Will AI be able to write our box office hits for us?


As a lover of film, I believe there is a movie or genre out there for everyone. Whether it’s a musical classic like Chicago, a horror film such as The Descent, or maybe even an animated classic like Finding Dory.

Watching and enjoying films has been a pastime since the 1890s where, because of the limits of technology, they could only be a minute long.  It wasn’t until 1927 when motion pictures were produced without sound that  films became longer. And the rest, as they say, is cinematic history.

The new standards today, moving on from simply including sound and colour images, are CGI and special effects. The amount of CGI and special effects ranges from one movie to the next. Avatar, for example, consisted of 60{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} photo-realistic CGI, while in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt is made up to look like an old man getting increasingly younger over time.  Not only is CGI a common occurrence but there has been other technology developments in recent years. Most notably in artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is becoming increasingly common as more developments and big steps within the artificial world are taking place. In recent years, we have seen progressive growth in artificial intelligence where computers / software can write software, compose music, paint works of art and write news articles. When it comes to film, AI has already thrilled us as fodder for the imagination — think of Steven Spielberg’s AI, or I, Robot, based on Isaac Asimov’s classic novel, or the more recent Ex Machina.

The question now is how close are we to having a screenplay written for a movie rather than a movie written about AI?

The first instance of AI helping to write a script was on the feature film Impossible Things.  Although the film was a major development in AI technology, it still needed to be co-written with a human.

Before expecting an AI to be able to write a box office hit, there is a lot that needs to be considered. An AI uses datamining to suggest plot lines that would appeal to the film’s audience demographic. For example, according to India Times a mathematician spent five years creating an AI that analysed thousands of horror plots and compared those with the box office results to create a series of plot points that reflect popular audience tastes.

However, having AI write a blockbuster can have its limitations. AI doesn’t have the human emotions and knowledge behind what makes a good film enjoyable. Using datamining as its main source of intelligence it would highlight how every single idea, shot and audio trick can be traced back to prior successful films in the genre; whether those are techniques from the creaky door to the masked face Scream.

At present this is where humans are needed, although AI can interpret plot points, which have sold the best and create a script like other successful films, it cannot add structure, dialogue and character and assess the similarity with other plot lines.

So we are a still long way off from having blockbusters churned out by AI. But, it will be interesting to see just how far AI can take us throughout the world of film and what is in store for the years ahead.