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August 28, 2007

News & Opinion: Super Crunchers - A Story Continued...

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:41 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture


One story line in Super Crunchers is that of Dick Copaken and his secretive company Epagogix.

Copaken thinks that neural networks can improve scriptwriting in Hollywood. Most of his clients don't want the world to know what he is doing or that they are paying for it.

Malcolm Gladwell changed that in October 2006 when he made Copaken a subject of his article titled The Forumula: What if you built a machine to predict hit movies? Read the piece. It is brilliant.

Super Crunchers picks up where the article left off.
Epagogix's neural equations have also let studios figure out how to improve the expected gross of a film. The formula not only tells you what to change but tells you how much more revenue that change is likely to bring in. "One time they gave us a script that just had too many production sites," Copaken said. "The model told me the audience was going to be losing its place. By moving the action to a single city, we predicted that they would increase revenues and save on production costs."

Epagogix is now working with an outfit that produces about three to four independent films a year with budgets in the $35-$50 million range. Instead of just reacting to completing scripts, Epagogix will be helping from the get-go. "They want to work with us in a collegial, collaborative fashion," Copaken explained, "where we will work directly with their writers...in developing the script to optimize the box office."

Now, Copaken hangs out with agents, studio executives, and even hedge fund managers. The story starts on page 144 and is an update to the original New Yorker piece.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.