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Today we’re talking about AI and the rise of our new directoid overlords… but first we have to talk about the Russo brothers so bear with me.

A couple of days ago at the Sands International Film Festival Joe Russo was on a panel talking about AI and the movie industry and he made some predictions about how AI could potentially affect the future of storytelling and our relationship with content.

For the sake of time I’m going to cut right to the part that made everyone mad… and, Jesus, I mean, like really mad. Just wait until you see the Tweets. Yikes a roony.

He said, “In two years… You could walk into your house and save the AI on your streaming platform. ‘Hey, I want a movie starring my photoreal avatar and Marilyn Monroe’s photoreal avatar. I want it to be a rom-com because I’ve had a rough day,’ and it renders a very competent story with dialogue that mimics your voice. It mimics your voice, and suddenly now you have a rom-com starring you that’s 90 minutes long. So you can curate your story specifically to you.”

I don’t know specifically what the Russo Brothers did to piss movie fans off over the last couple of years since they made Endgame, but, man, there is a hate mob that follows these guys wherever they go, ready to pounce when they turn up and say anything in the trades.

I mean just look at these tweets:

Wow. Was the Gray Man that bad? I don’t know, guys, I thought that Extraction 2 trailer looked pretty badass but then again I don’t know much about the Russos so please do enlighten me in the comments as to how and when they got booted from the cool kids table.

OK but here’s the deal, your opinions on the Russo Brothers and their films aside, it doesn’t feel like Joe Russo is wrong. At least not in suggesting that AI will completely revolutionize how corporate movies are made.

While I might not relish the idea of AI Directoids generating my movies, I have eyes and everything I’m seeing tells me we’re on an inevitable path where this is all a distinct possibility… in fact the only thing I think Russo got wrong is how long it’s going to be. It’s not going to be two years, like he predicts, but more like one, because…. it’s already happening.

You probably saw this weird pizza ad from a few days ago, but if not here it is in it’s bizarre entirety.

AI Pizza video included in the video version of this article:

So, everything in that video, from the voiceover to the video and images, was created using AI.

The script was generated by ChatGPT, the images come from MidJourney, the video is courtesy of Runway Gen2, and the voiceover comes from Eleven Labs.

It’s not perfect by any stretch. The people look like aliens wearing human suits and the food looks like something from a nightmare, but it feels like a prescient showcase for how different AI tools can all come together – just like specialized people – to create a movie.

In fact, watching the rise of AI in the last six months, I’ve realized that our conception of AI as a monolith, like one giant face or being that comes alive - the singularity - is all wrong. AI’s are going to be much more specialized at doing specific things… again, like all us humans in our specific fields, all working together on a project. But AIs will be able to work so efficiently and quickly that scores of humans as part of a workforce - especially in creative fields, could become completely obsolete.

Think about it this way: Why are movies so expensive? We imagine it’s because stars make huge salaries and visual FX are so expensive, or maybe they have to blow a bunch of stuff up or something… but it’s more likely the hundreds, sometimes thousands of below the line crew and creative that are all salaried. It literally takes an army to make a movie.
And despite what you might think, corporations don’t actually want to employ people they don’t have to. So, if they can have a small team of AI experts using these tools to make all the elements of a movie, at some point they will.

All this is very strange and ironic, because in 2018 Andrew Yang was warning about how autonomous vehicles were going to wipe out all these jobs. And the whole time, journalists and creatives didn’t realize the AIs were actually coming for them. And autonomous vehicles kind of disappeared from the conversation.

I also don’t think that one day we’re just going to be faced with AI generated films. More likely what will happen is slowly, AI tools will be used here and there to augment production and we won’t even be aware.

No one will tell you. Like, when you find out your favorite chips now have crickets in them, you’ll have to read the ingredients to find out what percentage of AI made the new Netflix… but would they even tell you?

One big criticism that people have about AI generated movies is that they would be soulless and anti-art. And, again, I just want to stress that I tend to agree with the sentiment. But I also remember similar opinions about green screen environments and now those are so commonplace nobody cares. Actually scratch that, the volume was celebrated as an innovative way to make content faster, cheaper, more photoreal?

So the trajectory seems to be rejections, acceptance, fascination and celebration. I don’t see why AI tools would be any different. As soon as they get so good they start making movies we like, I could see critics and the press becoming in love with them if only because they make fore good articles.

Another reason I think corporations will inevitably turn to AI is that humans are a studio’s biggest liability. Think about it. No more actor scandals, no more temperamental directors yelling at cast members. No more drama.

And of course no more residuals.

And finally, there was a lot of snickering about Russo imagining people wanting to make a movie with marylin monroe or whatever, people think that’s creepy and, yes it is, but people are already doing this when they create images of, say, Lord of the Rings as a dark 80s fantasy… or Harry Potter as a Wes Anderson Movie or whatever they’re using AI for. They are telling us what their heart’s desire is and AI is bringing it to life.

If people had the tools to make the movie version of what they want… like, honestly, if in ten years, I could open my AIFlix account and type in William Gibson’s Neuromancer Directed by Christophre Nolan and after fifteen minutes of rendering time a proper movie is generated then… that’s a tantalizing prospect that also smells alot like printing money.

As we saw with that pizza commercial, right now AI is producing literal nightmares, but I honestly predict that it won’t be long before it’s literally making dreams come true.

But anyway, what do you think of all this? I just sort of ranted here with a flurry of thoughts, but this topic is evolving quickly and will only become more mainstream as the months wear on and AI shows us what’s possible.

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