EXCLUSIVE: Dan Gilroy is set to direct his original script Faster, Cheaper, Better, a character-driven drama that covers an inevitable sweeping changes coming fast that maybe some of us have considered with news reports about how the cross-country trucking industry will be accomplished without human beings in the cars.
The film spans 20 years in multiple locales with a myriad of characters in interwoven stories that follow a union foreman, a young entrepreneur, an indoor farm executive and a tech billionaire whose lives are upended when automation and AI transform the world as we know it. Ultimately, they all must face what it means to be human.
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Gilroy’s previous films have been the Jake Gyllenhaal-Rene Russo-starrer Nightcrawler, which brought Gilroy an Oscar nom for Best Original Screenplay, and most recently Roman J. Israel, which brought Denzel Washington an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He also helmed Velvet Buzzsaw for Netflix. Gilroy will direct Faster, Cheaper, Better as his next film and is in the midst of casting it.
The pic will be produced by Jennifer Fox, who worked on Michael Clayton and Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, Roman J. Israel and Velvet Buzzsaw, as well as Scott Z Burns’ The Report and Ridley Scott’s upcoming The Last Duel. CAA Media Finance, which arranged financing for the film, represents the U.S. distribution rights. FilmNation Entertainment is handling international sales and will introduce the project at the virtual Cannes market. CAA reps Gilroy as a director, along with attorney Howard Abramson. Fox is represented by CAA and attorney Alan Wertheimer.
This drama is a big, sprawling film based on a mind blowing premise. I spoke with Gilroy, who came shot out of a cannon, and it’s best to just let him go here on a film that will be on the forefront of major global change that most of us haven’t really wrapped our arms around yet.
“It’s a big multi-narrative film, set over two decades in multiple locales,” Gilroy said. “We follow a group of inter-connected characters, as they deal with automation and AI changing their world, particularly the work world. I’ve always been interested in machines and technology and it fairly recently how automation and AI are just profoundly transforming the workplace. For example, right now at this moment, there are fully automated factories around the world where robots are literally making robots to replace people in an absolutely endless variety of jobs. Not just manufacturing and production jobs. I realized when I started doing the research that this is just the beginning of a transformational era we are about to enter into, where automation and AI are really the employment equivalent of climate change. And how utterly unprepared we are as people, and as a world, for what is coming.
“To capture the scope of it, I wrote a large scale, multi-narrative film that’s very character driven, because that’s what I do,” he said. “It’s visually arresting and I really believe it’s international. Every person on the planet is going to be affected by this, profoundly. The backdrop is tech, but it’s a very human story with drama, suspense and humor and spectacle. That’s what multi narrative allows you to do. When you are telling cross stories, you can tonally switch gears, you can capture different angles. It’s such a big event that’s coming that the only way I felt I could do it justice and now slow it down in a narrative way is if I connected the stories thematically, and have the characters connected in very interesting ways. There is the part of a union foreman, a representation of what could be and what’s worth fighting for. The character is a man with a cause. He believes in rights, he believes in fairness and he’s now facing the biggest fight of his life. There is a young entrepreneur, representative of a younger generation. There is a young female executive who works at a massive indoor farm. The other main role is a tech billionaire she has a relationship with, who has his own plot line. The film spans 20 years, so they are aging as we track them during the course of a large, sweeping time span and we’re following what happens to these characters as this automation train we are all on, really starts accelerating.”
The characters will be key and Gilroy said he is not writing a polemic as much as a drama on people whose existences will be uprooted in the name of efficiency.
“I believe it will be a compelling movie because it affects all of us in ways we haven’t really imagined yet,” Gilroy said. “That was the exciting part, imagining where this is all going. It’s going to profoundly affect our relationships, our sense of self. Many of us, our identities are tied into our jobs. What we do is in many ways essential to our sense of selves. There is tremendous drama and conflict in that, even comedy in these changes. There’s an expression called ‘Lights Out.’ It’s becoming more common now, it means, the last person whose job gets automated in a workplace turns the lights off, because the machines don’t need lights to do their jobs anymore. This is becoming a comment event. It’s not a sad movie, or an elegy. It’s meant to be an interesting movie on an event we are going through and where the destination is really unknown.”
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