The potential misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) in Hollywood has been described as a “deadly cocktail” by SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. In the guild’s latest strike podcast, Drescher expressed concern over the use of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI), which can write scripts and digitally duplicate the images of actors, stunt performers, and background players. This emerging technology has become a strike issue for both SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild. While AI has been used in the film industry before as computer-generated imagery (CGI), GAI poses new challenges that need to be addressed.
The Threat of “Deep Fakes” and the Need for Regulation
Drescher highlighted the disturbing trend of “deep fakes” in which actors’ faces and voices are computer-generated to appear on someone else’s body, often in a pornographic manner. This misuse of GAI technology raises ethical concerns and threatens the livelihood of actors. The combination of Wall Street’s influence, greed, and the lack of empathy from technologists creates a dangerous situation. Drescher emphasized the need for strict regulation in handling GAI and protecting the rights and consent of artists.
The Importance of Compensating and Obtaining Consent
Drescher emphasized that compensation and consent are non-negotiable aspects when dealing with the use of AI in Hollywood. Actors’ livelihoods depend on their likeness, gestures, acting, and voices, which are being mimicked by artificial intelligence. Without proper compensation and consent, the industry risks dehumanization and exclusion of actors. Drescher called for the implementation of safety regulations that prioritize communication with artists and ensure fair compensation.
The Guild’s Proposal for Guardrails and Fair Treatment
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the guild’s national executive director, emphasized the legitimate threat AI poses to members’ careers. The guild proposed common-sense concepts such as informed consent and fair compensation for the use of digital replicas of actors. However, companies have been resistant and unwilling to relinquish control over the use of actors’ bodies, faces, and voices. This refusal to cooperate demonstrates a lack of concern for the well-being of actors and the need for regulation.
The CEOs’ Lack of Understanding and Engagement
Drescher criticized the studio CEOs, labeling them as “megalomaniacs” who are oblivious to the needs of actors. Despite the ongoing negotiations, many CEOs did not actively participate or demonstrate a genuine desire to create a more employee-friendly industry. Drescher called for courageous and ethical individuals to take the opposing side, advocating for a more inclusive and fair industry that recognizes the importance of actors.
The Fight for a Bigger Share of the Streaming Pie
One of the guild’s primary goals is to secure a larger share of the revenue generated from streaming platforms. This includes cast members receiving a portion of the revenue when their performances are exhibited on such platforms. The guild also aims for a subscription-based residuals formula that reflects the success of the streaming platform. Drescher emphasized the need for actors to benefit from every subscription, highlighting the importance of adapting the contract to match the changing business model.
Creating a More Employee-Friendly Culture
Drescher expressed hope that the ongoing strikes would bring about a significant shift in the industry’s culture. She envisioned a more employee-friendly environment where SAG-AFTRA plays a central role in shaping the industry. The guild’s artistry should be leveraged for the benefit of all, creating a more inclusive and fair Hollywood.
The misuse of artificial intelligence in Hollywood poses a significant threat to actors and the industry as a whole. The emergence of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) raises concerns about deep fakes, consent, and fair compensation. SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild are fighting for stricter regulation to protect artists and their livelihoods. It is essential for Hollywood to prioritize ethical practices and create an employee-friendly culture that recognizes the value of actors and their contributions to the industry.