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May 03, 2023

Are Hollywood "Creatives" About to Be Replaced by AI?
If So, Is There Any Way We Can Accelerate This Process?

One year ago, Joe Russo, the co-director of most of the good Marvel movies, predicted that within two years, we'd see our first movie entirely directed by AI.

When asked for his prediction, Russo speculated that AI will be creating movies in two years, adding that moviegoers will eventually be able to create different movies on the spot.

"Potentially, what you could do with [AI] is obviously use it to engineer storytelling and change storytelling," Russo said on a panel moderated by Collider's Steve Weintraub. "So you have a constantly evolving story, either in a game or in a movie or a TV show. You could walk into your house and save the AI on your streaming platform. 'Hey, I want a movie starring my photoreal avatar and Marilyn Monroe's photoreal avatar. I want it to be a rom-com because I've had a rough day,' and it renders a very competent story with dialogue that mimics your voice. It mimics your voice, and suddenly now you have a rom-com starring you that's 90 minutes long. So you can curate your story specifically to you."


"I'm on the board of a few AI companies," Russo said. "I'm gonna speak from my experience of being on the board of those companies, [so] there are AI companies that are developing AI to protect you from AI. And unfortunately, we're in that world, and you will need an AI in your life because whether we want to see it developed or not, people who are not friendly to us may develop it anyways. So, we're going to be in that future. The question is, then, how we protect ourselves in that future?"
Joe Russo

Russo also addressed the "fear" that many people have "whenever you talk about a subject like this."

"What I'm saying is that everything is going to evolve, and you're either going to evolve with it or you're going to be left behind," he warned. "That's how it's always worked throughout history. And we're at a critical juncture of evolution."

The Writers Guild has a few gripes with Hollywood, but one of their big ones is over the possibility that they'll just be replaced with a million digital monkeys.

Hollywood screenwriters have long imagined dystopias where machines ruled over humans of the future. They are now starting to worry the machines are coming for them much sooner.

The thousands of unionized scribes who went on strike this week are demanding better pay and taking aim at other issues, including the rise of generative artificial intelligence like ChatGPT, the AI-powered "chatbot" that has captivated and alarmed people in creative professions in recent months.

The Writers Guild of America said it wants Hollywood's top studios and networks to regulate the use of AI on creative projects. The union's specific demand, according to a document released Monday, states: "AI can't write or rewrite literary material; can't be used as source material; and MBA-covered [contract-covered] material can't be used to train AI."

That last one is big. AI advances by studying previous human-generated exemplars; they're saying that AI shouldn't be allowed to use their human-generated content to, in effect, Train Their Replacements.


In a response that left many professional writers dispirited, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers -- the trade association that represents most of the industry's big entertainment companies -- rejected that proposal. (The WGA represents some of NBCUniversal's news division employees.)

Instead, according to WGA leaders, the companies "countered by offering annual meetings to discuss advancements in technology" -- a vague proposal that suggests industry leaders are not prepared to make any guarantees. (Comcast, the corporation that owns NBCUniversal, is represented by the trade group.)

Marc Guggenheim, a co-creator of the superhero shows "Arrow" and "DC's Legends of Tomorrow," said that the studios were trotting out the "same old song and dance" and delaying important decisions on major technological shifts.

"Historically, every time some new piece of technology comes along, the studios say, 'We understand your concerns, but everything is too new. Wait for the next negotiation cycle,'" he said. "But eventually some precedent gets set and at the next negotiation cycle they say, 'I don't know what to tell you. The precedent is set.' There's always foot-dragging."


"We all have to understand that this is the bad version of ChatGPT. It's not the better version we're going to see six months from now," Guggenheim said. "The technology is moving so fast and will move even faster than we can anticipate, and that is why we have got to deal with it in this negotiation."

"Creatives" -- I use that term advisedly -- have long believed they were immune to being made redundant by automation, which is why they've always supported just telling laid-off coal miners to Learn to Code.

But they don't want to Learn to Code themselves. (Besides, coding will be one of the first industries obliterated by AI.)

