the rebels are on the run from the Imperial army The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

C-3PO says “We’re doomed” An Ally complains

3

5 %

The Princess is captured An obstacle appears

4

8 %

R2-D2 sets off across the desert alone, seeking Ben Kenobi Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Luke is frustrated at being stuck on the farm, and very excited to hear C3PO has been involved in the war… R2-D2 plays back part of the SOS message The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

A Tusken Raider attacks Luke Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Stormtroopers close in on the cantina Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Vader senses Ben’s presence on the Death Star, Han says this plan isn’t going to work The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Han Solo bugs out, the Rebels launch their suicide mission The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Alderaan is destroyed, and Darth Vader escapes (to build an even bigger Death Star) Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: it is dramatically ironic that Luke is excited to hear that C-3PO has been involved in the war against the Empire, since – by helping R2-D2 get to Ben Kenobi – Luke is himself involved in the war effort.

20.          MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING

ACT

%

STORY EVENT

BEAT

1

1 %

Toula and her father Gus are on their way to work at the family restaurant The Hero at home/work/base

2

2 %

Gus tells Toula get married; she looks old An Ally complains

3

5 %

Flashback: Gus constantly lectures the family on Greek history and culture An obstacle appears

4

8 %

Toula fishes her Adult Education brochure out of the garbage Pursuit / “The Chase”

5

14 %

Ian Miller enters the restaurant, Toula falls in love with him on sight The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line

6

23 %

The women must convince Gus it was his idea to let Toula be independent and work at the Travel Agency Trouble in Paradise

7

38 %

Toula tells Ian “it will never work”, as her family is racist – and, he is not Greek Paradise Lost

8

61 %

Ian is overwhelmed by the intense Greekness of Toula’s family The Descent into Hell

9

85 %

Toula has a pimple on her wedding day The Battle Royale

10

100 %

Ian and Toula are forced to live right next door to Toula’s overbearing Greek family, and are now forcing their daughter to embrace her own Greek cultural heritage Villain Triumphant

Note, re: Act 5 – The Shape of Things to Come & the Thematic Dialog / Dramatic Irony line: it is dramatically ironic that Toula complains that Greeks “breed more Greeks – to be loud, breeding, Greek eaters…” when – by the end of the film, Ian and Toula are (apparently) raising their daughter to be exactly that.

——————————————————————————————————

The above Story Structure can therefore be observed in all Top 20 RoI films: They are in fact all the same story structure.

An important question: But is this same story structure in The Bottom 20 RoI Films? (Note: It is not in all of them, many of them are also not `Villain Triumphant’ like the Top 20  – and even if it were in the Bottom 20, this is the structure that is in evidence in all Top 20 RoI films.

Consider also Plato’s philosophy, that there are `ideal forms’ in nature; consider also that Aristotle preached The Golden Ratio; The Golden Ratio is contained in the Fibonacci Sequence; and The Fibonacci Sequence is `the story structure’ of the above films.) *

———————————————————————————————————

On Gender Inequality in the Creativity (Creative: Person, Process, Product, Place, Persuasion) behind the Top 20 RoI Films…

Bio-Psycho-Socio-Cultural memes (ideas, processes, and products): `Love' and `Marriage'.

Bio-Psycho-Socio-Cultural memes (i.e. ideas, processes, and products): For example, `Love’ and `Marriage’. (Are they just bio-psycho-socio-culturally CONSTRUCTED-?! Whose idea was THIS-???) By the way I’m not opposed to it. But WHOSE IDEA WAS IT(?!)

When we examine both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of Creativity (ie, the Creative: person, process, product, place, and persuasion) behind each of the top 20 RoI films closely, an interesting finding emerges.

It is perhaps fascinating, to note that:

`Of the top 20 RoI films of the past 70 years, only 2 of the films were – apparently “officially” – written by women… This is an outrage.

(Who let some women make not one – but two super-viral films?)

I am of course, kidding.

But – it’s actually no joke.

Quite seriously – Why is the ratio of filmmakers (writer-hyphenates) in the top 20 RoI films: 10% female and 90% male – and not, closer to say: 50% female / 50% male?

This is gender inequality (and/or under-representation) of some kind.

So I hereby suggest this Question, as another `Direction For Further Research’ by any willing and able scholars in consilient Evocriticism (e.g. influenced and inspired by scholars such as: David Bordwell, Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, John Gottschall, Michelle Scalise Sugiyama, Dennis Dutton, Ellen Dissanayake, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, David Buss, et al), and in fact – scholars in all Schools of Thought in academia.

