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AI-scripted film debut cancelled after widespread backlash

London’s Prince Charles cinema was set to debut the world’s first film with a fully AI-generated script, but the project was scrapped after more than 200 people filed complaints.

Artificial Intelligence software such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, and DALL-E has sparked worry amongst creatives since they first burst on the scene.

Artists have raised concerns about whether AI-generated paintings, photography, or music would eventually compete with work created by humans. The ethical considerations of this have also been widely discussed, as well as whether separate categories for AI art should be created, and what those should look like.

Despite competing with AI for a place in the spotlight being an artists’ worst nightmare, it’s actually happening now. Well, almost.

Over the weekend, London’s Prince Charles cinema had planned to debut a new production named The Last Screenwriter. The project’s entire script had been written using AI, specifically OpenAI’s ChatGPT 4.0, with no input from human writers.

The public viewed this as a shocking move for the West End cinema, given that they typically screen cult and arthouse films. The organisation quickly received over 200 complaints about their decision to premiere a project that was essentially written by a bot.

In response, the cinema’s representatives released a statement saying, ‘The feedback we received over the last 24hrs once we advertised the film has highlighted the strong concern held by many of our audience on the use of AI in place of a writer which speaks to a wider issue within the industry.⁠’

As a result, the film premiere was cancelled – at least to the public. It is reported that a private screening for the film’s cast and crew would still be shown in London.

The director of the project, Peter Luisi, expressed his surprise at the widespread backlash.

Given the subject matter of the film, which Luisi says explores the creative industry’s complicated relationship with AI, it was expected that The Last Screenwriter would spark an important conversation around this ever-improving technology.

The film’s plot outlines a story about one ‘celebrated screenwriter’ who ‘finds his world shaken when he encounters a cutting edge AI scriptwriting system. He soon realises AI not only matches his skills but even surpasses him in empathy and understanding of human emotions.’

The use of AI in film writing is still quite a sensitive subject, especially in light of the Hollywood writers’ strikes which took place last year and lasted 148 days.

A primary demand of the strike was the implementation of legal protections regarding the integration of AI tools in film writing processes. These protests worked, resulting in an agreement that allows AI to be utilised to generate script drafts, while ensuring that writers will always be credited for their contributions to the final product.

Even with these developments, it wouldn’t be surprising to see industry players become disgruntled with the management of AI’s role in filmmaking.

Many have praised Prince Charles Cinema for maintaining its integrity on sensitive matters pertaining to AI in the creative industry.

Still, others even accused the cinema of preventing an important conversation about AI’s current and inevitable future impact on artists. This is a conversation we could have voluntarily and transparently, or when people try to sneak AI-generated scripts into films without disclosing it.

Many have also pointed out that there may already be largely AI-written scripts used in movies we don’t even know about. I would imagine this could be the case.

Perhaps if The Last Screenwriter was shown to the public, and was viewed as lacking in depth or particularly interesting , it would’ve prevented others from trying to use the technology going forward.

Either way, this is probably not the last debate we’ll hear of regarding the use of AI in the creative industry. When the time comes, there will be yet another moral and ethical conversation to be had.