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Academic suggests formula for perfect film. (1 Viewer)


Stunt Coordinator
Mar 10, 2003
Taken from here - http://www.btopenworld.com/news/ente...769582,00.html

By Matthew Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - An academic believes she has found the holy grail that all Hollywood seeks -- the recipe for making box office hits time after time.

As the movie world`s movers and shakers gather in Cannes for the annual film festival Sue Clayton from London University may be the answer to their prayers.

"I analysed frame by frame what elements were present in different film genres and what made certain films successful," the lecturer in screen writing and directing said on Tuesday.

According to Clayton the blueprint for the perfect film is for it to have: 30 percent action, 17 percent comedy, 13 percent good versus evil, 12 percent sex/romance, 10 percent special effects, 10 percent plot and eight percent music.

Clayton, who is also a movie director, said she was careful to examine different film types.

"It was important to look at all film genres and not just the big box office winners -- that would have skewed the research," she told Reuters.

The study was based on watching and breaking down the components of a range of hits on the British screen from Brit-flicks "The Full Monty" and "Notting Hill" to U.S. blockbusters such as "Die Another Day" and "Titanic".

Clayton said there were five basic film types -- Romantic Comedy, Comedy Caper, Action/Adventure, Epic/Romance and Special Effects/Fantasy.

While the movie "Shakespeare in Love" scored close to having the right combination of ingredients it could have done with more special effects, Clayton`s research suggested.

As for the film that matched the recipe closest, that honour went to "Toy Story 2".
Hmm, just what the world needs, more soulless formulaic film.

I especially like the impression that only 10% of a film needs to involve plot and "Shakespeare in Love" could have done with more special effects. I always thought Shakespeare could benefit from jet packs and underwater drilling scenes. ;)


Senior HTF Member
Feb 1, 2001
Hmmm, I wonder which 10% of Toy Story 2 was deemed to be special effects?

When is Ms. Clayton's next film coming out? According to my research there's a 5% chance I'll go see it.

Seth Paxton

Senior HTF Member
Nov 5, 1998
First of all, no shit there are formulas, there have been since the beginning of film.

Second, even those formulas fail. I would like to see the detailed research results GRAPHING box office income to the error level (or distance from perfect) for many films.

Of course, that error measure requires a method for MEASURING, meaning how do you score each scene to get the percentage totals, something several posters have already noted.

And if that is too subjective then you already run into a terrible skewing of the data. There is no way the scorer can not know the films being scored, nor be oblivious to their BO record. So how does the scorer keep from counting a certain 10 minutes toward one category over the other in some sort of bias.

Finally, nice formula, now how exactly do you mix them. I mean do you start with the 17% comedy scenes or do you mix them in, and if so then when and in what order?

Really the "formula" given is completely worthless at this point, even if it works. The structure simply isn't explained enough.

And as George already said, good luck using the formula without good acting or good writing.

Frankly, when you look at it what Ms. Clayton has basically done is to show that great films aren't one dimensional (and without the graphs comparing BO hits to BO failures she hasn't really even proven that). Gee, that's some new info to us isn't it? :rolleyes

This is a non-story of the worst kind...sadly its probably her 15 minutes of fame.

Lew Crippen

Senior HTF Member
May 19, 2002
I looked Ms. Clayton up on IMDb and notice that she has directed two films plus one for TV, the last, The Disappearance of Finbar has a 1996 date. I looked at the review in the NYT, and it had a mostly positive review.

But one can only ponder what she has been doing in the seven years since this film appeared? Doing frame-by-frame research, presumably. :D


Supporting Actor
Feb 19, 2003
This article is 100% BS

10% special effects? What qualifies as F/X anyway? Does matte painting and blue screen qualify?

I wonder if, while making a movie, it might be wise to cut a joke or 2 to make sure not to get past 17%?

Worth a good laugh at least :D


Senior HTF Member
Nov 4, 2000
Watch out Simon, you're about to go above the ideal 53% sarcasm in this thread.


Terry St

Second Unit
Jun 21, 2002
"Sue Clayton film is nothing but a big messy pile of crap. It tries so hard to do something different, but fails to do anything at all. Weird occurrences and odd characters with a snowy Swedish backdrop are supposed to create some sort of surreal mood, but Clayton can't even pull that off."

"The movie had no meaning, no story, no interesting elements. For your own safety, and your kids', avoid this repugnant piece of bullpoo."
The Globe & Mail review was 2.5/4

With a short, a 55 minute TV movie, and one badly reviewed and obscure feature under her belt Sue is, apparantly, not a prolific or particularily successful director. Kudo's to her for discovering the secret to success. If she can actually make it work for her, maybe I'll believe a word she says.

Rob Gardiner

Senior HTF Member
Feb 15, 2002
On the old "Movie Show with Chris Gore" on FX, Mr. Gore revealed the formula Jerry Bruckheimer uses. His films contain a combination of the following ingredients:

Big name cast
Lots of special effects
Car chase
One other item I can't remember
Bright orange poster

Each element is worth approximately $40 million in box office. ARMAGEDDON had all 5 and made $200 million. THE ROCK lacked the brigh orange poster and therefore stalled at around $150 million. :D

Adam Nixon

Second Unit
Feb 21, 1999
I'm guessing that there's a 71.6% chance that Warner Brothers will tap her skills to helm the "new" Superman.:rolleyes


Stunt Coordinator
Feb 15, 2003
did this lady say anything important? i must have missed it :frowning:
i wonder why i haven't heard of this director with the perfect formula that she hasn't put into use yet.

Dan Rudolph

Senior HTF Member
Dec 30, 2002
Probably the most ridiculous conceit in all this is that these elements can be seperated in a meaningful way.


Senior HTF Member
Dec 19, 1998
Probably the most ridiculous conceit in all this is that these elements can be seperated in a meaningful way.
Completely agree. How the hell are these percentages arrived at? It's no more meaningful than saying you love your brother 4.5% more than your sister. Ridiculous.

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