How Hollywood Can Unleash the Power of AI (Guest Column)

It doesn’t take a supercomputer to see our industry is stretched to breaking point. The ongoing dual strike reflects both individual and corporate concerns about livelihoods slipping away. Against this strained backdrop, generative AI has shot onto the scene.

As the co-founders of Flawless, we’ve been developing AI-powered filmmaking tools since 2018. Our goal is to help filmmakers, including myself (Scott Mann here, proud WGA and DGA member), achieve their vision with the fewest compromises. As the power of AI tools became clear, so did the need to develop new corresponding artistic rights and methods to enforce them.

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For us, AI’s introduction conjures parallels with a concept familiar to filmmakers everywhere: the hero’s journey. The story begins with a call to adventure, made in this case by AI. Then comes the hero’s refusal of the call, out of fear or doubt, which is where much of Hollywood finds itself. This is understandable considering AI’s scale and potential for misuse. The truth is, generative AI also offers an unprecedented opportunity for artists and industry alike and may just be the most revolutionary storytelling tool since the film camera itself.

With generative AI, films can be better, cost less and reach more people. Filmmakers gain new tools to produce perfectly lip-synced versions of translated films; transfer an actor’s performance from one angle to another; replace onscreen filmed dialogue without the need for expensive physical reshoots; and so much more — which is what we at Flawless enable today. In addition, AI can generate new content based on source material that “trains” it — the film equivalent of what ChatGPT does with text and DALL-E does with still images.

What does this mean for artists, who are reasonably apprehensive about the phrase “generate new content”? AI tools do not replace artists any more than photography replaced painters or CGI replaced animators. They empower artists to bring their vision to life. They allow films to frictionlessly traverse language and cultural barriers, uniting creators with worldwide audiences. They instantly turn film catalogues into some of the world’s most valuable data assets, allowing studios and filmmakers new ways to monetize their work and investments. In the hands of the world-class artists of Hollywood, these tools can enable better films and series than we’ve ever seen.

Standing in the way of this huge upside are valid concerns about AI’s implications. As it stands, artists’ rights are being infringed, or haven’t even been established. Artists reasonably fear their work, and their scanned likenesses, will be used freely without consent or compensation. AI requires solutions that address these real concerns, and it’s important these solutions come soon because Hollywood is not the only film town with AI at its fingertips.

For more than three years, our team of generative AI experts and filmmakers at Flawless have been building a rights management platform to address these concerns, protect artists, and maybe even take a step towards resolving strike issues.

We call this platform the Artistic Rights Treasury (ART). And while it began as an internal project to enable the responsible implementation of our AI tools, as of today, we’d like to open it up to include other products and services from stakeholders throughout our industry.

ART enables AI tools to be implemented with guaranteed transparency, consent, credit, and compensation for all rightsholders — for both inputs going in and creations coming out. ART applies Hollywood’s longstanding artistic protections and enables them to expand to new rights and protocols made for AI. Every action is subject to ART’s foundational principles: using existing work must involve informed consent, and all rights must be connected permanently to associated final products for auditing, tracking, credit, and compensation throughout the production and distribution lifecycle.

Concretely, ART works like this. Say a filmmaker has an idea that invites the use of AI tools; perhaps they want to change some profane dialogue in post. First, ART lets the filmmaker obtain permission from the actors involved, subject to standard terms and labor agreements. If all have agreed, ART then enables the filmmaker to license existing content featuring these actors, made available by the content’s owners, as necessary for the training of the AI tools. Because this licensing has been authenticated by ART, the content has already been parsed to account for every rightsholder connected to it, including both creators and owners, and all are paid automatically.

The filmmaker then shares the edited scene with the actors involved, and they implement any agreed-upon tweaks and reach final approval. In the end, edits that would have taken weeks of organization, travel, and shooting have been completed in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost. The filmmaker has improved their film, while both the actors and the owners of licensed content have issued approval and earned passive income on work they’ve already completed.

This is just one of a huge variety of use cases that demonstrate the power of ART. Filmmakers, actors, writers, and all industry stakeholders gain access to game-changing tools that work for them, not the other way around, and an infrastructure that guarantees the rights and controls of creators and commercial owners alike.

With ART enabling responsibility as a routine, AI offers nothing less than a revolution in showbusiness — for both the show and the business. It enables better art, reduced production costs, wider audiences, and financial gain for stakeholders throughout the industry. We encourage Hollywood to accept this call to adventure, to continue its hero’s journey and, in the words of Joseph Campbell, to emerge transformed.

Nick Lynes and Scott Mann are co-founders of the Los Angeles-based AI firm Flawless.

(Pictured: Nick Lynes and Scott Mann)

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