A Possible Research Q: What are the bio-psycho-socio-cultural reasons for – and, causes of – this massive gender inequality – or clear and simple under-representation, in the `big-c’ Creativity (Creative: person, process, product, place, and persuasion), behind the Top 20 RoI Films?

I therefore randomly conjecture: (as per, Popper)

Is it perhaps, partly because, only (or, at least, primarily) `spotty teenaged males’ go to see Horror genre films in the cinema? 

(Speaking as a former: `spotty teenaged male’ – who in fact also used to take girls on dates to Horror films, not least as, I enjoyed the Genre personally, as a teenager aiming to make sense of the looming horror that is `the adult world’, but also – so that hopefully my date might get a little bit scared in the movie, and, it might also possibly be a good excuse to cuddle, and stuff.

Propriety suggests that perhaps I need not be more specific in what I mean here by “stuff”.)

But if that is indeed the case, that only spotty teenaged males go to see Horror Films (an empirical study would resolve this question) then – Is there a far better way (i.e. more effective and efficient, in terms of `cost-benefit ratios’ for screenwriters / filmmakers, and, bio-cultural evolution) for say females – in general and also specifically – to get their preferred memes (ideas, processes, products) into culture in the same way theatrical cinema feature films do this, for say `spotty teenaged males’?

What are perhaps some current alternatives to a movie with theatrical cinema distribution? (What about say for example, Korsakow multi-linear online films? Or – other platforms that are similar to, but do not directly-compete with, theatrical cinema films, for audience attention?)

Or – if theatrical cinema distribution is indeed a preferred option, then how best might female-authored films compete (and/or co-operate) with: the attention that is clearly given by audiences to, primarily `male-authored’ films?

(Acknowledging also that `Group Creativity’ of all cast and crew in cinema creation is important – and necessary, but usually not sufficient – without a film story and/or screenplay, first. The cause of most films is: a screenplay. The cause of most film screenplays is: a story. Who writes a story? A screen writer who comes up with a Screen Idea. How did the top 20 RoI screenwriters come up with their highly-viral idea? i.e. The idea is different across all top 20 RoI films – but – What was their universal Creative process – and how might knowledge of that Creative process, help others? i.e. See: the systems model of Creativity.)

Do all high-RoI films need to appeal equally to all sexes (and all genders)?  (Not necessarily, but the existing top 20 RoI would appear to do so.)

Is there one right way to appeal to all sexes, and genders with a story? (No. There are many different solutions, that all work well enough, i.e. `satisficing’. See David Bordwell and Brian Boyd on the specific `problem-solution’ model in film, and art, and literature. See also Csikszentmihalyi and Getzels on `Problem-Finding In Art’. See also Eva Novrup Redvall on Creative Problem Finding and Solving, in Film/TV.)

What does this data (the Top 20 RoI Films and their stories and content and the `holonic memes’ – or `ideas/concepts’ – in them) tell us all, about: Human Nature, as reflected in, cinema-going audiences?

And perhaps most importantly – Does the domain of human Evolutionary Psychology hold some answers about Universal Human Nature – that screenwriters / filmmakers can use to their advantage in telling (more or less) Universal Human Stories – that reflect accurately, honestly, interestingly and entertainingly, The Human Condition?

What indeed does it mean, to be: Human?

And – how might we (perhaps) change it for the better?

Are we humans `animals’? (Yes.)

Or – have we evolved past that phase? (Doubt it.)

Whether animals or not, How might we become better humans?

What exactly are our Universal Human Values, and – Why? How did they become our Universal Human Values?

And, how far can I take this whole line of questioning without completely departing from Reality and entering the realm of speculative philosophy and Metaphysics?

And if I do that (go into Metaphysics), Is this why non-academics complain that there is a disconnect between `theory’ and `practice’? 

Is is possible to go too deeply into a Question?

Was Professor Brian Boyd right, when he asked “What’s Your Problem, and How Might We Deepen It?” (in `Scientific Study of Literature’ 2013)

And Why is this starting to read like a James Joyce stream-of-consciousness novel?

Wait… Speaking of Brian Boyd…

Was Sir Karl Popper right?

Is: All Life (just: Creative) Problem-Solving?

Does Evolutionary Epistemology explain everything?

And – if we arrive at a (and, not “the”) right answer: How would we actually know?

Would we recognize a `right answer’ if we saw it?

Is the only answer: Whether or not, the Problem-Solution actually *works* in the real world?

Is the `hero’s journey monomyth’ actually, really just a metaphor for all problem-solving ?

