One of the primary motives behind the ongoing Hollywood writer’s strike is a concern over artificial intelligence (AI) replacing writers.
For the first time in 15 years, some 11,000 Writers Guild of America (WGA) members have walked off the job, which stops anything in the entertainment business having to do with writing. No guild member can write anything. Even if a WGA member is directing a movie or TV show and wants to change dialogue, he can’t. Everything has stopped, especially the late-night shows that can’t survive without up-to-the-minute comedy bits.
During the four-month 2007 strike, the necessity of creating new content for television resulted in an explosion of reality shows. With reality programming, TV not only found a way around the WGA, but it also discovered reality shows are much cheaper to produce than scripted shows. What reality TV has done to American intelligence is another question. What isn’t a question is that the 2007 writer’s strike changed TV forever.
Could today’s strike change everything forever? Will the studios use AI to write TV and movie scripts?
The truth is this…
Regardless of the strike’s outcome, AI is about to write TV and movie scripts much sooner than you think. This is why AI is such an important part of the strike negotiations. Writers are terrified a computer could replace them:
Specifically, the union wants its collective bargaining contract to guarantee that:
- AI won’t write or rewrite literary material.
- AI won’t be used as source material.
- Union-covered material won’t be used to train AI.
The WGA said the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the group representing eight major studios in the talks, rejected its proposal and instead offered “annual meetings to discuss advancements in technology.”
For you and me, none of this matters.
Regardless of the outcome of the strike negotiations, AI will become increasingly involved in scriptwriting, especially as AI evolves — and AI evolves quickly.
When all is said and done, the studios will use AI to write movie and TV scripts, or — if the WGA wins the terms above — the writers will use AI to generate movie and TV scripts.
My guess is that the studios will prevail. Why should they pay a writer thousands of dollars to generate and print an AI-generated script? That makes no sense.
Writers will still be necessary to punch up those scripts and do on-the-fly rewrites during production, but over time, screenwriting will probably happen like this…
If you want a new Law & Order: SVU script, you ask your AI program to write it and search the recent headlines to make the script timely.
In less than a second, AI will read every Law & Order: SVU script ever written, along with all the recent crime headlines, and write you a script that’s 80 percent there. In five years, it will be 90 percent there. In ten years… Who knows?
As far as movies, screenplays will happen like this: I want a John Wick-style screenplay set hundreds of years in the future with a female lead fighting bad guys in a space station the size of Montana.
Why wouldn’t the same Hollywood machine that deliberately killed the movie star not want to get rid of writers? When movie stars had too much power, Hollywood shifted its business model to approaches that made stars unnecessary: high-concept, brands, etc. If it’s possible to remove the writer from the equation, the writer will be removed. Trust me on that one.
What will this do to the quality of entertainment?
Sadly, we probably won’t notice. As a writer, I hate to say that, but with rare exceptions, modern entertainment is all about same-same-same and more of the same-same-same. The overall American public enjoys the comfort of sameness. AI can’t produce an original idea. That can only come from a human being. But the public isn’t interested in original ideas. They want their 60-year-old James Bond, 55-year-old Star Trek, 45-year-old Star Wars, 42-year-old Indiana Jones, 30-year-old Jurassic Park, and decades-old CSI, Law & Order, Simpsons, SWAT, Hawaii Five 0…