Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have demonstrated that artificial intelligence (AI) tools can rate a movie's content in a matter of seconds, based on the movie script and before a single scene is shot.
Such an approach could allow movie executives the ability to design a movie rating in advance and as desired, by making the appropriate edits on a script and before the shooting of a single scene.
"Beyond the potential financial impact, such instantaneous feedback would allow storytellers and decision-makers to reflect on the content they are creating for the public and the impact such content might have on viewers," said study author Shrikanth Narayanan from the University of Southern California in the US.
Using artificial intelligence applied to scripts, they have demonstrated that linguistic cues can effectively signal behaviours on violent acts, drug abuse and sexual content (actions that are often the basis for a film's ratings) about to be taken by a film's characters.
Using 992 movie scripts that included violent, substance-abuse and sexual content, as determined by Common Sense Media, an NGO that rates and makes recommendations for families and schools, the research team trained artificial intelligence to recognise corresponding risk behaviours, patterns and language.
The AI tool created receives as input all the script, processes it through a neural network and scans it for semantics and sentiment expressed.
In the process, it classifies sentences and phrases as positive, negative, aggressive and other descriptors.
The AI tool automatically classifies words and phrases into three categories: violence, drug abuse and sexual content.
"Our model looks at the movie script, rather than the actual scenes, including e.g., sounds like a gunshot or explosion that occur later in the production pipeline," said study researcher Victor Martinez.
They also found an interesting connection between risk behaviours and MPA (motion picture association) ratings.
As sexual content increases, the MPA appears to put less emphasis on violence/substance-abuse content. Thus, regardless of violent and substance abuse content, a movie with a lot of sexual content will likely receive an R rating.
"In the future, I'm interested in studying minorities and how they are represented, particularly in cases of violence, sex and drugs," the team noted.
The study is scheduled to be presented at the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing.