PhD Dissertation – Addendum

My PhD thesis, a 5-year study of what makes movies successful (and, others: not), is now online (as a free PDF download)… HERE (!)

StoryAlity PhD coverpage

`Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema: A comparative study of the Top 20 Return-on-Investment (RoI) Movies and the doxa of Screenwriting  (Velikovsky 2016) 

The Top 20 RoI Movies - StoryAlity Theory

Comparing the Top 20 RoI Movies – to the Bottom 20 RoI..!



The Bottom 20 RoI Movies…(!)


If you are looking for this book-chapter, from the Appendix of my PhD:

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016c). The holon/parton theory of the unit of culture (or the meme, and narreme) in science, media, entertainment and the arts. Chapter in A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications (pp. 208–246). New York: IGI Global.

It is a free PDF, here. (…It does not appear in the PhD-PDF file, for strange reasons.)

  • If you’ve ever wondered what the most (and – the least-!) successful movies were…


Here’s a 15-minute summary (Powerpoint) of the PhD Study.


And – see the Trailers for all 40 movies of the PhD study dataset, here:

1 – Trailers of the Top 20 RoI Movies (lowest budget / biggest cinema audience)


2 – Trailers of the Bottom 20 RoI Movies (highest budget / lowest cinema audience)

The StoryAlity PhD Thesis:

`Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema: A comparative study of the Top 20 Return-on-Investment (RoI) Movies and the doxa of Screenwriting’ (PhD dissertation)


Within the discipline of Communication – and the domain of movie-creation, including movie screenwriting – this study explores aspects of the problem-situation around accurate guidelines for movie success.

Movie performance research reveals that 70% of movies do not `break even’ or recoup their production budget in cinema release (Vogel 1990, 2014) and that 98% of screenplays presented to producers go unmade (Macdonald 2004, 2013). Successful (thus, creative) screenplays and movies are rare.

In order to illuminate this problem-situation in ways that may be useful to both screenwriters and screenwriting instructors, this study examines fifteen key guidelines of the screenwriting orthodoxy, derived from a set of four contemporary screenwriting manuals: guidelines which partly-comprise the current `doxa’ or how screenwriting is often taught. In this study these movie story-creation guidelines are then compared to the relevant observed story traits of the 20 highest, and also to the 20 lowest Return-on-Investment movies (with RoI defined as: `audience-reach / production-budget’) in order to test these fifteen (15) guidelines of the current screenwriting orthodoxy.

The Theoretical Perspective of the study is Evolutionary Systems Theory, including the Systems Model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988-2014) and Bourdieu’s practice theory (Bourdieu 1977-1996) to examine, understand and explain key aspects of movie-creation by screen storytellers, and movie-reception by audiences. The research perspective also draws on David Bordwell’s neo-formalist film poetics (1997-2013), Macdonald’s screenwriting poetics (2004, 2013) and scholarship in the domain of Evocriticism (Boyd 2009, 2010, Carroll 1995, Gottschall 2012) and Evolutionary Psychology (Buss 2012), influenced by E. O. Wilson’s (1998) vision of consilience.

As a result of this comparative analysis of `the screenwriting orthodoxy versus movie RoI’ it is demonstrated that certain of the screenwriting-manual guidelines are contradicted by the empirical evidence, and thus some revised and additional screenplay guidelines are presented, also noting suggested areas for further research.

[300 words]

And if you want `the short story’ (rather than read the 100,000-word PhD), maybe read: the StoryAlity Theory PhD-research blog-!
Consilience - E O Wilson (1998)

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (E O Wilson 1998)

I personally think the best published academic book-chapter to emerge from my thesis was, this one:

CTfMDA cover
The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment, and the Arts (Velikovsky 2016). There is also a PDF of it online, here (free download, for academic purposes. It is an Appendix of the PhD).
And, some other chapters that also emerged from the thesis include:
StoryAlity #125 – a chapter on Nia Vardalos in Women Screenwriters: An International Guide (2015)
StoryAlity #136 – Chapters on (1) Movies, (2) TV, (3) Transmedia, (4) Music and also (5) Videogames, in: Pop Culture in Asia and Oceania (2016)
For any other forthcoming publications / articles, please see the semi-regular updates, on the: NEWS page.