"Whether it's music, photography, whatever the medium, there are creatives who are understandably and justifiably worried about the displacement of their livelihoods," said Ash Kernen, an entertainment and intellectual property attorney who focuses on new technology.


"The response from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ... seems dismissive of the WGA's concerns," ChatGPT told Rodman, according to a screenshot he shared on Twitter. "It's important to consider the potential consequences of automation on the livelihoods of writers and other creative professionals."

Is it?

I mean, it's important to consider the consequences of automation on every person's livelihood, but You People have never cared about it before.

In a plot twist that will surprise no one, AI might be put into use faster than people expected -- replacing striking writers right now.

Scab AI for the win!

Once again, a strike is happening during a period of widespread economic uncertainty spurred by inflation, concerns of a recession, and mass layoffs in media and entertainment. But this time around, there's a twist: the ascension of generative artificial intelligence. If half the internet can be tricked by an AI-created Drake and The Weeknd collab, could that same tech write scripts and enable studios to create more content for less money?

Initially, as ChatGPT emerged in late 2022 and early 2023, writers who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter weren't particularly scared by the chatbots that could generate movie or TV pitches on command, viewing them more as collaborative tools that can help spur ideas rather than ways to replace humans entirely. But that has changed as the technology has advanced and AI has become a key deal point in the ongoing writers union negotiations. While AI is one of the more abstract issues on the table during this strike -- alongside the regulation of so-called mini-rooms (small writers rooms that are convened before a project is greenlit), wage floors and residuals -- experts say Hollywood shouldn't ignore the 800-pound robot in the room.


That's already happening, according to Amy Webb, founder and CEO of Future Today Institute, which does long-range scenario planning and consultation for Fortune 500 companies and Hollywood creatives. She notes, "I've had a couple of higher-level people ask, if a strike does happen, how quickly could they spin up an AI system to just write the scripts? And they're serious."


Thanks to the WGA's account of how their proposal on AI was received, the issue became a lightning rod on the picket lines on the first day of the strike. "This is existential for us," says writer Vinnie Wilhelm (Penny Dreadful: City of Angels) as he picketed Netflix's Hollywood offices. "We need to have a seat at the table. You can easily see the job becoming polishing AI scripts. It fits neatly into what companies have been doing -- turning everything they can into gig work."

Webb doesn't think AI could cross the picket line effectively on most projects, but an exception might be a long-running procedural like Law & Order. "You've got a massive corpus, it's formulaic, and a lot of the storylines are ripped from the headlines. So you've got the data sources that you need," Webb says. To be clear, she doesn't think writers can be replaced by machines. "What I am saying is the conditions are right in certain cases for an AI potentially to get the script 80 percent of the way there and then have writers who would cross the picket line do that last 20 percent of polishing and shaping. That's possible for certain types of content."

All the late-night shows including SNL -- but excluding Gutfeld! -- just went on hiatus due to having no human writers.

Joke-writing is a process that can definitely be automated. Easily. Most jokes are just variations on long-existing joke tropes.

Especially for the kind of hack, already-essentially-automated "joke" writing as seen on the late night shows.

Trump bad. (Hold for applause.)

Via Valliant Renegade. At 8:45, he and some friends read out a mock-Seinfeld script written by AI. It's not good, but then, human writers are rarely good now. The AI has figured out the basic structure of a generic Seinfeld episode -- Jerry wants to break up with a girl but doesn't know how, Kramer has a crazy business idea -- and that the kibbitz and argue with each other at the coffee shop.

That's half of writing, just knowing the tropes and structures of it. The easy half, yes, but again, most human writers aren't much beyond the stage of just repeating and varying old set-ups and plotlines.

And we're on the edge of the singularity. The AI is advancing at an incredible pace now.

Valliant Renegade points out, too, that this Seinfeld mock episode was generated by the free version of ChatGPT, "the version you know about."

I'm a huge fan of Portal despite never playing it. It came out before I bothered to get a videogame system, and then I never really had any system the old discs would play on.

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