The strikes are affecting students this semester.
Film department Co-Chair Kathy Bruner told me, “It was more challenging getting students placed in internships for our Hollywood semester program this fall, because nearly all fiction storytelling is shut down. Fortunately, most things on the nonfiction side are still up and running. Reality TV, documentaries, live events and advertising are still in production, so we found internships in those areas.”
Both parties going on strike has raised concerns about artificial intelligence (AI)’s growing ability to eliminate certain jobs.
Lincoln Reed, Taylor University professor and independent filmmaker, said the main concern for AI among writers is that it has the potential to cut costs for production companies in the story development phase.
“AI doesn’t take offense to studio notes and doesn’t charge for revisions and rewrites,” Reed said. “Essentially, if AI continues to improve and ever gains true ‘consciousness,’ the writer’s main job in the screenwriting process may be to add ‘heart’ or a human spark to a story developed by AI.”
While these technological advancements may prove beneficial to filmmakers with lower budgets, they also mean less job availability at major studios. I believe the writers put too much focus on their AI concerns because, frankly, the work AI puts out in a creative space is quite hollow. AI may be able to copy a basic story structure, but it will never know how to capture the deep nuances of humanity found in a line such as “Search your feelings. You know it to be true” from “Empire Strikes Back.”
Actors are concerned with AI being used to replace their roles altogether in some instances by resurrecting dead actors or by creating scans of background actors that can be used for various projects. I find the idea of using CGI to replicate dead actors to be a complicated moral issue, but I think the concerns for background actors are an unavoidable consequence of evolving technology.
The other major concern across the board is about how much workers are getting paid.
Actor Sean Gunn made headlines in July by commenting on how Netflix makes massive profits off the show “Gilmore Girls,” in which he played the character Kirk. Other major shows are the same way. Netflix actually reported saving $1.5 billion by halting production due to the strikes, and Warner Bros. reported saving around $100 million. But if the streaming services are already making so much of their revenue through projects made decades ago and are really saving money from the strikes, then they have little incentive to give in to union demands.
Film department Co-Chair John Bruner said, “I think that writers and actors should receive a base level of residual pay for their unique contributions to creative work, regardless of how that work is made available. I think that base should be negotiable if that writer or actor brings additional value to the project. Why should the content delivery method make a difference?”
When will the strikes end then?
While taking part in Taylor’s Hollywood internship program last semester, I worked with producer Justin Bell.
“This particular strike is going to be a marathon . . . that could take us till Christmas or beyond,” said Bell.
I don’t see this ending in a return to the normal system that has worked for Hollywood for decades. I think we’re on the brink of revolutionary change. I think we are on the brink of a new era of filmmaking; that can be intimidating, but I think it’s about time.