In a day and age when everything seems to be automated, the Luddites among us have at least been able to find solace in the fact that the arts were still safely outside the reach of being computerized. Until now, that is. There is no longer any reason for humans to write scripts. We have robots to do that now.
Perhaps you have heard of the summer 2016 film “Sunspring.” Well, perhaps not. “Sunspring” wasn’t exactly a movie blockbuster, but it is getting attention for another reason. The script and stage directions were written entirely by a computer. Artificial Intelligence is now competing with Hollywood scriptwriters.
The annual film festival Sci-Fi London includes a 48-Hour Film Challenge. The challenge pits contestants against one another as they feverishly work to create a movie script and produce the film in less than 48 hours using a set of props and lines that are provided. Director Oscar Sharp and his collaborator Ross Goodwin, an AI researcher from New York University, decided to put a spin on the 48-Hour Challenge this year by having an AI write the script.
The AI that was employed to write scripts was an LSTM recurrent neural network (for those who are interested in such things). In true sci-fi fashion, the AI gave itself a name, Benjamin. To get started, Benjamin was provided with dozens on sci-fi screenplays from the 1980s and 1990s. Benjamin then analyzed all of the screenplays, learning details like which words and phrases occur together most often during sci-fi screenplays.
The film, which is both odd and dark, weaves a love triangle romance and murder into a futuristic sci-fi setting. “Sunspring” also features an original musical score, a pop music song that was also written by Benjamin. To get Benjamin started with writing the song, the AI was provided with the lyrics to more than 30,000 pop music songs to analyze.
After Benjamin provided the script and stage directions, the cast and crew were able to produce “Sunspring” in time for the contest. Thomas Middleditch played H, Elisabeth Gray played H2, and Humphrey Ker played C in the film.
Despite the key role that Benjamin played in writing scripts to create “Sunspring,” including the contribution of a few nonsensical stage directions and lines, the actors still added a human touch as they interpreted the script and added body language, expressions, and tone. Benjamin also still needed a lot of input from human helpers before being capable of spitting out the somewhat odd script.
“Sunspring” was chosen by the judges to be in the top ten films for the contest. There were hundreds of overall entries.