We’re only a week into Hollywood’s Writers Strike, but it is already impacting the film industry set up across the Southeast.
The Writers Guild of America’s decision to strike caused Atlanta-based productions, like Stranger Things, to announce delays in their filming schedules. The longer the strike goes on, there’s a good chance even more of Georgia’s 30 current film sets might also shut down, along with those shooting in regional hubs like Charlotte and New Orleans.
The union went on strike after failing to come to an agreement with studios, streaming services, and networks around compensation and working conditions. Another big source of contention? Artificial intelligence.
Broadly, the union wants to put limits and regulations around the use of AI-generated content.
Now, screenwriters are far from the only people with jobs being impacted by the rise of AI. Hypepotamus previously covered how chatbots are changing how startups do work. But their impact on creative fields is a bit murkier. Do studios have the right to use existing content and train an AI to create original content? How small can a writing staff be if AI is part of the scriptwriting process? Are writers and artists even necessary in this new Age of AI?
“It’s a tricky situation because the economics…these generative models are capable of significantly reducing the time to create content,” said marketing professor David Schweidel at Emory’s Goizueta Business School. “Large language models have essentially been fed the English version of the internet. You’ve got lots and lots of text from music lyrics, books, blog posts, and news articles that have all been used to teach these artificial intelligence programs what the English language looks like. But when we say that, what we mean is it can predict the next set of words. So think of it like a really powerful autocomplete.”
Schweidel, who researches the impact of artificial intelligence on different industry verticals, said generative AI certainly isn’t going away anytime soon. That is adding another layer of complexity to the contract negotiations.
“In the short-term, it makes sense to me the position that the union has taken. They’ve got to make this argument now to defend workers’ livelihoods, so [they] need to get restrictions on the use of AI for TV and entertainment purposes,” he added. “But studios are looking at it from a business perspective. And those studios might be thinking that AI could be used right now to keep content going during this strike.”
AI’s silver lining in the creative world
Venture capitalists have put $5.9 billion into generative AI startups since the start of 2022, according to Pitchbook, making it one of the fastest growing tech sectors right now. The “Age of AI” has no doubt raised concerns about job security for writers and content creators.
But for Schweidel, AI is far from a doomsday scenario for creatives. In fact, it is a chance to let human creativity shine and could lead to a rush of “novel or groundbreaking content.”
While AI will be able to write another season of a formulaic show, Schweidel said that AI will struggle to create new series or “genre-bending” shows.
That has implications for not only screenwriters, but anyone who writes for a living. AI assistance will likely become more ingrained in the writing process and help eliminate some of the more repetitive tasks for writers and writing teams. And while Schweidel said there is certainly a need to put up guardrails and look at the ethics of generative AI, he also believes there is a lot of opportunity to innovate how we write – be it screenplays, marketing campaigns, or advertisements.
“I think becoming familiar with these tools is essential. I feel like the minimum job security task is to learn these tools, learn what they’re capable of doing, and learn what their shortcomings are. That’s going to create business opportunities,” he added.