And… below is a list of people who I somehow forgot to Thank in the Foreword of my PhD Dissertation. My Sincere Apologies! My eternal gratitude to all the people who helped with it, over the years.

  • Many Thanks to Dr Judith Sandner for the Discourse and Creativity (R. H. Jones, 2012) reference!
  • Many thanks again to Dr Stephan Curran, who very kindly shared with me his (examined, and passed – but, unpublished / embargoed) PhD thesis. I found it especially helpful as it was about the earliest published Screenwriting Manuals; one of which, Stoddard 1911, I also studied in my PhD study.) i.e., The unpublished PhD dissertation `Early Screenwriting Teachers, 1910 to 1922: Origins, Contribution and Legacy‘ (Curran, 2015) examines five of the early Hollywood screenwriting teachers and their manuals in detail, focussed on Epes Winthrop Sargent, Henry Albert Phillips, Leslie Tufnell Peacocke, William Lord Wright, and Eustace Hale Ball. Part Three of that dissertation `Legacy’(pp. 290-330) examines contemporary screenwriting gurus such as Syd Field, Robert McKee, Christopher Vogler, Lew Hunter and others (Curran, 2015).
  • Thanks as always to my agent, Rick Raftos, for the support over many years.
  • Thanks also to Tim Petersen, Chris Ganivet, Chris Mosely & Marcus Gibson for so many illuminating conversations – and for listening to me `think out loud’..!
  • Thanks to writers & filmmakers & teachers, Adrian Van de Velde, John Colette, Jamie Lewis, Ross Carroll, JJ Hainsworth, Tony Lake, Sean Lahiff, Dr Alex Davies, Dr Ali Crosby, Chris Vogler, Robert Watts (the early Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies producer), and of course, producers Phillip Bowman and Bryan Lowe – for all teaching me so much about cinema…
  • Thanks also to all my writing groups over the past 20 years, especially including: The Newcastle Film Club (Newcastle), The Cinema Geeks (Sydney),  The Decent Ventriloquists (Adelaide), The Cleveland Steamers (Melbourne), and the CWFWG (Central Western NSW) – they all know who they are. 🙂

And. as and when I remember who else I forgot to thank, I’ll be adding them here…


For a list of many more Evocriticism PhDs and Masters theses, see this post:

StoryAlity #97 – Biocultural Dissertations (A list of 120 biocultural PhDs and MAs)


NOVA: `Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema: A comparative study of the top 20 Return-on-Investment (RoI) movies and the doxa of screenwriting’ (Velikovsky 2016) http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/1324018

Twitter https://twitter.com/UoN_NOVA/status/807036973005217792

Index of posts on this PhD weblog: StoryAlity Weblog Index


Also, these links may be of interest:

The Evolution Institute – This View of Life

The Riddle and Range of Art – Brian Boyd interviewed by David Sloan Wilson on The Evolution of Imaginative Culture – and the MOMA Evolutionary Art exhibition 


Dr JT Velikovsky, PhD

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie & Transmedia Researcher

& Evolutionary Systems Theorist

& Transmedia Writer-Director-Producer: Movies, Games, TV, Theatre, Books, Comics

Some of 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/



Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema: A comparative study of the top 20 Return-on-Investment (RoI) Movies and the Doxa of Screenwriting’. PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/1324018

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme) in Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts’, chapter in A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

Also Reprinted (in condensed form), as:

Velikovsky, J. T. (2017a). Chapter 405: The holon/parton structure of the meme, or, the unit of culture. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of information science and technology, fourth edition (pp. 4666–4678). New York: IGI Global.

Wilson, E. O. ([1998] 1999). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1st Vintage Books ed.). New York: Knopf: Random House; ebrary Inc.

For many more biocultural dissertations, see: List of Bio-Cultural Dissertations.


7 thoughts on “StoryAlity #135 – PhD Dissertation Addendum

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