(If so, then why isn’t it in all of the top 20 RoI Films? Why is it in so few of them?)

 

And – Ultimately: Does all of this, actually solve real-world Problems – for screenwriters, and for filmmakers? (Both male and female, and, any other gender?)

 

In fact, have the real-world Unsolved Problems in the Domain of Film actually been correctly identified, by a consensus in the Field of the Film Domain, in the first place-?!

 

…And will I remember to order more question-marks from the stationary store on Wednesday-??’

 

(Velikovsky 2014)


At any rate (apologies for all the Philosophy there, pheeew. Asking questions is hard work.)

The Top 20 RoI Films of the Past 70 Years:

The Top 20 RoI Movies

The Top 20 RoI Movies: Only 2 of the 20 Movies have women screenwriter-hyphenates. ...Why? (Data courtesy of The-Numbers LLC)

These two (amazingly talented and clearly, `big-c’ Creative) female screenwriters who have films in the top 20 RoI lists, are: (1) Nia Vardalos with My Big Fat Greek Wedding  (2002), and also (2) Debra Hill, co-writer (along with Director, John Carpenter) of Halloween (1978).

(I would note, it gets `blurry’ with screenwriting credits of the `found footage’ films within the top 20 RoI list, as the Actors in those films – many of whom, were also female – usually/often improvised a lot of dialog in the Found-Footage films… yet they were given a story Outline/Treatment – ie – A burning question (a PhD I’d Like To See):

A Question: Is dialog-improvisation by actors in found-footage films,`official’ screen-writing…(?) (Velikovsky 2012)

Also – If you then `credit’ an Actor in a Found Footage film as a Co-Screenwriter – many in the audience can get all confused – and, may well start to suspect that it was all `scripted’ and then, doubt that it was “real/found footage”… which, as DeNiro screams in Raging Bull: “It defeats its own purpose!!”.

So, `Hoax’ films (`found footage’ films) blur the lines…)

Consilient Empirical Evidence – about Gender Inequality/Underrepresentation/Discrimination in the Top 20 RoI Films

All things being equal (…HAH-!) – We should expect around: 50% women and 50% men as writers of the top 20 RoI films.

Yet – the evidence reveals around: 10% women. 90% men…(!!!)

So – If anyone (e.g. a `Feminist’, or even just, anyone who is interested in: Gender Equality in general) wanted some strong consilient, empirical evidence, that women are indeed `held back’ in the the domain of film and real-life film industries, and, thus – clearly women (or, females if you prefer that term) face serious (and, incredibly-daunting) obstacles, all along the way – then, I’d suggest, it would be – that evidence right there.

(ie – The `In 2 / 20 films of the Top 20 RoI, the writers are Females’ result – in the top 20 RoI Films dataset.)

– Just in my own view (although, I may well be very biased, as, I also consider myself a Feminist) – as hard as it is, for any Movie Screenwriter to succeed in the game (see: The Less-Than-1% Problem), it is even (much!) harder, if, you should happen to be born, a Female (or even indeed, perhaps, other Genders, and/or, Sexual Orientations).

The top 20 RoI list seems dominated by heterosexuals both in the Creativity behind the films and in the films (stories) themselves. (Though – there are notably some gay themes / ideas / memes in Mad Max (1980).)

And — what is perhaps even more outrageous is – looking closer at the two films that are actually written by the 2 officially-co-credited female screenwriters…

On Looking More Closely At Those 2 Films… And, Being More Outraged…

On the one hand – I happen to greatly admire (even, adore) both of the Top 20 RoI films by females (I in fact love all top 20 RoI films, I suppose my tastes are very broad and eclectic – although my favourite filmmaker is Stanley Kubrick), and, I also personally think, the women who wrote them (Vardalos and Hill), are: Creative geniuses…

But – on the other hand – when we examine what the 2 x (female “co-authored”) films are also `about’, in purely an overly-simplistic, `Thematic’ (or Conceptual/Story/Plot-Premise) meme sense, ie the story memes (ideas) – these two films perhaps are also: incredibly-conservative, and possibly even Gender-repressive or oppressive, and, deeply `stereotypical’ in terms of gender roles in bio-psycho-socio-culture:

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) – is in one respect, about: A sexually-fertile woman solving the problem of: falling in love and settling down to marriage (ie…a biological evolutionary `life-history’ stereotype!)

And:

Halloween – is about a sexually-fertile teenaged female babysitter (another bio-psycho-socio-cultural stereotype!) solving specific problems of: survival, and, finding a boyfriend despite her shyness, as she – and her female (and male) friends are: terrorized by a serial killer!

