Online MS in Data Science students to take their skills to the movies

Author: Deanna Csomo McCool

Students in the University of Notre Dame’s Online MS in Data Science program might be snacking on some buttered popcorn and candy in January, when their semi-annual immersion experience takes them to the movies.

The movie business, that is and specifically, the financial side of the operation.

During the immersion planned January 7-9, 2021 (which is usually completed in person but, because of Covid-19, will happen online), at least 70 students representing two cohorts of the program will examine data for the movie industry. The data is used to predict the monetary success of films. The Data Science program is partnering with Nash Information Services, a consulting, data and analytical firm, for the immersion.

Roger Woodard
Roger Woodard

“Let’s say you’re a movie producer and you have an idea about a film you want to make, but you wonder if it’s going to make money,” said Roger Woodard, director of the program. “This company really helps studios devise what to do in order to make a top-tier movie; it’s a very nice use of data to make decisions about content.”

Not only will students have the opportunity to work with Nash, but the program will also feature representatives from Disney+, YouTube, HBO Max, and Warner Brothers, all who will share their expertise and assist with the exploratory data analysis.

Bruce Nash, president of Nash Information Services, is looking forward to working with the Notre Dame data science students, who can provide a fresh perspective to the work he’s doing. It’s challenging to put together financial analyses for a variety of genres of movies, and determining who will be the best director, which actors will bring in the most money for different films, and other particular variables that impact profit.

“(The students) are going to have one giant data set they can play around with, and they can also use curated ones to help in creating the best answers to their questions for the project,” Nash said. “We come into it with a bias towards what we know of the movie industry, but these students might find things we were not seeing.”

In addition to the departure this year of doing the immersion online, the program will also combine two cohorts of students as well as mix up the students in the East and West parts of the country (who normally work separately), to give students a chance to meet a different group of people than they have previously.

Using data in novel ways and for a variety of fields allows students to see where the field of data science can take them, Woodard said.

“Giving them lots of new, interesting problems with ways to approach them, and including something like working with the film industry, gives an interesting spin on what we do in data science,” he said. “It might be just what we need in 2021 something a little lighter.”