Sunday, January 04, 2009

Analyzing film scripts with condor

While participating this winter in a seminar on Social Network Analysis and COINs (Collaborative Innovation Networks) by Peter Gloor and Kai Fischbach at the University of Cologne, it occurred to me that a film script provides a great source for Social Network Analysis.

Each character in a movie receives and sends messages through dialogues with other characters. These are represented as edges in Condor - the social network tool we are using in this seminar. As the film script only allocates the sender of each dialogue, one has to manually add one or more receivers. A timestamp for each conversation can be created by looking at the scene in which the conversation is initiated.

As you can see in the picture above, the film industry has very strict rules on the layout of a film script. So once one writes a parser for one script, it will work for almost every other script too. There are a few good sources like, or where you can find film scripts in almost every genre.

The movie Babel by Alejandro González Iñárritu as an example is interesting because it not only is set in different regions of the world. There can also be identified four sub groups that rarely get in contact with each other as can be seen in the picture below.

One group of characters in Tokyo doesn’t share any dialogue with any other main character from other regions, whereas two other sub groups in Morocco are connected through a side character (gatekeeper) who doesn’t even have a name in the movie. So the story is not carried by a global social connection between the characters but through a unifying object (a rifle) with which the characters are connected.

Looking at the contribution index of each character, you can identify different roles. The main characters seem to have a very balanced talk/listen ratio, except a character called “chieko” who is deaf and hardly replies to anybody. Side characters often act as advisors (doctor, grandmother) or as servers (driver, bartender). As a advisor you send more messages than you receive, as a server you receive more than you send.

The following video shows how the connections between characters develop throughout the story of the film.

Other movies can have a completely different representation in a graph. In “The Graduate” by Mike Nichols the main character is a star and almost every other character is connected through him. “The Godfather” by Francis Ford Coppola shows a big galaxy with a high group density. “Burn After Reading” by the Coen Brothers brings up several social groups that are autonomous at the beginning but get mixed up at the end.

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