Ai: The Uncertain Future

It was once helpful to introduce new and faster means of achieving production. Today it seems eerily uncertain.

The Screenwriters Guild strike ends this month after months of lingering resentment and disagreement between the big studios and the creative heads of the largest film industry in the world. The dispute is simple enough to state: The writers want more economic security for the services they provide, and who wouldn't? With inflation soaring worldwide and the film industry recovering impressively from the dire COVID-19 pause, an increase in incentive doesn't seem like a huge ask for people who perform such salient tasks…. Or do they?

For decades, Hollywood, through the big studios, has been slowly treading into the magical and uncertain Waters of AI; first came the magnificent sound effects that wowed the audience with their authenticity and realism, then came the green backgrounds that enabled almost every stunt possible with just a handful of clicks, then in 2019 one of the greatest directors in history Martin Scorsese used the newly renovated de-aging device in his Netflix hit "The Irishman" all to the immense satisfaction of the audience.

What the audience doesn't know, however, is that with each step, thousands of well-defined jobs that were held by fellow humans are extinguished forever; first, the mostly homeless people who posed as extras or crowds were forever replaced by the generative power of video editing techniques, then the green backgrounds all but ended any hopes of making it big in the industry as a stunt double, the de-aging technique would also mean the death of so many promising actors with similar looks to their older counterparts. Think of De Niro's legendary portrayal as a younger Vito Corleone in The Godfather II; with today's de-aging technique, Coppola would have simply de-aged Marlon Brando from the original movie and, just like that, no legendary lines for De Niro.

The biggest drive in a capitalist system is simple brutal profit-seeking, and above all thing in this agenda is how to cut the cost of production, "How can I make so much with as little as possible?" and that is where all our technological advances have boiled down to, especially the one that is economically inclined. The mindset remains starkly unchanged from the Industrial Revolution to today's information technology race.

Consequently, the big studios have discovered how it might be easier and, above all else, cheaper to do with AI, which was previously an exclusive role of the screenwriters, especially for adapted screenplays. Think of the best fantasies you've watched (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park, The Game of Thrones series, etc.); they all have one thing in common: they were mostly best-selling novels before they were adapted to screenplays and probably became more popular on screen, now the rights to those books are hardly cheap, to be able to put it on screen takes massive expensive risks, after acquiring the filming right from the author, then Screenwriters are hired to work on the book and turn it into an actable picture and this is where the strike comes in.

Anyone who works or has used any of the latest generative AI technology, be it Adobe's generative fill or even ChatGpt, would likely see what is being stated here; with those advanced techs, you could easily convert the original books into an actable picture with ease, bypassing the entire screenwriting process.

Of course, there are still some lapses with these methods, but as the capitalist quest for profit continues unendingly, it is fair to say that these lapses won't be there forever. With time, techniques would be provided that would ultimately perfect these minor challenges, and just like the stunt doubles and homeless extras, the screenwriting job wouldn't be so desirable anymore.

The studios know this, and even the Screenwriters Guild probably have inklings about this. So the strike and its demands, despite its moral questions, penetrate into the deepest motives of the industry itself: Gain, Gain, and…. Gain.

Ludacris was bewildered on a podcast this year about how he couldn't understand people who always asked him why they continued making the blockbuster Fast Saga movies. "I need people to understand," he said, "even if you're not watching it, when you spend $200m to make a movie and you're getting a Billion in return, it has to continue".

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