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The DGA drops the ball on AI
Their new deal sells out collaborators and, ultimately, itself.
It’s the near future.
You just made your first feature film, and somehow it did the impossible. It broke through. Critics loved it. Audiences loved it. Hell, it even made some money.
You try to get another project off the ground, but mid-budget original films no longer exist. You try to break into television, but studios only want TV directors in those positions.
You could keep making small films, but the budgets in that space shrink by the day.
Fuck it. You’re going to take the big swing. You’re going to direct a franchise movie based on pre-existing intellectual property. Sure, you’ve heard horror stories of directors getting micromanaged to an inch of their life, but it doesn’t scare you. You can handle it.
The DGA agrees to the following contract language regarding the technology:
The bit outlined in red gives you pause. Does this open the door to AI-generated art, you wonder? “Consultation with the director” suggests you have no authority over AI.
But, whatever, you’ve signed the big contract.
You’re directing Star Wars 203.
Suddenly there are whispers.
"We have some concept art we'd like to use in the film," the Corporation will say. "Our team loves it."
You discover the concept art was not designed by a human being but generated by AI. An exec brags about how easy it was to type into a text prompt.
You push back.
The Corporation says, “We’re doing this, though. Are we still cool? If not, a line of people can replace you.”
You think about it. Should you walk away?
You don’t. You decide to sell out the concept artists you dreamed about working with, the ones you follow on Instagram. Fuck them. This is your opportunity. Your big show. So what if they don’t get this movie?
You find out that the concept art and the screenplay have become datasets.
What does that mean?
It means a storyboard program can spit out your movie shot by shot, a blueprint for how the film will be made.
The Corporation asks if that’s okay with you.
You bristle. You say you storyboarded your first film by yourself and looked forward to working with a proper storyboard artist, maybe even a whole team, on your big-budget debut.
The Corporation explains they’ve already approved the new AI-generated storyboards. It’s been focus tested, and everyone loves them.
You could live with selling out concept artists. It’s such a niche thing. Who cares, right? But AI telling you where to place the camera seems like a bridge too far.
You check your DGA contract. The old one. The one before AI language was built into it, and you realize every creative decision is a consultation. The director has no authority unless they have “final cut” put into their deal.
You contact your lawyer, your agent. They all laugh at you. Of course, you don’t have final cut. Who gets that?
They tell you to buck up and get through it.
“You’ll get to do the sequel and make some real money.”
You contemplate why you got into this business, have too much to drink, and write an email to the Corporation. Yes, you write. AI can dictate how the film is shot.
You get on set and are informed that the actors have been digitally scanned from a previous Star Wars film. AI will generate most of their performances.
It’s just you now, a couple of actors, a green screen, and a list of shots you didn’t design. With concept art made off the backs of other uncompensated artists, typed into a prompt by an Exec who makes way more than you.
You look at the screenplay and realize something is wrong with the cover page.
There is no name on the screenplay. No written by credit.
You realize the screenplay is AI-generated.
“There are 202 other Star Wars films,” an AI manager explains. “We fed them into a computer and had a writer polish it at scale. They didn’t want credit for some reason.”
You buck up. Pop some pills to numb the pain. Go on autopilot.
You get through the shoot somehow, and everyone is happy. It’s the cheapest giant blockbuster anyone’s ever made.
A sequel is greenlit, and your agent calls you.
They have bad news.
The first film you “directed” has been fed into a dataset. A sequel is to be made without you. It will be completely AI-generated.
You will not be compensated for this, for no language in your 2023 DGA contract even mentions the scenario.
You want to scream but realize you’re reading a dumb website called BobbyMillerTime.com
This is all overblown, you think. Until you realize there’s an AI-generated documentary currently on Tubi:
Update: The DGA has ratified their agreement.
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