Hollywood screenwriter Michelle Amor says she is concerned about the effects of AI (AI) on her career. “I don’t want to be replaced with something artificial.”
Ms. Amor and other US TV and film writers have been on strike since the beginning of May.
One of their most important requirements is that streaming companies and studios are willing to limit how they will use AI-powered scripting software, for instance, ChatGPT.
They and their association, The Writers Guild of America – would like to see in their writings that AI can be used only to research and never to replace them.
“My mother’s union job as a packer for 35 years was replaced with robotics,” she says. Amor has two TV shows in the development process: the Honourable and PG County.
“That’s understandable because it’s a labour intensive job, but we create art. Who wants a fake Picasso?”
Ms. Amor, who claims she is vehemently opposed to using AI in screenwriting, says: “We writers are the heart and soul of this entire industry. No one works until we do – everyone knows it.”
Screenwriter Melissa Rundle says she was amazed at the speed with which ChatGPT was a central issue in the ongoing labour dispute.
“I was surprised at first, because Chat GPT appeared seemingly out of nowhere – but as soon as I became more familiar with its ever-increasing capabilities it became a concern,” Says Ms. Rundle. She has written the TV show Kung FU and the movie Cup Of Love, among several other projects.
“It’s likely here to stay, and we need to cope with the disruption. Writers are not trying to stop progress – we’re just trying to build in some basic protections against employers who have proven time and time again they won’t hesitate to exploit us if given the chance.”
Ms. Rundle says: “At a minimum, we are fighting for the regulation of AI in projects, as well as an apparent belief that it can’t write or rewrite any piece of literature. Also, it cannot be used as source material, either.
“I saw a great sign on the picket lines that read ‘AI doesn’t have childhood trauma’ and this is truly important. As writers we are creating stories that touch people and oftentimes digging deep into our soul – this is storytelling at its most sacred and should never be robbed by a machine.”
Elliott Kalan is a comedian and screenwriter. His works include The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and Mystery Science Theater 3000. He says one of the most prominent challenges screenwriters face is the danger of executive directors of studios using AI to create new ideas for television or film series.
“Rather than buying an original screenplay or television series, or even hiring a writer to adapt an existing work into a new medium, they’ll try to have a computer program spit out ideas for shows or movies – then pay a writer a small amount to rework it and make it presentable and interesting,” says Mr. Kalan.
“If that happens, writers will lose a lot of the compensation they should be receiving for their ideas and their work, as well as losing the chance to really contribute something meaningful to audiences.”
But, Mr. Kalan can recognize the potential for AI to aid writers. “Ideally, AI should remain an optional tool used for organising information – or for communicating ideas.”
According to Scott Rowe, The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers spokesperson, AI is a complex, crucial legal, and creative question for all.
The association represents the studios and streaming companies, like Warner Bros Discovery, Disney, Netflix, and Apple.
“We’re creative companies, and we value the work of creatives,” says Rowe. “The most compelling stories are creative, insightful, and usually based on people’s experiences.
“For example, writers want to be able to use the new AI technology as part of their creative process, without changing how credits are determined, which is complicated given AI material can’t be copyrighted. So it’s something that requires a lot more discussion, which we’ve committed to doing.”
Chung Xia is the founder partner of the Silicon Valley-based tech company TSVC. He sees a time when sitcom creators use scripts created by AI as a basis to develop further.
“AI algorithms will analyse existing scripts, comedic patterns, and audience responses, to generate content with comedic timing, character dynamics, and engaging storylines,” He states.
“Writers will then infuse their creative expertise, adding their wit, humour, and original ideas to refine the AI-generated material.”
He also says that this collaboration between AI and writers will maximise comedy impact, pacing, as well as character development.
“Through this iterative approach, AI will provide data-driven insights that aid in creating resonant storylines for the target audience. Ultimately, the integration of AI-generated content and human creativity will lead to enhanced sitcom scripts that maintain their unique voice, while benefiting from the AI-generated insights.”
John Pollono, a writer-actor, director, and writer, is not awed by the idea that AI can be employed to write the initial sketches of scripts.
He believes that the notion of using AI for “scouring” all past movie scripts “to inform future ones” is “messed up and incestual.” “It is like using the same playdough over and over again.”
Mr. Pollono, who wrote the screenplay of the comedy crime film Riff Raff, which will include the actors Jennifer Coolidge and Brian Cox, says that the writers are at risk of having their voice “robbed.”
However, screenwriter Sara Bibel says AI will never be good at creative writing. “It’s a glorified auto-correct that throws together random combinations of words based on coding,” claims Ms. Bibel, whose writing credits include the long-running US TV show The Young & The Restless.
“All it does is plagiarise what has been fed into the system and is not capable of writing anything.”