Panellists from Georgia’s film industry discuss AI at the fireside chat, 'This Business of Film and Television'
21 May 2024NewsTrademarksPeter Scott

INTA 2024: ‘A lot of creatives are terrified’ of AI threat

Georgia’s film and TV industry is bracing for change and there will be winners and losers from the fallout, finds Peter Scott.

When the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) held concurrent strikes in 2023, the ramifications were far-reaching for the livelihoods not just of those striking workers, but for the entire film and television ecosystem.

Underpinning the strikes was anxiety about artificial intelligence, which looms large over the future of the industries, providing huge opportunities for efficiency and cost-savings but grave threats to many of those who work within them. 

Fast-forward to May 2024, and AI continues to be a thorn in the side of actors. A case in point is the news that actor Scarlett Johansson spoke out against OpenAI yesterday (Monday 20), which she believes used her voice for its new ChatGPT 4o model, despite her turning down the opportunity.

On the same day, at the International Trademark Association Annual Meeting in Atlanta, a fireside chat saw leading lights from Georgia’s film industry give their views on how the AI takeover might play out, the importance of IP within that, and why Atlanta is such a great place to make movies.

Mark Swinton, senior vice president of scripted programming at Atlanta’s own Tyler Perry Studios, has seen both sides of the industry’s power dynamic, working as a producer but also as a writer and director.

He said it was certain that AI would change things in the industry, noting that “a lot of creatives are terrified” by the potential for job loss.

“AI companies are coming into our offices every day and saying ‘you don’t have to hire actors’” any more, Swinton revealed, providing a hypothetical example of how a studio could hire an actor for one film and then replicate him/her so he’d “never need them again” for any sequels.

SAG-AFTRA did manage to negotiate some protections against the use of these so-called ‘digital replicas’, he added, but it may become moot, given that it “is going to be possible for a person by themselves with their computer to do a whole movie” in the not-very-distant future.

As Carolyn Pitt, founder and CEO at Productions.com—which aims to simplify and diversify production hiring in the film and TV industries—said: “It’s the whole industry that’s concerned about job loss.”

Individuals working in film rely on “the ability to go on set and do what they do”, but AI puts that at risk.

Moderator Traci Bransford, partner at law firm Parker Poe, asked who—in a future of digital replicas and synthetic performers—will pay the day rate for film actors?

Bullish on IP

The answer to the existential dread prompted by AI might just lie in IP.

LoCo+ is a distribution platform which aims to connect local filmmakers and content creators with audiences and, ultimately, premium streaming channels.

Founder and CEO Kate Atwood observed that AI might accelerate that “localisation” and democratisation of creativity, “shifting power to the creator at a fundamental level,” especially if there’s a strong understanding of IP protection.

The job for lawyers is to be alert and to promote IP in the industry as much as possible.

Ownership of content is important but, as Bransford said: “We need to be more conscious of the rights we have” including publicity rights as well as copyright and other protections.”

“Be bullish on IP,” said Atwood, because “that’s where the power is going.”

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