Artificial Intelligence and
28th July 2023 . 6 min read
Quickly, think of your favourite movie!
Now, what if I told you it was written by a computer, an AI tool or, the bots? Large data sets of existing stories were brought together and analysed, for a new story (your favourite movie) to come alive. How do you feel about it? Are you bothered by it or completely unhinged? Did you ponder on the ethics of it?
Either way, the reality is that AI has and would have a considerable role in the filmmaking space; therefore, it's better to learn about its uses and harms rather than continue to feed ourselves more fear, uncertainty and scepticism.
From Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa to the rise of AI tools like ChatGPT and MidJourney—as people working and interested in the craft of film-making, the question of how Artificial Intelligence would affect or transform films is rigorously being debated and contested. It is “becoming a game-changer in the film industry. From scriptwriting and casting to special effects and distribution, AI is transforming the way movies are made and seen”. Recently, we have been hearing a lot about movie VFXs (visual effects)—especially through meme fests—and AI, at a large scale “is being used to enhance the visual effects (VFX) in films. Machine learning algorithms can be trained to recognize and classify different objects in a scene, making it easier and faster to add VFX elements. This can save time and money for VFX studios, as well as enhance the overall quality of the film”.
So, it’s evident that AI can give us many visual treats but what about the art of story-telling? Can it write films and shows that will touch us on a deeper level? Can it weave stories which we will binge-watch on weekends?
As people who love to watch movies from the warmth of our cozy homes and are not shy to hit that replay button again and again, one thing we must know is—“Computers don’t cry during sad stories, but they can tell when we will”. Don’t be scared, nobody is snooping on your emotional triggers (not sure, really) but to demystify the role of AI in the film industry, the game is simply of data. Data scientists “study the data collected from audiences to understand their preferences and predict which movies will receive maximum approval. The goal is to determine the success rate of the movie industry as well as the amount of total profit”.
Giants like Netflix and Amazon have been using AI to boost their viewership for a long-time now. One of the most common uses of AI by these biggies is their content-recommendation business. For example: Nextfilx’s model works on learning the preferences of the audience as they spend more and more time on it, which means “the more time you spend on Netflix, the more relevant shows and movies will be recommended”. However, Amazon Prime is different as it “uses cutting-edge approaches such as graph convolutional networks (GCNs) to connect information about their videos and users from a variety of information sources, acquiring and processing data sets on a scale. It allows Amazon Prime to find their user’s niche interests and recommend content accordingly”.
So, if AI can recommend to you another show that you might like based on data—what’s stopping it from writing stories based on the same data?
Many people argue that AI can never acquire the ‘human touch’ and take the spot of ‘human creativity’; therefore, we should see machines in filmmaking as co-creators, co-directors, co-marketers and so on. Besides that, “many industry professionals believe that the technology has the potential to enhance the art of storytelling rather than replace human creativity. By automating certain aspects of the filmmaking process, AI can free up filmmakers to focus on the more creative aspects of their work, ultimately leading to more innovative and engaging films”. Alternately, autonomous film-making can be used to “spread misinformation or propaganda, or to create emotionally manipulative content”.
With AI, specific stories could be made for a certain set of people, which can “lead to a situation where viewers are only exposed to a narrow range of ideas and perspectives”. Other ethical issues are related to the data that is being used to create new stories and films, which are actually the original ideas of writers and filmmakers. Is their consent involved in this whole process? Are their rights being infringed upon as they are not aware of who, where and how is using their work?
We cannot blind ourselves to the growth and impact of AI in the film-making space—it is the present and the future. It is exciting to witness the creative possibilities that AI is bringing to cinema but we must be aware of the ethical and regulatory concerns hanging over our heads. For a bit of fun, we (for sure) don’t know what the future with AI will look like but—at least, let’s make it a cool ride.
"Sabahat Ali Wani is a writer, researcher and artist from Kashmir. She loves to explore the intersection of cinema with gender, identity and politics, and believes that the appreciation of cinema is incomplete without its criticism."