The use of artificial intelligence in TV and film production could potentially render actors unnecessary, according to industry experts.
Actors – including motion capture master Andy Serkis – have spoken to Sky News about their concerns for the impact of AI, with the acting union Equity insisting the government’s pro-innovation stance isn’t thinking about the human cost.
“You can put anyone in any situation, saying anything, and that is risky for all of us,” The Lord Of The Rings star told Sky News in an interview recorded earlier this year.
“For security, for politicians, we’re living in a post-truth world … and that’s scary.
“Algorithms are controlling our tastes, our whole lives are driven by a higher force in a way that we are losing grip of.”
From blockbuster behemoths such as Indiana Jones using this technology to make actor Harrison Ford younger, to the Fast franchise using it to bring back deceased stars like Paul Walker, AI is now everywhere in film and TV.
ITV’s Deep Fake Neighbour Wars – a comedy featuring celebrities who’ve never filmed a frame – is one of the more disturbing examples of the potential for how technology can now be used.
‘We’re signing away our moral rights’
But AI isn’t only an issue for A-listers.
Laurence Bouvard isn’t a celebrity but, through voiceover work and in smaller roles on TV and in theatre, she’s worked consistently as a jobbing actor for over 30 years. Increasingly, she says, she and her peers are being tied into contracts where they’ve little say over where their performances end up.
“We are signing away all of our moral rights,” she says. “They’re basically giving permission to AI to use your data infinitely for any project.”
“We basically have a choice – you sign it and get used, or you don’t sign it, and you don’t work for that company.”
Bouvard says her acting colleagues are frequently finding audio they submit for auditions is being sampled and used by tech companies offering little or no remuneration. Ultimately, the fear is it’ll be used by computers to put her out of a job.
For those working in the industry, it’s a brave new world.
Dr Stuart Armstrong, an expert in artificial intelligence, says, put simply: “The acting profession is going to change.”
“It’s going to shake-out into a new form dictated by economics and by union deals and regulations. The danger, the worst case scenario, is that actors become superfluous.”
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Equity has this week felt compelled to produce a legal toolkit to advise its members on what to watch out for.
It believes the government’s determination to “become a global AI superpower” means it isn’t interested in the acting union’s concerns, as industrial official Liam Budd explains.
He says: “We have a UK legal framework which isn’t designed to protect performers from the unauthorised imitations of their work using AI tech.”
Behind the scenes, algorithms are also now being used to predict a movie’s success before it’s even green-lit. Warner Bros. confirming recently it’s signed a deal with an LA start-up whose programme will assist the studio in some of its decision-making.
With AI fast becoming an integral part of the creative process – the fate of actors is becoming intertwined with that of the machines.