AI Causing the Hollywood Writers Strike: Who's to Blame
Unless you live under a rock I'm sure you are aware that the Hollywood writers strike has been underway for a few months now. While it may be too early to claim that it is AI Causing the Hollywood Writers Strike. Last week the Screen Actors Guild announced they would be joining the ongoing writers strike with thousands of actors walking off major movie productions including:
- Beetlejuice 2 - Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, and Jenna Ortega
- Deadpool 3 - Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Garner, and Hugh Jackman
- Gladiator 2 - Ridley Scott, Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal and Denzel Washington
- Juror #2 - Clint Eastwood Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, and Kiefer Sutherland
- Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two - Tom Cruise
This is catastrophic news for Hollywood studios who have been increasingly looking to Artificial Intelligence to cut costs and replace striking writers.
Hollywood Actors and Writers On Strike
Why are so many actors and writers striking? There are many reasons given by many people involved in the entertainment business, but several key points keep repeating. Writers and actors in the union have told new reporters covering the strike that they are worried about artificial intelligence technologies being used to replace union members in streamed web series and movies. Many people also mention dwindling pay and no chances to advance in the companies where they work as writers.
Is Artificial Intelligence -AI causing the Hollywood Writers Strike
We have heard that writers are also very concerned about dwindling pay and chances for advancement. The writers union is holding out for fair pay for what they see to be 'dead end' writing jobs. The writers union says that when the current contracts with Hollywood studios were signed many years ago when their was more room for promotion in the film and television industry. Today union members feel like those opportunities are gone or have become very limited.
The Strike Has Essentially Frozen Hollywood Productions
Like many strikes fair pay is mentioned a lot. But unlike previous strikes AI is also mentioned a lot in this ongoing union action from Writers Guild of America (WGA). As of last week this action was joined by The union SAG-AFTRA. SAG-AFTRA represents more than 160,000 screen actors, broadcast journalists, announcers, hosts and stunt performers. The strike has essentially frozen Hollywood productions in their tracks.
During this strike the subject of artificial intelligence and related machine learning technologies has come up over and over again in the news. Problems created by the growing adoption of new generative-AI software like Chat-GPT, Stable Diffusion and Midjourney may be contributing to a breakdown of the negotiation process. As talks between Hollywood executives, the writers, and actors stall, we think its a great time to talk about AI technologies in the workplace. Lets look at some ways that new AI technologies are affecting Hollywood workers.
Generative-AI Software Powered by LLM's Presents a Disruptive New Force in Hollywood
In the past A screenplay was written by a member of the union, this union writer was protected by contracts to make sure he was properly paid for his work. But when those contracts were written 40+ years ago, no one could have anticipated the emergence of an AI system that could write whole screenplays. No one thought to add AI protections into the contracts.
The striking writers are in a tricky bargaining position now thanks to artificial intelligence. Hollywood Studios collectively own a massive catalog of material written mostly by the Writers Union. This collection of scripts are covered by contracts signed long before AI was ever available. This mountain of material owned by large Hollywood film companies can now be cheaply used to replace union writers with scripts written by generative-AI software, and the writers union is worried.
Where the AI Disruption Happens
This is where the first major disruption caused artificial intelligence happens. Can the studio take its giant catalog of tens of thousands of old movie scripts that it already owns the copyright on, and load them all up into a Large Language Model, then use this newly created 'Hollywood LLM's' to generate new scripts from this vast collection of old material?
The writers see this problem very clearly. This problem hurts the future bargaining position of the union.
Studios Attempt to Save Money With AI
The next problem the writers say they face is the crappy pay. When the studios attempt to save money by using AI for screenplays, its stands to reason that there are less jobs available then as the jobs are being done by artificial intelligence. Even before AI started to become available to the major studios, many of these entry level writing jobs were already going overseas. A strike probably wont completely fix this negative trend in pay inequality, but they will possibly see some concessions to address low pay from the studios after the strike is over.
Workers need to be paid a wage that lets them pay their bills like food, clothing and rent. With AI being adopted in the workplace the writers want more money for the work they are still able to get.
... AI is cutting into paychecks the writers are at a crossroads...
For writers trying to solve disruptive AI problems striking may only be part of the solution. Even as AI is cutting into paychecks the writers are at a crossroads. It may now be time to reinvent the business model to take better advantage of technologies available in 2023. It may be time for the writers guild to explore how they can also use emerging technologies to form cooperative ventures and rebrand their work in new formats to stay competitive.
The actors guild has raised important concerns that many working people can relate to. People are worried about the impact of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace. Here at AI-PIE we hope that this Hollywood strike ends soon with a positive outcome for all the workers involved in the union. AI is here to stay, so we will keep looking for new solutions together, thanks for taking the time to read our blog. Have a look at some of our other great articles for creatives and people learning about AI.