Last September, Fabian Stelzer, who has a background in neuroscience, created quite a stir in the audiovisual sector with his miniseries SALT, generated entirely using the AI MidJourney. The series’ plot was conceived by the entrepreneur’s Twitter community and the script was written by the AI. Could this be a sign of the future in which scripts will be generated entirely by AI algorithms? What consequences might AI have on original productions and their diversity?
These questions give rise to significant protest movements by members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) union, who have been on strike since May 2nd to defend their rights. From writing dialogues to developing characters, as well as crafting storylines and the overall narrative of a TV series, they play a major role in the creation of a series and the inventiveness of the industry. Could AI soon replace them?
AI: A COLLABORATIVE TOOL?
According to Lisa Joy, showrunner and guest screenwriter at the 2023 Séries Mania Festival, artificial intelligence is not a threat to the profession. She stated, “Do I think AI is a fundamental threat to human imagination? No. I believe it can be an accessory for our imagination, but not its replacement.” The American screenwriter is well-versed in the subject, having worked on shows like Pushing Daisies, Westworld, and The Peripheral, she has made science fiction her preferred genre. Her major success, Westworld, was one of the first series to explore the topic of AI in a futuristic manner before it became a current issue.
According to her, artificial intelligence can instead serve as a tool for screenwriters. Rather than viewing AI as a competitor, it could be seen as a more collaborative tool. AI algorithms could be used to automate certain tedious tasks, such as generating preliminary ideas and conducting reference research. This could allow screenwriters to focus more on the creative aspect of their work and save time in their writing process.
In actual fact, intelligent algorithms are already shaping our viewing experience. Netflix has been using them for several years to analyse the consumption habits of its subscribers and produce titles that are most likely to appeal to them. This ensures a higher chance of success.
Indeed, the streaming platform has also developed interactive miniseries like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The series offers up to 13 different endings, and it’s up to the viewers to discover them. Similarly, the comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend allowed viewers to thwart the Reverend’s plans themselves in order to prevent Kimmy’s wedding.
IS AI A THREAT FOR FUTURE SERIES?
Regardless of the extent of its use, artificial intelligence is indeed present. Therefore, it is crucial today to consider its regulation. Indeed, this is one of the main demands of the striking screenwriters in Los Angeles. During the Séries Mania Forum, a professional event organized during the festival, a panel discussion was held on the future of series creation and the growing interest of the audiovisual industry in AI. The panellists included Julien Domon, Development Director of SACEM, Manuel Badel, Founder of Badel Media, and Pascal Rogard, Director of SACD. They highlighted the advancements as well as the dangers of this technology. According to Pascal Rogard, “AI can be dangerous if, in the future, producers decide that it’s easier to have software creating works than authors. […] I don’t think we’re there yet, but with technological progress, it is something we need to be cautious about…”
Yes, AI could be a valuable tool, but it must be used ethically in collaboration with series writers. Ultimately, who would hold the rights to the scripts generated by AI? It is crucial to find a balance between utilizing AI as a tool and preserving the role of screenwriters.
Beyond regulatory and financial aspects, what would a series written by an AI look like? Can it be innovative and unique? One of the main criticisms of scripts generated by Chat GPT, for example, is their lack of creativity. Creativity is a characteristic inherent to humans, based on experience, emotion, and imagination. During her masterclass, Lisa Joy expressed no concern, stating, “AI is currently a collector of information […] it does not have the ability to actively think […] which means it does nothing inherently groundbreaking.” Therefore, human series writers still have a bright future ahead of them!
Artificial intelligence does indeed have the potential to revolutionize series creation by automating tasks and personalizing the viewing experience. However, it is not yet ready to completely replace creators and screenwriters. But what will happen when AI can think for itself? Only time – or perhaps a future episode of Black Mirror – will tell!
We asked CHAT GPT to pitch the Séries Mania Festival as a TV series, and here’s what it came up with :