So – this all makes me think about `Life History’ theory, from Ev Psych. i.e. Maybe, indeed, the great Professor Joe Carroll, and also the eminent Nabokov scholar and Popper biographer, Professor Brian Boyd, and, possibly even everyone in the domain of Evocriticism (Biopoetics, Literary Darwinism) is perhaps right-?!

Maybe, Human Nature (from: the domain of Ev Psych) is what makes films go viral.

And – `Life History’ Theory and Theory of Mind (Tooby & Cosmides, Pinker, Buss, etc) comes into all that…

I suppose – this also helps support the idea in Creativity of bisociation (Koestler 1964), that: combine two old memes/holons (ideas,processes products) to get a new (and, sometimes even) viral meme. Like the top 20 RoI films.

– The ideas (and story structures, etc) in the top 20 RoI films are all very old memes (ideas).

Yet given these top 20 RoI films’ extreme virality (all made over 70 times their production budgets) – the film Field (or, Audience, in Csikszentmihalyi’s terms) clearly, still judged them `new and appropriate’. (See: The Standard Definition of Creativity in the domain of Psychology.)

eg: Runco, MA & Jaeger, GJ (2012), ‘The Standard Definition of Creativity’, Creativity Research Journal, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 92-6.


A Slightly More Extended and Developed Analysis of: Those 2 x Female-Co-Authored Top-20 RoI Films:

Just slightly more detail, about those 2 (female-authored) top 20 RoI films:

(1) My Big Fat Greek Wedding – Is about, an [ethnically-specific] woman (adult female), finding `happiness’ by: Settling down to and inter-ethnic Marriage, with a man she happens to love (or at least, be instantly bio-psycho-socio-culturally physicallyattracted to, ie `love at first sight’), breaking the evolutionary motive / convention of: ethnic in-group marriage.

I actually really appreciate JJ Murphy’s terrific discussion of MBFGW, in his (in my own view, brilliant) book, `Me and You And Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work’ (Murphy 2007))

(As – 17/20 of the top 20 RoI films are – arguably – `Independent’ Films, i.e. all except perhaps ET, Star Wars (and Rocky and My Big Fat Greek Wedding are blurry) although see also what JJ rightly says below — the demarcation of an independent film  is blurry, (and includes a problem of strict definitions; Popper notes definitions of words are not important, but Reality is.)

In that (great!) book about independent film screenplays (2007), JJ Murphy writes:

`The complicated economic relationship between independent films and the studios also causes problems of definition.

For some, independent films represents a sort of minor leagues for the Hollywood majors, a place for debut directors to show off their stuff before graduating to lucrative studio deals and big bucks.

For others, such as Jim Jarmusch, it remains primarily an issue of creative artistic control. He contends: “Anyone who makes a film that is the film they wants to make, and is not defined by marketing analysis or commercial enterprise, is independent.”

Neither financing nor budget alone seem enough to justify the term, for there is also a political aspect to the notion of independence. It implies a more open, more democratic and oppositional stance towards Hollywood’s monopolistic control of production and distribution in this country. Independent films are closer in spirit to the international art film in the sense that they are products of a personal vision either ignored or at odds with the studio system.

Yet it seems clear that there are certain films, often classified as independent, that are clearly no different from mainstream Hollywood films. As a means of clarifying how blurry the lines have become, it might be instructive to discuss an example of what I consider to be a pseudo-independent film, namely, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), which grossed over $241 million domestically and nearly $354 million worldwide, making it the second-highest grossing “independent” film of all time.

Adapted from Nia Vardalos’ one-woman theatrical monologue about the problems of growing up as a Greek-American female, the film was produced on a $5m budget by Tom Hanks and his Greece-born wife, Rita Wilson, along with Gary Goetzman, executive producer on the Oscar-winning film The Silence of the Lambs (1991), in association with Home Box Office…

There are many things wrong with this picture… By glossing over serious dramatic conflicts with pious platitudes, My Big Fat Greek Wedding blocks any kind of interethnic understanding. In its clichéd dialog, vulgar caricatures, broad humour, and over-emphasis on a Greek wedding as spectacle, Vardalos’ film turns out to be much closer to an extended television sitcom than a Hollywood romantic comedy, never mind a bona fide independent film.

It came as little surprise when My Big Fat Greek Wedding was developed into a television sitcom (that quickly failed).’

