May 1, 2023 - Technology

AI stars in Hollywood labor negotiations

Illustration of a director's chair with the word "director" spelled partially using binary.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

AI has emerged as a key issue as screenwriters seek to iron out a new contract with Hollywood producers. As The New York Times reports, it's a concern also held by actors and others who worry that the work they do will get replaced by AI output.

The big picture: Artificial intelligence, particularly new generative technologies, present a range of opportunities and threats to the way that movies and TV shows are made, along with other creative works, such as audiobooks.

Driving the news: In its contract negotiations, the Writers Guild aims to limit the use of AI-generated dialogue or scenes. But there's a wide array of other ways that AI is likely to disrupt Hollywood.

  • AI could allow popular actors to "speak" any number of foreign languages, for example. That might be more appealing to global audiences, but also threatens the livelihoods of the actors who have made careers out of dubbing, say, American movies into German.
  • Similar technology is threatening to upend the audiobook industry as well, with AI narrators quickly improving — and sometimes being trained on the human book readers they stand to replace.
  • There's also the concern that the same technology that allows deepfakes could be used to erode actors' control over their own likeness, giving studios the ability to generate new performances from an actor, living or dead, potentially without full consent or compensation.
  • And the concerns don't end there. Generative AI threatens to upend the special effects industry, which has been dominated by the likes of Industrial Light & Magic. Even individual costumers could be at risk, as AI might be used to place digital outfits on actors — an option that could give studios both cost savings and added flexibility.
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