How Quentin Tarantino Sparked A Big Data Solution

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

This isn’t a story about Quentin Tarantino’s masterfully written characters, their dialogue, or his eye for creating vividly graphic scenes. This also isn’t a story about his writing process or his actor-first directing style. This is a story about his anger, and how five years ago, how that anger sparked an idea that is now a SaaS [software as a service] start-up called "Story Data."

A cold night in January of 2014, I sat down in front of my computer to read the entertainment news, as I do every night and to this day. That particular evening, I stumbled upon an article written by the talented Katey Rich for Vanity Fair titled "Quentin Tarantino Cancels His Next Movie After Script Leak." A huge fan of his movies, the headline grabbed my attention. I will admit that at first, I wondered if this was Mr. Tarantino being upset about something minor and throwing a Hollywood-sized tantrum. As it turned out, it went much deeper than that.

Reading the article, I learned that he had forwarded his script to six people, I’m assuming within his trusted circle of friends, and perchance one of them leaked the script. By the way, Tarantino’s script for "Inglourious Basterds" had also been leaked in previous years. As a writer, it hit me, how in the hell can we put a man on the moon, instantly share a thought or opinion with millions of people around the world with the tap of a send button, yet our industry is still sending screenplays over open email?

At that moment, Tarantino’s anger over the betrayal started me down the path to create Story Data. At that time, of course, it was just an inkling, but the idea was based on answering that aching question, "Why are we sharing screenplays via such open and unsecured platforms?" I asked other industry friends of mine and I got the same answer from them all, "Because that is just the way it’s done!"

There are a ton of things "just done that way" in Hollywood, only because no one bothers to challenge or change them.

So, I set in on this idea of creating a way to securely share scripts with people digitally, while allowing the sender to control how and for how long recipients have access to them. After scouring various script hosting sites, I discovered that the majority of them have no security features in place to stop the very thing that upset Tarantino. He, like everyone else, had no way of tracking his screenplay. Once you hit send on that email, or share that Dropbox folder password, you are at the mercy of the recipients.

As a serial entrepreneur, a myriad other projects and opportunities diverted my attention at that time but fast forward a couple of years and toward the end of 2017 I came across one of my idea files labeled "Screen Share." And, true to form, processes in Hollywood still hadn’t changed; no one had stepped up to solve the script sharing dilemma.

By this time, though, cloud computing was raging, SaaS was hot, and average people started to use the term "Blockchain." As a former software engineer, and [still] mega nerd, I started to think about the real possibility of creating this solution. I told my brother, who is also my business partner, about the idea and we started to bounce ideas off each other. He is a self-proclaimed nerd like I am, but less about coding and more about big-picture thinking and a business type of nerd. We wondered if there were other procedural production problems we could address and the first one that came to mind was how to eliminate the weekly blind logline newsletter emails that industry professionals receive. How could we move past them yet get people the right stories they are looking for at the right time?

We knew that Artificial Intelligence could solve many of these problems. We decided to build a system that intelligently searches stories on file and that can notify the producer when it finds a match for their queries. No more newsletters that contain mostly stories you don’t care about, no more manually searching predefined and minimal data points. A system should be smart enough to do that for you. We needed a big data solution. We needed infinite number of data-points the A.I. could search. Hence, Story Data was born.

I ended up coding the set of cloud-based, scalable algorithms myself. These algorithms read screenplays and extract thousands of data elements page by page, line by line, making it possible to search scripts for particular locations or characters by name, actions, props, and even specific dialogue. Then, Blockchain, used to help start and ease the end of the movie legal process known as "Chain of Title." Why stop there? We had all the data points to automate so many processes used in production offices; we could speed up casting, budgeting, scheduling, logistics, communications, and more. I will stop here, though, as I can hear my brother warning not give away the plot to our sequels.

As I reflect on the eight plus months of coding, that honestly was fun, I’m confident we have found THE solution to streamline, safeguard, and revolutionize data mining for the entertainment industry. We are excited to share Story Data’s capabilities and all the sequels to follow and… hope we make Quentin Tarantino proud.