Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

REEL DILEMMA | Scared of the Dark: The Value and Impact of AI in the Movie Industry

Not long ago, the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes took Hollywood and television by storm, lasting roughly four and five months, respectively, and costing the industry nearly $5 billion due to delays and cancellations. The writers and actors finally reached deals — and one key part was protection for artists and writers from artificial intelligence (AI) technology

There is a fear in Hollywood that AI may eventually replace the roles of scriptwriters, visual effects artists, composers and other crucial crew members needed to create movies. An already underpaid group risks getting kicked out of the movie-making process altogether. If true, this could mean that thousands of jobs are at risk. The legitimacy of these concerns warrants close examination. How can the future of AI help the film industry while maintaining the stability of the workers it threatens to replace?

Given the rapid advancements in generative AI and its potential to disrupt established creative workflows in the industry, this is a valid and understandable concern. The meteoric rise of ChatGPT, which shocked the industry when it debuted in late 2022, exemplifies the rate of progress.

Figures like former “Family Ties” star Justine Bateman, who has a background in computer science, believe AI poses an “existential threat” to the entertainment industry as we know it. Bateman warns that AI can create “a convincing simulation of a human actor” and questions why anyone would need to pay real actors when the technology is advancing so quickly.

However, some provide a more nuanced perspective. Many industry experts see AI as a powerful tool that can enhance and complement the work of creatives, rather than replace them entirely. Some, like Monica Landers of StoryFit, a software development company, argue that current AI technology is “so empty” and lacks the pacing, character development and emotional resonance that human writers and directors bring to the table. 

Renowned filmmakers like James Cameron echo this sentiment, with Cameron stating that “AI cannot reflect on art and understand it the same way a creative human artist can.” He suggests that a more productive strategy is to figure out where AI technology is most useful while ensuring that individual creators’ copyrights and performers’ name, image and likeness rights are protected.

Some forward-thinking filmmakers are already experimenting with AI to streamline production workflows and unlock new creative possibilities, like using AI for tasks such as de-aging actors and dubbing scenes into other languages. Nvidia – a multinational tech company – CEO Jensen Huang even goes so far as to say that “generative AI is the new killer app,” democratizing the creative process and empowering anyone to harness its power. And in some ways, this is certainly true. What used to take hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars can now be done by AI at a fraction of the cost. No longer is it necessary to beg for a big check to get a movie made. 

AI cannot altogether replace all steps in the movie-making process, but it can massively improve and speed them up. In scriptwriting and storytelling, AI plays a pivotal role, as machine learning algorithms analyze extensive databases of successful scripts to identify patterns and trends that resonate with audiences, providing valuable creative inspiration for writers. AI-driven tools enable filmmakers to plan their shots precisely, generating virtual storyboards that optimize resources and time for more efficient and cost-effective production processes. This allows for more movies to be made by more people, and also allows much more creativity in the filming process, as lower budgets mean less pressure to create a sure blockbuster hit. 

Ultimately, the future of the movie industry lies in finding the right balance and integration between human artistry and technological capabilities. While concerns about job displacement are valid, with the right approach, AI can become a collaborative partner in bringing cinematic visions to life, rather than a disruptive force. The path forward may involve some “kicking the can down the road” on specific AI-related issues, but the industry must also address the fundamental questions around name, image and likeness and intellectual property rights, as well as the responsible use of AI in the creative process. By doing so, the movie industry can embrace the opportunities AI presents while ensuring the human talents and skills that have defined the medium for generations are protected and empowered.

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