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Movies have been predicting the rise of AI for a long time, and usually not in a positive way. So it is with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that the film & TV industry has begun to embrace the advent of AI technology.
In fact, technology that relies on relatively basic AI models has been popping up in the screen sector for several years already. The most obvious use can be seen in recent productions such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, where it has been tasked with using so-called likeness rights (which include the look, voice and other discernible aspects of an actor) to turn back the hands of time.
Harnessing the same technology that has been used to produce deep fakes, an AI model is trained on historical footage of an actor’s facial structure and movements, and then software applies these learnings to live-action footage of the current-day actor, to recreate their youthful self. And so, an 80-year-old Harrison Ford can appear on-screen in his forties again, allowing a franchise to continue without the need to physically replace the actor who is known and loved for a particular role.
The industry is hedging its bets that these films are not one-off gimmicks: tech company Metaphysic’s AI-driven capabilities have impressed Hollywood to such a degree that the talent agency CAA has signed a deal with them under which Metaphysic will develop generative AI tools and services for CAA’s top-tier talent roster. Robert Zemeckis is a notable fan and is working closely with Metaphysic on a new film called Here, in which an ensemble of characters will be shown at various stages of their lives, but each character will be played by a single actor.
The advent of accessible AI technology is also helping propel the industry to new frontiers behind the camera, both in the pre and postproduction stages. AI tools can now analyze a script against thousands of examples to ascertain potential profitability against certain benchmarks, as well as scanning for representation and ethical biases. Some services even produce detailed breakdowns for clients of how a chosen script compares to others, with models being trained to assess the emotional response of scenes, based on facets of cognitive psychology.
Faced with the rapid onset of AI-powered chatbots, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has proposed that its writers can use AI, but that AI-generated material will not be considered “literary material” or “source material.” These terms are important when deciding writing credits (and the corresponding residual compensation) for WGA members, and the implication is that the WGA considers AI to be a tool, rather than a writer itself. This position echoes the stance that the US Copyright Office has taken to date, which is that elements created by AI will not be protected, but the totality of a work (which may include AI-generated elements) can be.
- AI is already being used in a variety of meaningful ways across the film & TV industry
- The U.S. guilds are very focused on the implications of AI and how to regulate it
- The current intention is that AI tools should augment, not replace, human roles in the industry, although it is unclear how easily this can be enforced