Hollywood studios push for AI replica actors

Onur Demirkol
Jul 14, 2023

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers' AI proposal, which included collecting scans of background actors for use not only in a single production but in any project, was initially made public at the SAG-AFTRA strike declaration. Hollywood studios are after AI replica versions of Hollywood stars.

The head negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, disclosed a Hollywood studio plan that sounds like it belongs in a Black Mirror episode. Regardless of how it exploits working-class people or undervalues artists, this kind of investment in AI is growing across a variety of businesses.

These claimed "groundbreaking" AI concessions made by the AMPTP during negotiations, if anything, will assist in demonstrating the urgent necessity of SAG-AFTRA striking. One of the SAG-AFTRA leaders, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, addressed it in remarks, saying: “They proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity, in any project they want with no consent and with no compensation.”

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) had expressed similar worries about the employment of AI when it started its strike in May. The guild's plan for AI regulation included a restriction on AI creating or editing "literary material," using AI to create sources for writers, and restricting the training of AI tools on content created by the guild's writers. The AMPTP declined this suggestion and proposed that annual meetings be held "to discuss technological advancements."

ai replica
Credit: Frazer Harrison (Getty Images)

"We will be replaced by machines"

In her opening remarks at the press conference, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said, "If we don't stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble; we are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines." The use of generative AI has been one of the major sticking points in negotiations between the two sides. It is also a major reason for the writer's strike.

The AMPTP disputed SAG-AFTRA's assertion that background performers' digital representations could be used indefinitely without permission or payment. It said that under the existing idea, the digital copy may only be used for the film in which the background actor is cast. The studios stated that any additional uses would necessitate the actor's approval and negotiation for the use, subject to a minimum remuneration.


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  1. Honorius said on July 17, 2023 at 2:21 pm

    “If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble; we are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines.” (?) Ned Ludd, the Luddites’ leader and founder, 1779

    I understand their situation, but basically they’re just trying to stop technological progress.

    After all, we are only one step away from photorealistic videos (I think in the next 10-20 years the quality will be hard to distinguish from real play movies). And then these striking actors (most of them, not all of them) won’t be needed at all – instead of them they will just draw virtual ones.
    Cartoons have been doing this all their history, there’s only voices from actors, but voices can be generated too.

    /You don’t need to get permission to use an appearance from an actor if there is no actor./

  2. IHaveNoName said on July 15, 2023 at 10:31 am

    Some would say that Hollywood writers were replaced by machines a long time ago when you take into account that fact that 99.9% of content coming out of Hollywood is absolute unwatchable gobshite.

    1. sdsd said on July 15, 2023 at 7:56 pm

      99.9% of people who use percentages in their reasoning are making shit up to make a point about something they clearly have no idea about.

      In reality, CEOs of Disney+ and other streaming services would be most replaceable by AI, if they wouldn’t have convinced the world that their work is difficult. But hey, it is definetly fair that one person at Disney+ earns the same on a daily basis than most writers in a year. Sure, makes sense, because of … responsibilities …!

      1. IHaveNoName said on July 16, 2023 at 7:26 am

        And yet my original comment still stands.

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