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An AI-generated graphical representation of a movie script. Image: Rivet.ai

A new company wants to help people make movies by outsourcing the grunt work — scheduling, budgeting, script analysis — to AI. Starting from a human-written script, its algorithms can draft a budget and a shooting schedule, and even look for plot holes.

Why it matters: Debajyoti Ray, the founder of Rivet.ai, says that AI tools can cut down on uncertainty and allow production companies to take bigger risks rather than re-making the same superhero movie dozens of times.

Rivet.ai spun out of End Cue, the production company behind a trippy, nonsensical AI-written short film called Sunspring. Ray, whose background is in natural language processing, said his philosophy changed after Sunspring: his new company is focused mostly on analyzing human writing rather than trying to emulate it.

How it works:

  • In a few minutes, Rivet.ai's software can process a movie script and extract key elements from each scene: the characters involved, the location it takes place in, the props required, and the types of shots they call for. "This is a very laborious process" for humans, Ray said.
  • The software can then work out a shooting schedule that takes the availability of locations, props, cast and crew into account, plus weather forecasts.
  • Informed by the schedule, the platform can draw up a budget based on compensation, location and prop costs.

Beyond administrative help, Rivet.ai is offering AI-powered advice for writers, too — a more difficult proposition.

  • The service can plot the script on a graph that shows continuity between scenes, charting the frequency and tone of various characters' interactions to call out holes in the narrative or extraneous segments. If a scene needs to be removed, the graph can show all the earlier and later ones that will be affected by the altered storyline.
  • Most ambitiously, Ray says that the system, trained on scripts available in the public domain, can nudge less experienced writers — corporate PR arms, for example — toward tried-and-true plotlines and structures that are "known to perform better."

But, but, but: Algorithms that pigeonhole stories based on familiar archetypes and estimated performance run the risk of outputting variations of the same script over and over. Other AI-in-film startups like ScriptBook and Pilot help predict scripts' commercial success, automating processes that until recently relied to some extent on human intuition.

Ray argues that rather than sending new films down well-worn lucrative ruts, more data will free up producers to pick up interesting scripts that might not immediately seem commercially promising.

The big picture: Instead of trying to make an AI screenwriter — a task for which technology is not yet suited — Rivet.ai's software aims squarely at administrative work. "Nobody went into filmmaking to do script analysis," says Ray. For now, the creative aspects of filmmaking are still out of reach of automation, though AI-assisted decision-making on things like budgeting can have knock-on effects for an entire project.

Go deeper: The New York Times reports on a startup called Arraiy that uses AI to automate tedious CGI tasks.

Go deeper

Federal judge orders Trump administration to restore DACA

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, giving undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children a chance to petition for protection from deportation.

Why it matters: DACA was implemented under former President Obama, but President Trump has sought to undo the program since taking office. Friday’s ruling will require Department of Homeland Security officers to begin accepting applications starting Monday and guarantee that work permits are valid for two years.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Health: CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use" — Death rates rising across the country — Study: Increased testing can reduce transmission.
  3. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  4. Cities: Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.
2 hours ago - Health

Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate

Golden Gate Park. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty

Counties around the San Francisco Bay Area will adopt California’s new regional stay-at-home order amid surges in cases and ICU hospitalizations, health officials said Friday.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a three-week stay-at-home order on Thursday that would go into effect in regions with less than 15% ICU capacity. Despite the Bay Area’s current 25.3% ICU capacity, health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley are moving ahead with a shelter-in-place mandate in the hopes of reducing risk.