The StoryAlity High-RoI Film Story & Screenplay Checklist
In 1995, while at film school, I read all the books on screenwriting that existed. I then summarized them into this book, which has over a million downloads.
I then worked as a TV screenwriter (my first TV writing credit was in: 1993), a movie screenwriter, game writer and designer, for 20 years. I also worked as a script reader for major film studios and many independent production companies for 20 years.
Over that 20 years I realized a lot of the screenwriting guidelines were not correct.
So then I did a 5-year fulltime PhD study on High-RoI Movie Screenwriting. You can read the full 450-page PhD thesis, here. (And you definitely should, if you are a screenwriter or a screen reader).
7 in 10 movies lose money, and 98% of screenplays go unmade. That’s a deadly-serious real-world problem if you are in the screen industry. My 2017 PhD solves it.
I’m now also: a high-RoI movie Consultant.
(A PhD is the world expert on their research topic. Nobody else has ever researched this area before, and not in this way. – After publishing the “Screenwriting Wisdom Summary” book, above in 1995 (and – noticing all the flaws and contradictions in the Script Gurus’ “research”) – I actually waited for 20 years (while being a professional screenwriter), for someone else to twig to it, and to do it, and then finally realized – after 20 years of waiting – I would have to do it myself, as apparently, nobody else had the time to do it (it was actually a shocking amount of work, for 5 years fulltime), nor, did many people in the screen industry I spoke to over 20 years [producers, directors] seem to understand: Why scientific research on high-RoI story characteristics actually matters. Some people are under the impression you cannot do scientific research on the Arts. If so see the following…)
Empirical Studies of The Arts – Journal
And see this amazing book:
And this one:
So – if you are fine with all your screenplays not getting made, and with your movie losing money when it does get made – then, you too, can safely: ignore all of this! 🙂
The following is a super-brief Summary, derived from my 2012-17 doctoral research study of Movie RoI.
The following Checklist provides a useful practical tool for the empirical analysis of any film story/screenplay in terms of the expected/probable RoI (Return on Investment). The checklist aims to avoid the “single-cause theory” that many can apply to movie success… Movies are not ever successful for one single reason alone: there are many things they “do right” and likewise – many things that they “do wrong” that, they tend to avoid…
The Checklist is recommended for use, by: Screenwriters, Filmmakers, Screenplay Development Executives, Professional Script Readers / Story Analysts, Directors, Actors, Producers, and any and all film industry Creatives.
Also, even more importantly: Film Financiers, Investors and Marketers can also use this Checklist as an analytical Story/Screenplay tool – to assess, given probability, the RoI potential of any movie project.
The key data-set of the research is – The Top 20 RoI Movies of the last 70 Years:
GENRE BREAKDOWN – The Top 20 RoI Movies:
THE STORYALITY HIGH-RoI MOVIE CHECKLIST
Please also note, these StoryAlity Theory Guidelines (The Checklist) are: a probability calculus.
If any writer/filmmaker desires, they can certainly choose not to use, all x 30 of these StoryAlity Theory Guidelines… They may of course choose to use (say) only 29 out of the 30 guidelines, (or indeed, use none of the guidelines at all.) For example, a writer/filmmaker may choose to create/use their own film Story Structure, rather than the StoryAlity story structure (i.e. the Fibonacci sequence…). That is entirely their own choice, given the workings of Agency (choices) and Structure (guidelines)…!
The second column below, “IDEAL/HIGH-RoI TARGET” is the recommended selection – as per overwhelming evidence, resulting from the (2017) empirical and scientific movie RoI doctoral research study.
|CRITERIA||THE IDEAL /HIGH-ROITARGET||The Top 20 ROIFilms: Average||The Top 20 ROIFilms: Median||THE RANGE (Top 20 ROI Films)||Your Screenplay: (Y/N ?)|
|Horror(mode / most frequently occurring)||Horror||Horror
|Number of Main Characters||4 (3 good guys, 1 villain)||4.4||4||2 – 9|
|Occupations of the Main Character/s||Working class &/or students||Working class / students(both = mode)||Working class / students(both = mode)||See Table on “The Character Occupations in Top 20 ROI Films”|
|Character Arc/s” in a high ROI film Story||None||None||None||None|
|Number of Story `Acts’||10||10||10||10 – 10|
|Story Structure||See The STORYALITY™ Syntagm||See The STORYALITY™ Syntagm||See The STORYALITY™ Syntagm||See The STORYALITY™ Syntagm|
|Screenplay / Film Length||90 pages exactly||92 pages /92 minutes||88 pages /88 minutes||77 -121 pages/mins|
|# of Scenes||122 scenes||119 scenes||124 scenes||71-189 scenes|
|Scene Lengths||1 min/1 page||49 seconds||1 min 12 secs||1 sec – 14mins 25 s|
|Ratio of Ext/Int scenes||44% Ext / 56% Int||44% Ext / 56% Int||53 Ext scenes/64 Int scenes||(3 – 95) Ext(25 – 121) Int|
|Number of Locations||28||29||27||2-73|
|Types of Main Locations/Settings||House/Apartment||Domestic / urban||See: Types of Top 20 ROI Main Locations||See: Types of Top 20 ROI Main Locations|
|Time period / Temporal Setting||Present||Present||Present||Past, Present, Future|
|Story Ending||Villain Triumphant||Villain Triumphant||Villain Triumphant||Villain Triumphant|
|Theme||Survival, Reproduction, Revenge||Survival, Reproduction, Revenge||Survival, Reproduction, Revenge||Survival, Reproduction, Revenge|
|Sex scenes||N||40 %||40 %||8/20 films|
|Chase scenes||Y||85 %||85 %||17/20 films|
|Shootouts||N||45 %||45 %||9/20 films|
|Fist-Fights||Y||75 %||75 %||15/20 films|
|Montage/s||Y||11/20 films||11/20 films||11/20 films|
|Expected Reviews/Critics Ratings?||73%||73%||81||46%-94%|
|Expected Oscars™||None||<3% chance||<3% chance||1/20 films|
|Expected MPAA Rating||R||R||R||PG – UnR|
|Length of Shoot||7 – 31 days||34 days||28 days||7 – 80 days|
|“Look” of the film||Color & digital||Color||Color||Color/ B&W35mm, 16mm, digital|
This checklist can be used to analyze your own screenplay / movie story, for the various Characteristics, shared by all 20 of the Top 20 RoI movies.
High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie & Transmedia / Multi-platform Media 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/