During the 2023 AVACI International Congress, held between May 3 and 4 in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, the impact of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) on the work of screenwriters and directors was discussed.
The Argentine director and screenwriter, Marcelo Piñeyro (DAC), the Croatian director, Nikica Zdunic, member of the Board of Directors of DHFR, the Brazilian screenwriter, Sylvia Palma (GEDAR), the Colombian screenwriter, Carlos Gaviria (REDES), the lawyers specialized in authors’ rights, Luis Mangiavillano (DAC) and Germán Gutiérrez (ARGENTORES), the Slovenian, Gregor Stibernik, managing director of AIPA, and the Panamanian director and screenwriter, Luis Romero (EDAP) participated in the exposition.
The panelists provided an approach on the new technologies, focusing on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) within the audiovisual industry and how its use is modifying the ways of production.
The use of A.I. is a worldwide topic of debate and the audiovisual industry is not exempted from this debate since its use ranges from the writing of scripts and the casting to the special effects and the distribution.
Certainly, A.I. is changing the way by which movies are made and watched. On the one hand, it provides benefits but there are also potential disadvantages that must be considered.
“I will talk about the concerns it generates. The first things that come to my mind are the apocalyptic images. On the strike of Hollywood screenwriters nowadays, one of the claims has to do with the use of AI by producers. That is the most likely apocalypse. The positive use of AI in the audiovisual is uncontested. In the creative aspect, can AI replace us?”, Marcelo Piñeyro opened the debate with these words.
As an exercise, Piñeyro gave as example the film Last Year at Marienbad, of Alan Resnais and imagined “to pass it through A.I. as if the story was ours and to ask A.I. to develop the story in structures and to divide it in acts and scenes. That movie in particular goes in the opposite direction as a model of development. AI led us to a more conventional narrative. Undoubtedly, AI today operates with the data load it has.”
Marcelo Piñeyro - Director and Screenwriter Last year at Marienbad
On her part, Nikica Zdunic claimed that “some jobs will be lost, but I think those will be the technical ones and not the creative ones”. The Croatian director told that she started using Midjourney - an A.I. that creates images from text or from other images – to develop a storyboard and “I didn’t like it but it was impressive”. And she added that sometimes she chats with A.I. when she writes scripts to ask its opinion: “it helps me realize what is expected and I try to avoid it.”
Image generated with Midjourney Nikica Zdunic - Croatian Director
For Sylvia Palma, A.I “requires new ways of how to think. I am optimistic, because we used to write with pens, then with machines, then with computers and we have never forgotten the fact of creation. As long as we have more access to knowledge and the technology helping us to create, we will start addressing new processes that we hadn’t even image before.”
Sylvia Palma - Brazilian Screenwriter
What are the limits?
According to the information published on the sites Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, “the main artificial intelligence companies (OpenAI, Google, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, Inflection and Anthropic) have voluntarily accepted security measures to manage the risks derived from the emerging technology in an attempt by the White House to get the industry to be regulated by itself in the absence of a legislation that may state limits towards the development of new tools.”
Currently, it is well known that there are many script companies working on data loading for AI to have more information at the time of being fed to create. Is it clear how much we should provide or to what extent we should allow its interference?
Marcelo Piñeyro – like the Hollywood industry itself – questioned during the Congress “what is the limit of the tool and to what extent do we grant the authority to develop in the narrative? I am interested in the narrative because, when we talk about creating digital worlds, we are talking about objective things. When I was 18 years old, this present was impossible concerning the possibility of watching and making films.”
Another topic addressed at the debate during the last Congress of AVACI was to what extent can or should productions developed with A.I., that may have Humphrey Bogart and Michelle Pfeiffer as main characters, be accepted.
The Panamanian director, Luis Romero, highlighted that “A.I. has existed for many years. Since a computer was created, there is artificial intelligence. In my opinion, the essence is not in the use of AI against us. The Final Draft is artificial intelligence: you write the script, it defines how many times you used the character and its path. These programs were created for war and to generate money and power for the dominant system. What we do with artificial intelligence must be a human issue.”
Luis Romero - Panamanian Director and Screenwriter Image generated with Midjourney
In this regard, Piñeyro expressed that he “would love to develop a film with the Marlon Brando of the ‘50s. The problem is whether it replaces us, the creators. I would never deny animation cinema, even though I do not perform it. AI has made animation grow in an amazing way and it keeps generating extraordinary works. But we are still not clear about the potential of A.I. as a tool. In my opinion, the point is that in this world of powerful economies, someone might want to use the tool to replace us. I am sure there is people thinking about replacing us by A.I.”
