AI will change the way entertainment is made. Will it be better or worse?

By Jon Swartz

“AI may be a good tool for writers – until it ousts writers”

From the Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera to a Senate subcommittee in Washington, DC, from a backyard summit in Hollywood to a Silicon Valley conference on the future of television, there’s a topic on everyone’s lips, filmmakers, writers , novelists, musicians and other artists.

With equal amounts of fear and optimism, they try to imagine what the future will be like. Will artificial intelligence destroy creative communities in Hollywood, New York, Nashville and elsewhere? Or will it give artists the freedom to do better work?

The creative community is highly divided, made up of big tech players like Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) (GOOGL), Google, Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. (META), Adobe Inc. (ADBE) and Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) is driving the development of generative AI technology that could jeopardize the jobs of content creators and others. Battle lines have been drawn between the creative community – artists who fear AI will destroy their professions – and AI developers and studios using the technology as a means for independent filmmakers to make big, studio-style films.

At four separate events over the past week, examples of AI-generated creative content have highlighted two wildly different expectations in the entertainment industry: AI could free content creators from low-level tasks so they can focus on passion projects — or it could do their job costs .

“You ask science to evaluate art, and that’s always going to be the fundamental limitation of AI,” Marc Guggenheim, writer, producer, and showrunner, said in an interview. “It may be good at imitating human voices, but it will never do better than imitation.”

Guggenheim, whose films include Arrow and Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia, sees AI as a destructive force that will displace writers and stifle creativity. Hollywood writers are on strike over fears studios will replace them with generative AI bots, but if AI does invade writers’ space, it could do so in much more subtle ways.

For more: Given the writers’ strike, would Hollywood call on the AI ​​to step in?

A classic example, Guggenheim said, is how AI could turn note-taking during production meetings into an exercise in formulaic story pitches. For decades, writers have clashed with studio executives about these meetings, saying the notes lead to content that’s more commercial, less controversial, less diverse, and more mundane, Guggenheim said.

There is concern that if AI is fed information about what has been successful in the past, it will become even less outside the box. As an example, Guggenheim cited the five-act arc in 2008’s billionaire blockbuster The Dark Knight, saying that the first annotation the AI ​​would give to this script would likely be to move to a traditional three-act formula. “The AI ​​notes could indicate that the approach wasn’t structured properly,” he said.

But AI’s efficiency in organizing meetings and writing processes offers an attractive benefit to studios and streaming services looking to drive down content costs while streamlining production cycles. Conversely, eliminating repetitive tasks could free creative workers more time to focus on passionate projects, Hollywood insiders say.

“Shows will be inspired by this technology,” James Blevins, line producer of The Mandalorian, said at AI on the Lot, a conference held in Hollywood last week that focused on the promises and dangers of AI. “When you see these tools, instead of seeing the sky fall, look for an opportunity.”

Add “Scale Complexity”

A key opportunity AI offers is the ability to add texture and nuance to visual effects and lighting at a fraction of the cost and time it would take to do it traditionally. Chris Perez, director of product marketing at Perforce Software, claims that advanced virtual production powered by AI will be able to use surface detail and shading to bring “more realistic, immersive environments” like buildings and realms to “more complex scale.” The visual effects would work just as well in a superhero epic as they would in a 1930s historical play.

The early debate about the unpredictability of rapidly evolving technology has spilled over into the tech industry itself, with executives from major AI vendors holding opposing views.

“These Hollywood screenwriters should be very scared. Don’t you think Hollywood will make use of it?” Tom Siebel, CEO of C3.ai Inc. (AI), said in an interview. To underline his point of view, he conducted a short query about himself using ChatGPT-4. Within a few minutes, a sparkling biography was created.

“Imagine producing a screenplay for a sitcom or a crime series,” Siebel said. “Gen AI might have the intellectual abilities and prose of an eighth grader now, but she’s a fast learner. This is going crazy. Super scary.”

