biffes 2024 Artificial Intelligence in cinema: Boon or bane?

The allure of cinema encompasses not only the art of storytelling but also the continual evolution of the tools that bring those stories to life. The 15th Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes) served as a platform to discuss the burgeoning relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and the movie industry, especially during a session intriguingly christened “Possible Impact of AI on Filmmaking and Screenwriting.”

On the third day of the festival, held in Bengaluru on March 2, attendees were privy to insights from Chaitanya Hegde, co-founder of the media and content strategy company Tulsea. He divulged his experience with the AI program ChatGPT, which offered him numerous ways to adapt the Kannada classic ‘Ranganayaki’ into a Hindi version, contemporized for today’s audience.

Hegde’s assertions highlighted the transformative potential of AI, emphasizing how its wider adoption is altering the landscape of film scripting. For burgeoning writers lacking formal education in screenwriting – a skill taught at only a handful of film institutes across India – AI tools such as ChatGPT present invaluable assistance in developing concepts and crafting scripts tailored to specific budgets.

Seasoned writers, too, find solace in AI, using it as an antidote to the creative impasse commonly referred to as writer’s block. Hegde elaborated that while a writer’s life experiences can imbue a script with depth and nuance, expecting AI to fully capture subtleties and subtexts is overly ambitious. Nonetheless, the technology stands as a complement, not a replacement, for the human touch in storytelling.

The cinema world is not just about narratives. Visuals play a crucial part, something Sanath P.C., a seasoned visual effects (VFX) supervisor, is well aware of. He noted that AI is redefining the visual language and conventions of film editing. Films now offer enhanced predictions and variability, with AI at the forefront of this unpredictability, propelling filmmakers to evolve alongside the burgeoning technology. For Sanath, technology’s role in cinema is instrumental and considered a means to amplify creativity rather than stifle it.

Despite the enthusiasm surrounding AI, the concern for authenticity in storytelling remains. To Sanath, originality is a subjective concept, while Hegde stressed the irreplaceable value of human experiences in storytelling. Moreover, the integration of AI extends beyond screenwriting to influencing the roles of actors and the entire production crew.

During the session, an AI model named Sora was showcased, displaying its aptitude for generating realistic imagery from textual descriptions. The model’s capabilities in realizing expressive and convincingly lip-synced AI-generated characters sparked discussions about the future of actors and the authenticity of performances in cinema. While some budding actors expressed anxiety about the potential implications on their craft, others like Sanath suggested that such technologies should serve as a reminder for actors to remain vigilant and adaptable.

The conversation also navigated the more problematic aspects of AI, particularly regarding the rise of deepfake videos. Concerns were raised about the ethical and legal ramifications of such technology, hinting at the likelihood of legislative measures in the foreseeable future to manage these challenges.

Addressing the existential question of writers’ relevance in an AI-dominated landscape, Hegde reassured that writers are far from becoming obsolete, citing the victory of Hollywood writers over AI during a lengthy strike. This victory, perhaps, underlines the enduring importance of human ingenuity in the arts, even as machines grow smarter and more adept at mimicking the creative processes.

In conclusion, the BIFFes highlighted the paradoxes of artificial intelligence in cinema: it’s an exciting tool that opens up vast possibilities for filmmakers and writers, yet also one that comes with an array of ethical quandaries and potential repercussions for traditional roles within the industry. Amidst these discussions, one thing remains clear: the future of filmmaking is poised for transformation, with artificial intelligence at the forefront, nudging creatives to explore uncharted territories – not without some caution and a keen awareness of the human element that underpins cinematic artistry.

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