For over a century, filmmakers have captivated audiences with monsters on screen, but in 2023, the real bogeyman takes on a human form with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Hollywood studios and actors find themselves embroiled in a heated debate over the use of artificial intelligence in film and television, leading to the first simultaneous strike in 63 years as the SAG-AFTRA union joins the writers guild.
One of the primary concerns haunting actors is the emergence of synthetic performers, or “metahumans,” capable of stealing their roles entirely. While discussions have centered on issues like using actors’ images and performances as AI training data and digitally altering performances in post-production, the prospect of AI-generated actors replacing human talent looms large in actors’ minds.
SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, describes AI as an “existential crisis” for actors, as they fear their past, present, and future work could be used to create synthetic performers who take their place. The union does not seek to outright ban AI but insists on being consulted and gaining approval before a synthetic performer replaces a human actor.
The negotiations also revolve around the creation of digital replicas of background performers. Studios wish to obtain an actor’s permission for using their digital duplicate outside the production for which they were hired, while SAG advocates for additional compensation and retaining rights to the digital replicas for future works.
Furthermore, studios aim to retain the right to digitally alter performances post-production, considering it as a cost-saving measure. SAG, however, demands consent before any changes to an actor’s image, likeness, or voice, interpreting such alterations as AI overreach.
As the debate intensifies, Hollywood finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the potential implications of AI in reshaping the industry and impacting the future of art and entertainment as a career.