Not only writers are afraid. “Actors are hearing that studios are looking to digitize their voices and bodies for scenes, as well as for advertising and promotional purposes,” said James G. Sarantinos, editor-in-chief of Creative Screenwriting Magazine. And writers, he said in an interview, “could become glorified engineers tinkering with AI scripts.”

But change is essential in any economy as diverse and dynamic as America’s, argues a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, who believes the changes will be less drastic than some expect.

“We have evolved from an agricultural society to an industrial society and now to a knowledge society,” said David Blumberg, founder and managing partner of VC firm Blumberg Capital, in an interview. “Many of these Malthusian doomsday theories are almost always wrong. In the short term, AI will make you much more efficient, especially in your work.”

However, others in the tech industry urge caution.

“This AI tipping point is still human-centric,” said CJ Desai, President of ServiceNow Inc. (NOW), in an interview. “But we have to make sure it’s an extension of the human. Artificial intelligence can never replace human intelligence.”

AI is just a tool, notes Andy Parsons, senior director of the Content Authenticity Initiative at Adobe Inc. (ADBE). “It doesn’t have to take responsibility for humans. For the most part, if our lawmakers and others get it right, it’s a value-added tool that helps people do more,” he said in an interview. “But especially for creatives, creative professionals, and the audiences that Adobe serves, these are remarkable tools for creativity.”

Startups are developing products that will define the future of AI in writing and other creative endeavors. For example, Sudowrite, an AI “writing partner” that launched Thursday, has already helped dozens of authors create novels.

“I’ve heard a number of times that it’s not necessarily about using fewer people, it’s about individuals being more productive,” said Monica Landers, CEO of StoryFit. “There is a certain anticipation for the future.”

StoryFit uses AI to help the film industry with scripts and characters. “I was prepared for negativity, and instead I have people with decades of experience who have never seen anything like this saying they will find a way to get me involved in the funding if need be so they can use their AI can,” she said in an email message from Cannes this week.

Disruptive technology unsettles creative people

People in the creative industry have taken this disruptive path before. The introduction of the camera in the early 19th century forced portrait painters to turn to Impressionist art; the introduction of sound in films with The Jazz Singer in 1927 ended the careers of some actors, directors, cinematographers and others; and in the 1990s, computer animation changed the way animated films were produced.

The history of technology-transforming creative work has led some, including Scott Steindorff, a television producer and documentary maker whose credits include ‘Station Eleven’ and ‘Chef’, to take a pragmatic approach to AI.

“We won’t stop it. We have to understand and accept it,” he said in an interview. “When the internet came along, everyone was against it, and in the end it helped us. AI is like an advanced Google.”

Currently, generative AI can create a mediocre script if someone gives it a story idea and some characters. But that’s likely to change over the next few years as technology advances.

“AI is potentially a good tool for writers — until it displaces writers or shrinks writers’ spaces,” said Jason Vredenburg, literary and film scholar and associate professor at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Although AI is capable of reproducing standard content from programs such as crime series, simple sitcoms, and superhero films, the fundamental disadvantages of AI are that it is repetitive, has residual biases, and relies on stereotypical representations of race and gender, as Guggenheim calls it.

“There is definitely this gold rush. People are acting too fast,” Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg said in an interview. “We will continue to need the human element. You can increase creativity, but you can’t completely replace the creative people.”

In fact, some artists are using “the intersection of intelligent human decisions with the speed enhancement of AI” to enhance their work, StoryFit’s Landers said.

At the AI ​​Summit in Hollywood, Pinar Seyhan Demirdag, an arts and creative technologist who developed Cuberic, a generative AI project, put it in both scientific and artistic terms. “You dance with the machine to understand how it works. AI tools invite us to think differently,” he said.

“Whether it’s a news article, a book, a song, or a Hollywood movie, the writers will always take the lead and harness human creativity and imagination,” said Volker Smid, CEO of Acrolinx, an AI software -as-a-service platform. “This won’t go away.”

Therese Poletti contributed to this.

-Jon Swartz

This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently of Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.

(ENDS) Dow Jones Newswires

5/26/23 1157ET

Copyright (c) 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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