The current labor strike in Hollywood revolves around a number of heated points, from reportable streaming numbers from the likes of Disney, Netflix, or Amazon to the increased role of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) in the creative process. Advanced technologies undoubtedly could make certain steps of the industry smoother. But there’s no substitute for the creative input of a human artist, and artificial intelligence can’t match the intuitive contributions of a writer, an actor, a director, or any craftsperson in the entertainment process. At least, not yet, if you listen to Lone Survivor and Patriot’s Day director Peter Berg. But that day is coming. And quickly.
Virtually every creative in Hollywood is concerned about the rapid development of A.I. technologies, and the influence it could have on every aspect of the film, television, and print industries. As such, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are making A.I. a sticking point for labor negotiations, and a lack of settlement is leading to several major movies like Dune: Part Two being delayed. But now’s the time for stability, because Peter Berg says he has seen what is coming. While appearing on CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast to promote his Netflix series Painkiller, Berg told the hosts:
Nobody's necessarily safe or immune to this, at this point. It is what it is. I am thankful that I can still work with human beings and writers and cinematographers. A group reached out to me and showed me a demo of A.I. storyboarding – where you give them a script, and within five minutes, they had a shot list of visual shots for every shot in the movie. Now, these were very basic shots. Wide shot, closeup, closeup. But they were shots. And it's not hard to imagine two years down the road, if you say, ‘A.I., study three Marty Scorsese films in the visuals, and give me storyboards for those based upon the influences of Marty Scorsese's films and his cinematographer.’ Then an A.I. will be able to read the script, give you the shots, create the shots, submit those shots to a producer. The producer hires a film crew to execute those shots. The shots are then put into an A.I. editing program, edited per shot list that A.I. generated, scored by an A.I. simulated composer, and there's your movie. So, you know, my mind can go to these places, and there are certainly people out there generally… I find younger generations who are all about that, and that is what it is.
It sounds like fear mongering. It’s really not. That’s how rapidly the A.I. technology appears to be evolving. Now, a filmmaker like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, or Christopher Nolan can’t be broken down into an easily replicated formula. That’s how Nolan has been able to create some of the best movies ever made. But you don’t think a movie studio CEO concerned more with the bottom line wouldn’t sacrifice a little to potentially earn a lot? This is where the industry is heading, if the guilds don’t take a stand, the way that they currently are.
But Peter Berg cast a wider net when he told ReelBlend:
The fear and the concern is real. I don't know that there's anything that we can do to stop it, you know? And like I said, when we were talking about architects and accountants and clothing designers… there's so many jobs that are, if you start looking at who could potentially be in the scope of A.I., whose jobs are in jeopardy? Almost everyone is.
Sobering. Almost as sobering as Peter Berg’s Painkiller, which dissects the opioid crisis and the people it tears apart. It’s available now if you have a Netflix subscription, and is definitely worth checking out.