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The rise of Artificial Intelligence in Film & TV

By Hannah L. Gross

Will the use of AI redefine what we class as art? Is it already too late?

The world of art and entertainment is on the brink of a transformation. Recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have begun to permeate the film and television industry, raising vital queries regarding the intersection of technology and the arts.

The incorporation of artificial intelligence in artistic endeavours begs the question of whether AI-generated output can still be deemed ‘art.’ While AI can certainly be beneficial with some areas of content creation, the essence of artistic expression remains fundamentally human. Art is about more than just creating stuff; it’s about the goal, sentiment, and context in which the creators put into what they produce.

Ben Mankiewicz, primetime host of Turner Classic Movies, told the Guardian his thoughts on AI screenwriting: “While it’s exciting, of course it’s disturbing. I find it very hard to believe that it’s ever going to get the humanity that makes a screenplay great.”

Studies have shown that AI lacks consciousness and subjective perception, both required for artistic expression, in this case, film and television. There are markers that computational researchers have created for the circumstance that AI receives a consciousness (e.g. recurrent processing theory, attention schema theory, computational higher-order theory, etc.). The most noteworthy for this argument is global workspace theory, due to three markers being met, but still does not meet the qualifications for AI database to be said to have a consciousness nor reach global rebroadcast; meaning that despite AI’s impressive nature, there is yet to be anybody home inside.

How would it be possible for a robotic, mechanical inanimate object with no consciousness to describe the depth, emotion, inventiveness, joy, and turmoil that comes from the human experience into a film script, cinematography, and performance?

Screenwriting is one of the most apparent applications of AI in the film and television industry. AI-powered tools, such as Scriptbook and Script AI, can appraise screenplays, forecast their success, and even provide suggestions for further development. It is important to note that it cannot replace a human writer’s ingenuity and creativity, but rather simply present valuable insight and resources to refine their craft. Scriptbook’s technology, for instance, has been utilised to assess the script of the film ‘Arrival’ and accurately anticipated its commercial triumph. Implementations such as these can be extremely beneficial to the filmmaking industry in terms of potential monetary gains and losses, maximising efficiency, script analysis, and likeliness of popularity in the mainstream, including social media platforms (e.g. TikTok). However, it can as well result in a very cliché, repetitive production, in addition to leaving many screenwriters unemployed or with a cap of work hours as was done in the Hollywood film industry, leading up to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike that began in May 2023, and ended only earlier this month.

The WGA strike was a long-time coming response to revenue generated by streaming services programming and cap to workdays, in addition to the demand that production companies “regulate use of material produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies,” according to a news report conducted by the New York Times back in May 2023.

While it is cost effective, applying AI to reduce production time and staff is not invariably the best way to go in every facet of a film or television series. AI can and should be used alongside human videographers and filmmakers to edit content. For example, in 2018, Runway ML offered an array of AI tools for artists, filmmakers, and creators that are powered by models trained on immense terabytes of video data, and what once took multiple days, was completed in half the time. Filmmakers can now employ Runway’s inpainting tool to flawlessly eliminate objects or backdrops in the video editing process, which also has motion tracking and green screening, thus eliminating a large chunk of time from the extensive and time-consuming special effects, visual effects, editing, and post-production workflow.

Despite AI’s rewards and usefulness, both in time and financial consumption, the industry must not view it as a solution or go-to for every aspect in the field. Real, human people are losing their jobs to technology, specifically to AI, and this can easily turn into a social and economic crisis any day now.

Olcun Tan, a German-born visual effects supervisor based in LA says, “I wonder sometimes if the workforce cuts you see at Microsoft or Google are also driven by the fact that you don’t need three people; you need one person who, with assistance from AI, can do the workload of three people. In the context of movie making, it will take far less people to do the work than originally needed.”

AI-powered tools have the grand possibility of becoming something great in the industry and should be more than welcomed to make historic strides and offer new avenues for productions in the film and television industry, that is in moderation and as a collaborator that can augment the artistic and technological processes. Too little or too much of anything can go poorly quickly, and artificial intelligence is no different.


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