(Murphy 2007, pp. 4-5)

– In my own personal view, (for, what it’s worth) exactly as JJ’s astute critical analysis of MBFGW (above) shows — viewed from a certain audience position, you can get many things `wrong‘ and still have a Top 20 RoI viral film…(!)

eg – You just have to make a comedy really funny, to a comparatively large number of people. (eg Also like Clerks, which is arguably quite a perverse film, but, funny).

It would appear even in this “modern” age, that Human Nature is quite really conservative, and, holds `traditional’ (ie – Evolutionary) values; apparently believes what `authority’ tells them without questioning it; and in general, doesn’t think very critically at all.

On the other hand — Nia’s (Vardalos) own brand of broad-comedy genius, was of course honed over a long time, by working very hard in comedy Revues, for many years (The Second City troupe, etc) so, there’s all that too… (eg as, support for `the ten-year rule’, in Creativity). And, also a lot of people seem to love that kind of thing (ie broad comedy); so – again, with the `Human Nature’ thing…(?) (See; Evolutionary Psychology, and Evocriticism, literary Darwinism, Biopoetics, etc. for more on: Human Nature…)


And then – the 2nd film in the top 20 RoI list, with a female (co)writer-hyphenate is Debra Hill (who co-wrote Halloween, with John Carpenter.)

(2) Halloween (1978) – is about a female babysitter (Why are babysitters in movies always females? Is there some hidden evolutionary, or, bio-psycho-socio-cultural Evolutionary reason for this? – Is it really just as simple as: Evolutionary Psychology? Or – is it prejudice and bias? Or both? – Or neither? Are females necessarily better `babysitters’ than human males? If so – what might be the possible reason/s for this?) and – all her close college friends, who are terrorized (and, for the most part – brutally murdered) by a male serial-killer, whenever they engage in vaguely or specifically sexual activity of any kind, and thus, trigger off the deranged killer’s apparent-psychotic urge to kill (which I think, in the literature, has been often misconstrued as: `Freudian psycho-analytical’ “sex = death” urge, as I note, most of Freud’s theories have apparently since been falsified, or viewed as problematic for various reasons by the domain of Evolutionary Psychology, (and also not least, by Sir Karl Popper, along with much of Marx in fact, in `All Life is Problem-Solving‘, but – be that as it may).

So, Halloween is also a very conservative film. it appears to reflect the average of what is bio-psycho-socio-cultural norms. (But – just randomly – in his own personal analysis of the horror genre, Danse Macabre (1981), best-selling novelist Stephen King notes that: ‘horror is a conservative as a Republican in a three-piece suit; maybe he happens to be right.)

King (1981) in Danse Macabre:

`Monstrosity fascinates us because it appeals to the conservative Republican in a three-piece suit who resides within all of us.

We love and need the concept of monstrosity because it is a reaffirmation of the order we all crave as human beings…and let me further suggest that it is not the physical or mental aberration in itself which horrifies us, but rather the lack of order which these aberrations seem to imply.’

(King 1981, p.50)

I boldly conjecture, there are so many Horror films in the top 20 RoI list, because: Ev Psych.

The billions of years of evolution (of Life, rather than just: Human Animals) appear to result in: Universal human biological-psychological fears (darkness, predators such as sharks, snakes, strangers, etc.)

For more, see Human Universals (Brown 1991), and also Mathias Clasen’s excellent (unpublished) PhD thesis Monsters and Horror Stories: A Biocultural Approach (and here is an excerpt /article from it)

But I should point out just because 10/20 of the top 20 RoI films are Horror, doesn’t mean, you need to write a Horror Genre film. – Only write what you love. Write what you know. That is certainly one of the common elements in the Creative Person, Process, Product and Place of the top 20 RoI films. The creatives behind these films writers wrote in a genre they: knew, loved, understood, from watching (and absorbing) that Domain (eg say, the comedy genre, or the sports genre, or the sci-fi genre, etc!)

Only you know what you love to see (as a Screen Idea), and write, and make as a film.

Everyone is different. Vive la différence!

A black swan

A black swan (and with apologies to Karl Popper and Nassim Taleb, but see: Fooled By Randomness (Taleb 2001) for more. He also cites Popper in that book.)


 

The Bell-Curve of: Human Nature (derived from the Domain of: Evolutionary Psychology)

Human nature - Gaussian `normal' distribution = bio-psycho-socio-cultural "norms"

Human Nature – the Gaussian `normal’ distribution = bio-psycho-socio-cultural “norms” (see: the domain of Ev Psych) (Velikovsky 2013)

So – when people talk about human bio-psycho-socio-cultural `norms’ (like, love and marriage, and such bio-psycho-social sexual urges and motives, etc – such as in depicted in say Halloween, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding) they are referring to the `red dotted line in the middle’ here, more or less. The average of human nature.

