While artificial intelligence tools are increasingly being used to improve product and service delivery, Hollywood writers and stars are not embracing the idea of AI replacing people in the movie industry.
Studios in Hollywood recently put forward plans to use AI actors instead of human beings. The plan leverages AI technology to scan and store images of background actors, known as extras, and then use the scanned pictures for future productions.
The move has sparked widespread controversy with most actors comparing the proposal to an episode of Black Mirror.
AI ignites hostility
The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) announced their intentions to mobilize a strike citing the use of AI in the industry as one of their many concerns.
According to Variety, the SAG-AFTRA members are joining forces with the Writers Guild of America in the strike, which makes it a double strike, something that last happened in Hollywood in the 1960s. The Writers Association is reported to have been on strike since May 2, while the SAG-AFTRA started on July 14.
SAG-AFTRA National Executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told a press conference that was introducing what they termed “groundbreaking” proposals to allow the likeness of background performers to be used indefinitely.
The compensation conundrum
While the main issue causing the strikes is fair compensation and streaming residuals, the issue of employing AI in the industry has also made its way as a concern. 2012-star John Cusack took to Twitter to express his displeasure.
“Studios wanna have extras work one day, scan them – own their likeness forever – and eliminate them from the business – & do you think they will stop with extras -? That’s what AI is – a giant Copywrite identity theft – criminal Enterprise / we had no idea this would happen!” tweeted the actor.
Studios wanna have extras work one day
Scan them – own their likeness forever – and eliminate them from the business – & do you think they will stop with extras – ?
That’s what AI is – a giant Copywrite identity theft – criminal
Enterprise / we had no idea this would…
— John Cusack (@johncusack) July 14, 2023
“They will say in 10 years when the scope and scale of the plunder is revealed – of course they did – it’s the business model – The algorithms serve the profit motive – A I savage capitalism – blame it on the algorithms you create to make more money. That’s not a labor deal – it’s a labor fatwa.”
Speaking at a press conference in Los Angeles, SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland expressed dismay towards what the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) considers a ‘groundbreaking proposal’.
“They propose that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s work, and their company should own that scan of their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity,” he said.
“So, if you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal, I suggest you think again.”
The Black Mirror
Many have compared this move to employ AI to the Black Mirror series season 6 episode ‘Joan is Awful’ where AI is used to generate TV shows using the likeness of the public.
Twitter user @AhmarSKhan said: “This scene in Black Mirror’s ‘Joan is Awful’ about how entertainment companies could control a person’s likeness and use it as they desire, including data from cellphones, is frightening — and according to the SAG-AFTRA negotiations, not too far off from reality. Chilling.”
“BLACK MIRROR IN 2013: here’s what the world might look like in 25 years. BLACK MIRROR IN 2023: Hollywood producers, driven in no small part by Netflix, will release a proposal to use AI to obtain permanent likeness of actors, without pay. This will happen in 2 weeks,” another user tweeted.
The use of AI in the arts and entertainment industry is a bone of contention with others seeing it as a game changer while its critics such as rapper and actor Ice Cube have labelled it demonic.