The robots won’t take over Hollywood if the WGA has anything to do with it.
One of the most interesting demands set out in the guild’s Pattern of Demands, which was unveiled earlier today, was the idea of regulating AI.
Or as the WGA put it, “Regulate use of material produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies”.
A few years ago, it would have seemed crazy that AI would be able to replicate the work of TV and film writers. However, the rise of ChatGPT and other services, has shown that it might be closer than ever.
For instance, I asked ChatGPT if it had a pitch for a reboot of AMC’s Mad Men.
“Mad Men is back and better than ever. This time, the show takes place in the modern day, following a cast of characters as they navigate life in the cutthroat advertising industry of the 21st century. Our main protagonist is a new creative director at a major ad agency, and she’s determined to make her mark in the industry. Along the way, she’ll have to contend with the old-school, male-dominated corporate culture, as well as a new generation of ambitious millennials. With stories of ambition, power struggles, and office politics, Mad Men will appeal to a whole new audience, while still retaining the wit and charm of its original incarnation. Get ready for a wild ride,” ChatGPT wrote.
It might not make it past the development team without a bit more work but given that ChatGPT spat this out in less than 30 seconds, who knows what is possible in the future.
It’s obvious a topic that some in the TV and film world are thinking about. In fact, I recently received an email from director Ben Berman, who directed The Amazing Johnathan Documentary and episodes of FXX’s Man Seeking Woman, announcing his supposed retirement from filmmaking as a result of AI.
“The rise of artificial intelligence technologies, specifically ChatGPT, has made it clear to me that the future of our industry is in jeopardy,” he wrote.
It seemed like a prank, possibly written by ChatGPT itself, however, as I quickly received a follow-up unannouncing his retirement.
“I retired because I was worried about the future of film,” Berman wrote. “But I now see the robots as non-threatening. I’m excited to get back to work and see what content the robots can generate for me.”
The fact that the WGA is protecting its writers against a technology that could conceivably write a pass on a script or develop new ideas from their IP, is smart planning.
Marc Guggenheim, co-creator of Arrow, said, on the From the Trenches Substack, “As a guild, we writers have a terrible history of trying to fix the barn door after the horse is five farms away. And while AI may not be a threat to writers today or even tomorrow, we should take contractual steps – more on that in a moment – to protect future writers for the day when AI is good enough to truly come for their jobs.”
He added that the reason that the WGA should be able to use the upcoming Minimum Basic Agreement to prohibit AI-aided scripts is the union already does it by preventing guild signatories from commissioning work from non-WGA writers.
That is, until the robots figure out how to join the WGA.