Everyone is of course a beautiful and unique snowflake (and see On The Origin of Stories, Boyd 2009 for more) but also there are some things that we humans as a species share in common, pretty much (otherwise there could not be a book like say, Gray’s Anatomy. But there is and it – more or less – seems to work. As an average or species-typical sort of description.)


The Bechdel Test!

So, for me, (the fact that only 2 out of 20 writers are female, behind the Top 20 RoI films) brings to mind, the Bechdel test! (Alison Bechdel 1985)

Here’s a great idea:

Someone (an academic researcher, and/or independent scholar, etc) should really do a study (eg a PhD or Masters or journal article) on the Bechdel Test in the top 20 RoI films.

i.e. In how many scenes of all the Top 20 RoI films are:

1. A scene with at least two [named] women in it…
2. Who talk to each other…
3. About something besides a man (…?!) (see: Bechdel 1985)

I think that would be an illuminating study about bio-psycho-socio-cultural norms.

(And I suggest, as movie screenwriters, we should write films that deviate from the norm, in terms of accepted traditions. e.g. Write films that convince people say, that climate change is real.

But then, I love the movie Fight Club, I think it is a wonderful example of Détournement! (Using culture, to change culture. As Karl Popper (1999) says in his `Four Worlds’ Theory (of memes, i.e. viral ideas, processes, products) – we are a product of our products.)

`#7. Genetically, then,  the human World 2 is as much a product of World 3 as World 3 as World 3 is a product of World 2.

Or to put it in another way: we are a product of our products, of the civilization to which we all contribute.’

(Popper 1999, pp. 35)

And, as bio-psycho-socio-cultural psychology Creativity researcher Csikszentmihalyi says in his amazing book Creativity (1996):

‘In the last few millennia evolution has been transformed from being almost exclusively a matter of mutations in the chemistry of genes to being more and more a matter of changes in memes – in the information that we learn and transmit to others.

If the right memes are selected, we survive; otherwise we do not…

The future is in our hands; the culture we create will determine our fate.

This is the evolution that Jonas Salk calls metabiological, or E.O. Wilson and others call biocultural.

The idea is the same: survival no longer depends on biological equipment alone but on the social and cultural tools we choose to use.’

(Csikszentmihalyi 1996, pp. 318-9)

In my own personal view, this means: using tools we can take from viral movies (such as: the top 20 RoI films) to make our own super-viral films and thus change society’s views and opinions, beliefs, belief-systems, and values. (or – the memeplexes that make up the holarchy of Culture).

If males do not see women as equals, then in my view, that needs to change.

The system needs to change.

How do we change the system? By figuring out first how it works.

Teresa Amabile and Beth A Hennessey have done amazing research on Creativity. They also did a review of the 10 years of scientific research on Creativity to 2008 in the domain of Psychology (hundreds of books, journal articles and so forth) and found that a systems approach was required to understand Creativity in culture; and notably, Csikszentmihalyi’s bio-psycho-socio-cultural systems model of Creativity (1988-2006) absolutely fits the bill:

The increasingly large concentric circles in this simplified schematic represent the major levels at which creativity forces operate. (Hennessey & Amabile 2010, p. 571)

`The increasingly large concentric circles in this simplified schematic represent the major levels at which creativity forces operate.’ (Hennessey & Amabile 2010, p. 571)

Specifically, in The 2010 Annual Review of Psychology, Hennessey and Amabile also provide a literature review of the recent study of Creativity. They examined 400 books, chapters and journal articles on the study of Creativity that had been published over the ten years, from 1998 to 2008. They concluded that:

`Only by using multiple lenses simultaneously, looking across levels, and thinking about creativity systematically, will we be able to unlock and use its secrets. What we need now are all encompassing systems theories of creativity designed to tie together and make sense of the diversity of perspectives found in the literature— from the innermost neurological level to the outermost cultural level.

(Hennessey & Amabile 2010)

This finding is therefore a validation of the systems theory model of Creativity by Csikszentmihalyi (1988-1999).

And that is also, why I use the systems model of creativity (and the expanded, Creative Practice Theory model) in studying the top 20 most viral films.

Why did they first become the most viral films?

Because: the systems model of Creativity.

So – we can change `the system’.

(Or, at least: We Can Try! By: writing movies that shift public opinion. Ever wanted to change the world for the better,* as a screenwriter?)

(* “Better” as used here is a relative term. i.e. – Better, in whose opinion?)


