Who would have thought that there was so much strategy behind using the audience on such a popular show like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or even behind guessing the recipients behind some of Hollywood’s most prestigious awards shows such as The Oscars? I sure didn’t. Being such a media and entertainment junkie, I was deeply intrigued to read about how powerful crowdsourcing truly is in the media and entertainment industries.
Admittedly, before learning more about crowdsourcing, I hadn’t known about the existence of the Hollywood Stock Exchange. After reading The Wisdom of Crowds and how the contestants on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire are more successful when choosing to have help from the audience, I decided that, being an undergraduate finance major who worked in a small investment firm, I wanted to research more about the HSE and examples of how crowdsourcing has played more of a role in Hollywood outside the exchange. What I found are some very intriguing cases.
Before diving into the examples, I feel that I should briefly recap upon what the HSX does. Like the New York Stock Exchange, the HSX gives consumers the ability to trade virtual entertainment securities and provides the data collected from the Exchange as market research to entertainment, consumer product, and financial institutions and as original content to radio, television and print media. Most notably in the early 2000’s, thanks to collective intelligence, the HSX was able to successfully help determine the winners for six major Oscars categories. The HSX has also been able to predict how much a movie was going to make before opening night, drawing the attention of major studios.
Most recently, Hollywood has used crowdsourcing in another way. In a January 2017 interview with National Public Radio, journalist Alex Wagner discusses a piece she had written for The Atlantic regarding a survey entitled The Black List. This survey is an anonymous questionnaire of the year’s best film scripts. It was created by a film industry executive named Franklin Leonard as a way to, as Wagner describes, “find scripts that had the most compelling character driven plots, the ones they couldn’t put down, and the ones that also weren’t yet being made into movies.”
What makes The Black List important is that it creates a way to eliminate discrimination and bias away from the script selection process. In a predominately white, male industry, diversity is scarce. International, as well as female directors and writers, are not as common. It is mentioned in the interview that movies such as “Slumdog Millionaire” almost didn’t make it to theatres because those involved in the making of the movie came from a very specific place. This, of course, is a prime example of discrimination in action and how crowdsourcing opens up an opportunity for great art to thrive.
Another example of crowdsourcing in Hollywood is not as recent as The Black List, but still very relevant. Back in 2015, the National Academy of Engineering launched a worldwide crowdsourcing competition entitled “The Next MacGyver Competition” looking for ideas to create a television series with a female engineer lead. This idea was inspired by the adventure series “MacGyver” and how the main character, a secret agent, used science and his intuitive smarts to solve crimes.
An event was launched in Washington that featured six mentors whose professions ranged from science-based television production to technology and analytics. The main purpose to was to use this crowdsourcing as a method to encourage women to pursue engineering by creating a compelling storyline and plot that would change women’s’ perception of what the field entails.
The winner was a 29-year-old neuroscientist named Jayde Lovell. She was mentored by screenwriter Roberto Orci — whose screenplays include Star Trek Into Darkness and episodes of Hawaii Five-0 and Xena: Warrior Princess — to develop her idea into a pilot script. The series that they created together entitled SECs is synopsized as the following: it follows the character of Emily who, after being forced to join her school’s science and engineering club, discovers that being good at science as well as being a beauty queen doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Although I have not found any new information regarding whether the pilot for the show was ever picked up, it is interesting to note that “MacGyver” was revamped in 2016 on CBS with a male lead.
Using these two examples of how Hollywood takes advantage crowdsourcing can have a huge impact business as well as culture. As shown with The Black List, crowdsourcing opens up an array of opportunities for diversity in the arts. This is shown with the case of “Slumdog Millionaire”. It also creates the chance for diversity in business. Hollywood has also shown to use the power of the crowd to spark new and creative ideas to add originality to cinema and television. With so many great minds out there, who knows what new ideas the crowd will come up with next.