Authors’ rights at stake
From the example of Bogart, Pfeiffer and Brando, the question of whether those productions would not constitute – or be near – falsification, thus violating authors’ rights, arose. An ethical and moral dilemma, which led to the question raised by the Slovenian director and screenwriter, Klemen Dvornik (AIPA): “How should A.I. be used not to infringe authors’ rights?”
And the executive director of DAC, Luis Mangiavillano, rehearsed a first answer to that effect, stating that “we are facing a problem. Recently, a decision of the United States Copyright Office denied copyright to a comic created by A.I. This means that A.I. creates and that creation has no author right. The right of author appears to protect persons. If machines start creating and the institutions state that creations do not have owners because there is no human behind that work, we have a problem. A.I. develops algorithms but it is nourished by authors’ rights. This is a dangerous situation; governments are denying the right of author on A.I.”
Image generated with Midjourney Luis Mangiavillano Attorney specialized in Authors' Rights
The writer, Philip K. Dick, asked himself whether “androids dream of electric sheep”; and the director, Steven Spielberg, in the now distant year 2001, wondered in his film A.I whether these intelligences were going to have feelings like humans.
The Colombian screenwriter, Carlos Gaviria (REDES), reminded that “a psychiatrist wrote The man who mistook his wife for a hat, and he tells that someone lost the emotional intelligence there, but not the rational. That’s what’s terrifying. The most significant matter is the emotion we put to things. AI ends up being like a falsifier of paintings: you can learn how to do a painting of Cézanne but it will never have the emotional soul of Cézanne”.
Carlos Gaviria - Colombian Screenwriter Image generated with Midjourney
In contrast, the Slovenian Gregor Stibernik asserted that: “I do not agree that AI is not capable of having feelings. A chat bot can write a joke. Currently, AI can replace the average screenwriter”.
Image generated with Midjourney Gregor Stibernik - AIPA's General Manager
The lawyer, Germán Gutiérrez, stated that “a work created by AI does not reflect anyone’s personality because there is no human behind it. The works used as training will deserve protection and we will fight for those original rights to be observed, despite the adaptation of the A.I.”.
Germán Gutiérrez - Lawyer Image generated with Midjourney
Most of the participants in the talk-debate about the impact of AI on the work of screenwriters and directors, agreed that the need for regulation is a key issue but, since it is not in their hands but in the hands of the corporations that manage them, it is at least concerning.
A.I. reflected by Hollywood
In the last installment of Mission Impossible -Dead Reckoning Part One-, Tom Cruise and his team faced an all-powerful form of artificial intelligence known as The Entity, which has the ability to manipulate people, weapons and several defense systems. In the film, they try to prevent The Entity from falling into the wrong hands, chasing some powerful ones who want to acquire and control that dangerous technology.
The film hit movie theaters at a time of great concern due to the actual threat posed by A.I., even in Hollywood, where the restrictions over what technology can and cannot be used for in films and in television are at the center of the ongoing labor disputes between writers and actors on strike versus legal firms and platforms.
“Artificial Intelligence is clearly something we are fighting against”, the Swedish actress and main character of Mission Impossible, Rebecca Ferguson, told to the The Hollywood Reporter, referring to the strike of writers and what was then a strike of potential actors. “People are scared. We live in a world where A.I. will merge with our world and we have to see where we fit and how it works since it does not only pass over our jobs, but through our daily life”.
Rebecca Ferguson - Wikipedia
Among the conclusions, Marcelo Piñeyro highlighted one aspect in which A.I. can be useful for the audiovisual industry. “The most important thing is for the work to circulate and to be exhibited. As it was at the time when films were part of the debate and set the agenda, impacting on the world. I believe A.I. can help us with this so that our work does not stop circulating, if diverse. The vision of creators should determine the existence of works. I think those are our challenges”.
The future is pure uncertainty and the humanity is a witness of the first steps of A.I. in the universe of creativity, within the art world. “Should A.I. develop to generate emotion, it will become a very essential ethical issue. I believe we are just at the beginning and it is very difficult to imagine where it can go to”, Piñeyro concluded.