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Will AI make Hollywood production cheaper? Don't count on it

Will AI make Hollywood production cheaper?  Don't count on it

 


Before digital tools allowed composers to simulate any instrument on a laptop, musical scores for television were simple melodies performed by a handful of session musicians. New technology has caused these musicians to lose their jobs; the guy who transcribed the composer's scores too.

However: this does not mean that scores require fewer people or that their production has become cheaper.

Today, even the smallest television shows employ full orchestras. Technology has made things easier, but the cost of producing music for film and television has only increased. With greater opportunities, more advanced jobs have replaced those that were lost.

This is the analogy used by Matt Nix, showrunner of “Burn Notice” and the recent “True Lies,” to describe the advent of artificial intelligence during the AI ​​on the Lot summit on May 16 at the Los Angeles Studios. Center. He rejected the idea that AI would become a path to low-cost film and TV production using fewer people – no matter how much studios would like that to be the case.

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“In the Hollywood arms race, the studios are very keen to save money and lay off a number of people, but I think what they forget is that this doesn't “literally never worked in the history of mankind,” Nix said during a panel moderated by IndieWire editor-in-chief Dana Harris-Bridson. “Not once has a new technology come along and everyone said, 'We're just going to try not to do anything new just to save money.'”

Nix made another analogy: machine guns. A single machine gun could fire as many bullets as dozens, even hundreds, of men armed with rifles. However, this did not mean that a machine gun replaced armies; this meant that armies now carried machine guns and wars were more expensive than ever.

AI, he believes, will make Hollywood much easier and faster, but the industry will continue to invest in making the next thing bigger and better – just like superhero and fantasy shows with a heavy FX component only made production expensive.

“The arms race continues,” he said.

AI on the Lot
AI on the LotCourtesy of Chris Willard Communications

All metaphors aside, AI has the potential to eliminate jobs and disrupt Hollywood's workflow. During last summer's WGA strike, writers demanded that AI-generated material cannot be handed to a writer to disrupt or completely replace the act of writing; strikers fought for protection and compensation when using digital replicas.

However, during a keynote presentation, Renard Jenkins, president of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), stressed that the widespread concern was misplaced. Speaking to AI on the Lot attendees, he challenged studio executives to think about how much it would cost to integrate AI into a company or studio's existing infrastructure – and what large scale. This made the idea that AI would replace everyone and everything unrealistic, he argued.

“You’re probably not going to release people into the wild,” Jenkins said. “You're going to learn how to retrain people, and then you're probably going to have to spend more money on it to retain them, because they're going to be in demand.”

He went further: It's not fringe artists that AI will replace, he said, but today's CFOs and executives. Give Jenkins 10 years of financial performance data and content production-related data, and he could soon create an algorithm that makes Wall Street happier with its predictions and decisions than a C-suite human.

Renard Jenkins AI on the Lot
Renard Jenkins at AI sur le LotCourtesy of Chris Willard Communications

“Every part of the process will be affected, but don’t think of it in the sense of replacement,” he said. “Think of it in the sense of improvement and in the relevance of the times.”

Mark Hoffman, executive producer of “Bull” and “The Umbrella Academy,” said there is a “very hushed tone” around which writers and creators are actually experimenting with AI. The new employment contract requires writers and studios to ask permission before using AI, and to sign forms limiting the studio's liability. There are also inherent title and copyright issues. As a result, Hoffman said, the general policy among studios has simply been “this is not allowed.”

Nix added: “No one in Hollywood writers' rooms is going to use AI because it's bad and bad. [But] a lot of people will come back from the toilet with really good ideas.

Hoffman believes AI will reinvent the process and act of screenwriting – much like how talkies reinvented the way people wrote movies.

“If it’s a marathon, the first and last miles are the hardest,” he said. “First you have to find inspiration. What are you going to write about? You can't just say to the AI, “Give me a movie.” It has to come from somewhere. Getting to the end is really difficult. Refine the script I already have something pretty good, but I need something awesome and to grab your attention. So you will always need staff for that last mile.

It's true that AI is unbeatable when it comes to quickly creating scripts at low cost, but Nix argued that's not really the problem. “It’s still a pattern that says, ‘AI is totally useless garbage that’s going to take all of our jobs,’” he said. “You kind of have to choose one or the other. Guys, if crappy scripts were that valuable, we'd all be sitting on a gold mine.

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