At any rate, I would very much like to see a Feminist-perspective, consilient Evocriticism, PhD (and/or Masters) study, done by someone (ie anyone) on the two Female-Screenwritten films in the top 20 RoI list. i.e. Why exactly are there only two films by women, in the whole Top 20 RoI list?

(I only say this as: the Research Question I currently have carved out for myself – leaves me no real time for other Research Questions. Yet – I would love to know the answer-!)

Q: Why are there only two women-written films in the Top 20 RoI List?

Some variations on such a Question, are posed below (and hopefully, going towards solving a real-world Problem, of: Limited Opportunities for women, in Creating and Influencing – and Changing – `Culture’, via say, viral Movies.)

Q1 – Is this clear Gender Imbalance because of: prejudice and bias, and deliberate (and, unconscious) male (and sometimes even, female?) discrimination against women? (And: patriarchy, and male domination, etc?) – What might be the Evolutionary (systems) reasons, or causes for this – and how might we overcome these problems in human bio-culture? – Does for example Evolutionary Game Theory (eg John Maynard Smith etc) give some good solutions, that Feminists can use in practice, to solve the problem? Could a high-RoI feature film be written and made, that serves as a `Trojan Horse’ viral meme, changing public opinion in general? (Research from the domain of Opinion Dynamics shows you only need 40% of people to hold an opinion in a group for it to become the prevailing opinion.)***

So maybe: (Did you notice, I am great at asking Questions. More than happy for someone else to solve them, with a PhD-! 😉

Here is another phrasing of the same question, from a different angle:

Q2 – Is it because, perhaps – males tend to make more (say) Sci-Fi and Horror and Fantasy, and females perhaps tend to make more Dramas overall (i.e. more `realistic’ stories about: real-life problems), and say Romantic Comedies? And if so, what are the bio-psycho-socio-cultural reasons that males and females tend to do this/make these kinds of stories? 

(NB – I am just asking/posing a Question here, and maybe the Premises and Assumptions underlying the question are deeply flawed, Or not. Maybe we don’t know, until we look closely at the data – and see what the evidence itself suggests, is the best `approximation to reality’ that we currently have, knowing it will also likely change/evolve – and perhaps also the accuracy of our data might be updated later, as the tools or measuring instruments improve, and given also – Bayes’ Theorem, or: changing your view/opinion based on new data.)

Another version of the same Gender question, from a different angle: (another PhD I’d like to see)

Q3 – Why are the 2 “successful top 20 RoI films by women” just reinforcing stereotypical female social roles (i.e.: a woman looking for a husband, and, a teenage female babysitter looking for a boyfriend). Does bio-psycho-socio-cultural Evolution (perhaps, or not?) explain this, too? And – If so (and – that’s a big `IF’), How might we do more: Directed Bio-Cultural Evolution to aim to fix this problem, and thus, possibly bring about more Gender Equality, in human bio-psycho-socio-culture?

Another similar (possible) research question for a PhD dissertation:

Q4: Or – does the Gender Imbalance in the top 20 RoI Films (only 2 of the 20 films are written by women) just reflect the major audience composition of viral cinema films? – How many women actually go to the movies (ie the theatrical cinema), compared to say, men? Is the typical cinema audience for all films in general, exactly 50% male, and 50% female? Or, what? Is this an `unexamined assumption’? What does the data reveal? (Noting that in Empirical Research, and Science: Data Always Trumps Theoretical Models.)

And – so forth…

Anyway – there are many more Further Research Questions that might lead to a solution of, the (astonishing, yet perhaps not surprising, in another way) real-world Domain Problem that: ONLY 2 OF THE FILMS IN THE TOP 20 ROI FILMS LIST, ARE WRITTEN BY WOMEN…(!)

So – maybe – if anyone reading this knows of someone (eg – say, a post-grad student) who is looking for a `real-life’ Research `problem/topic/question’, then – by all means please do suggest all of this, to them.

(Or, show them this blog-page. It might somehow inspire them! – Perhaps.)

The Question is also, actually, one of the specific “Suggestions For Further Research” I mention at the Conclusion of my PhD dissertation… Though I know, solving real-life problems is incredibly hard, as many of them are wicked-problems, and also, usually, involves a lot of interdisciplinary work.

ie: in `PhD’s I’d Like To See’, in my thesis, I write:

“Another Suggested PhD on this same dataset (the Top 20 RoI films): Why are there only 2 female writers – out of 20 films – in the top 20 RoI films? – Is there one single – or even a few simple reason/s or, are the causes of that situation, perhaps incredibly complex, and deep…? (If so – How deep?)”

