NEW YORK (AP) — When Greg Brockman, the president and co-founder of ChatGPT maker OpenAI, was recently extolling the capabilities of artificial intelligence, he turned to “Game of Thrones.”
Imagine, he said, if you could use AI to rewrite the ending of that not-so-popular finale. Maybe even put yourself into the show.
“That is what entertainment will look like,” said Brockman.
Not six months since the release of ChatGPT, generative artificial intelligence is already prompting widespread unease throughout Hollywood. Concern over chatbots writing or rewriting scripts is one of the leading reasons TV and film screenwriters took to picket lines earlier this week.
Though the Writers Guild of America is striking for better pay in an industry where streaming has upended many of the old rules, AI looms as rising anxiety.
“AI is terrifying,” said Danny Strong, the “Dopesick” and “Empire” creator. “Now, I’ve seen some of ChatGPT’s writing and as of now I’m not terrified because Chat is a terrible writer. But who knows? That could change.”
AI chatbots, screenwriters say, could potentially be used to spit out a rough first draft with a few simple prompts (“a heist movie set in Beijing”). Writers would then be hired, at a lower pay rate, to punch it up.
Screenplays could also be slyly generated in the style of known writers. What about a comedy in the voice of Nora Ephron? Or a gangster film that sounds like Mario Puzo? You won't get anything close to “Casablanca” but the barest bones of a bad Liam Neeson thriller isn't out of the question.
The WGA’s basic agreement defines a writer as a “person” and only a human’s work can be copyrighted. But even though no one’s about to see a “By AI” writers credit at the beginning a movie, there are myriad ways that regenerative AI could be used to craft outlines, fill in scenes and mock up drafts.
“We’re not totally against AI,” says Michael Winship, president of the WGA East and a news and documentary writer. “There are ways it can be useful. But too many people are using it against us and using it to create mediocrity. They’re also in violation of copyright. They’re also plagiarizing.”
The guild is seeking more safeguards on how AI can be applied to screenwriting. It says the studios are stonewalling on the issue. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on the behalf of production companies, has offered to annually meet with the guild to go over definitions around the fast-evolving technology.
“It’s something that requires a lot more discussion, which we’ve committed to doing,” the AMPTP said in an outline of its position released Thursday.
Experts say the struggle screenwriters are now facing with regenerative AI is just the beginning. The World Economic Forum this week released a report predicting that nearly a quarter of all jobs will be disrupted by AI over the next five years.
“It’s definitely a bellwether in the workers' response to the potential impacts of artificial intelligence on their work,” says Sarah Myers West, managing director of the nonprofit AI Now Institute, which has lobbied the government to enact more regulation around AI. “It’s not lost on me that a lot of the most meaningful efforts in tech accountability have been a product of worker-led organizing.”
AI has already filtered into nearly every part of moviemaking. It’s been used to de-age actors, remove swear words from scenes in post-production, supply viewing recommendations on Netflix and posthumously bring back the voices of Anthony Bourdain and Andy Warhol.