 

For more see Brian Boyd’s excellent article: Boyd, B (2013), ‘What’s Your Problem? And How Might We Deepen It?’, Scientific Study of Literature, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 3-7.

(I personally usually tend to fall back on the Systems model of Creativity [Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1996], and to explain how culture (ie Memetic: Selection, Variation and Transmission) works – mainly as it’s all so simple (ie the systems model), and yet it also explains so much (i.e. – the characteristic of a successful scientific theory). Pierre Bourdieu and his practice theory of cultural production (1976-93) also fills in more of the `details’ around the systems model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1996, 2006).

Thus, a synthesis I have created of the two: Creative Practice Theory. – It shows the 10 x stages the Creative screenwriters behind the top 20 RoI films went through, in doing their `big-C’ Creativity.) So other screenwriters may benefit from knowing those stages so they can make sure they go through them, for themselves, and hopefully create a super-viral film. And change the world for the better. (Values are so important: see also Popper on Values, in All Life is Problem Solving, 1999)

Oddly, (but happily), no-one else seems to have previously examined the `top 20 RoI films’ list, for Common Elements in Creativity before (ie – Creative: Person, Process, Product, Place, and Persuasion) — so, it’s a veritable, intellectual (and – even, emotional) gold-mine, as far as `new findings/discoveries’ – and, `potential New Contributions to Knowledge’ goes… i.e. Screenwriters and Filmmakers need to know how to succeed. Success is hard. Failing is easy. See also, Karl Popper on `trial-and-error’ as: Science.)

In my thesis, I actually identify about 30 x different new potential Masters/PhD studies/Research Questions, I’d like to see done on the dataset (ie – the Top 20 RoI films list), as – I obviously don’t have enough time left in my own life, to do the 30 x PhDs myself… So, I do hope some more post-grad students look at solving those real-world problems for everyone…

One day we will truly understand: What Really Makes A Viral, Film / Meme / Holon?

Also – perhaps – on the bright side – I suppose there are, say, all of James Cameron’s movies, (which I happen to adore, but – not as much as I love Kubrick films) and, which always seem to feature a strong female lead… And, I know James Cameron isn’t a female, but – maybe that’s a start… or at least, perhaps `a move in the right direction’ for Gender Equality in the Screen and Creative Industries in general (ie – both Science and the Arts).

In short: We need more Gender Equality in highly-viral Movie Storytelling!

So, I sometimes wish that Human Bio-Culture would evolve, much faster…

(And – I’m very keen for someone to find a way to speed it up!)

Prerequisites to a systems view: continuity and emergence (mya = million years ago; kya = thousand years ago) (Koch in Altmann & Koch 1998, p. 673)

Prerequisites to a Systems View: Continuity and Emergence
(mya = million years ago; kya = thousand years ago) (Koch in Altmann & Koch 1998, p. 673)

…Thoughts? Feedback? Comments?

——————————————–

JT Velikovsky

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/

————————————

NOTES

* Please also note – this suggested story/meme structure above – is entirely optional. Given: Free Will, Agency and Structure, a screenwriter/film storyteller can choose to use any structure they may like for their screenplay/film. Not all filmmakers desire to produce a High ROI Film. Note though, that High ROI films are the most viral films; they spread furthest through the culture via word-of-mouth and the multiplier effect, or what is also referred to as `an information cascade.’) Arguably, most film storytellers aim to reach the widest audience possible, given their film’s production budget. This is the principle that the above story system aims to identify and articulate for the benefit of any and all international feature film storytellers.

Related articles

On Memetics and Cultural Evolution:

  1. StoryAlity #130Why Some Things Are Popular (Velikovsky 2014)
  2. StoryAlity #131 – Why Things (like, some Movies) Are Popular – and – The Anna Karenina principle
  3. StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture (and narreme, or unit of story)
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12 thoughts on “StoryAlity #51 – The Universal Story Structure and Story Memes of the Top 20 RoI Films

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  8. JT – Greetings. Great post again. So when do you finish your PhD work? Your comment about gender in the top 20 ROI films is worth noting however, I suggest the inequality problem maybe bigger with regards to race than gender. There are black women, in fact I just saw one not long ago and I have noticed over the years, when reference is made to inequality and women in behind the camera, an image of a white woman is almost always sure to follow. This of course alienates a large group of people. What are your thoughts as it relates to the top 20 ROI films? I do appreciate your work.
    Phil

  9. Pingback: StoryAlity #17: On Movie Blockbusters and RoI | StoryAlity

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