Will AI Ruin My Hopes for a Hollywood Career After College?

As the Writers Guild of America strike stretches into the summer and the Screen Actors Guild prepares to strike, BestColleges talked to an aspiring screenwriter and an aspiring director who both worry AI may snuff out their careers before they can take off.
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Evan Castillo is an associate writer on BestColleges News and wrote for the Daily Tar Heel during his time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He's covered topics ranging from climate change to general higher education news, and he is...
Updated on October 4, 2023
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Image: Courtesy of Alexis Rausch
  • AI is likely to harm or eliminate many writing, acting, and video editing careers if protections aren't put in place, critics warn.
  • On-site production jobs are the least likely to be impacted by AI.
  • The writers and actors guilds say they are fighting for protections against AI taking over their careers, as well as fair compensation.

Hollywood is feeling the effects from artificial intelligence (AI). Writers and actors are fighting for compensation and protections against AI.

BestColleges spoke with two recent college graduates, who are now in the entertainment industry, to get their views on how AI could affect the careers of aspiring college writers and actors.

AI Could Steal Your Screenwriting Job

BestColleges talked to Alexis Rausch, a 2023 graduate from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia with a bachelor of fine arts in performing arts, about what she sees for students' futures in writing careers.

She said realistically, AI could take writers' jobs, but that's why writers are striking for better pay and working conditions. While AI is not the primary reason writers are striking, it has become part of the issue.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike May 2 after several production studios and streaming companies failed to ratify a contract with the guild. According to the guild, the studios' responses were "wholly insufficient" to writers' needs.

The WGA's demands include pay increases to address devaluation of writing in all areas of TV, new media, and features; more benefits; measures to combat harassment and abuse in writers' rooms; and regulations on the use of materials produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies.

Rausch said production companies are learning it's cheaper to have AI write scripts and stories and then pay a writer less to go through and make them coherent and somewhat human.

"It's going against everything of the strike," she said. "They're not going to be making a livable wage because they can get away with getting paid less. So, the production company saves money, and writers don't get to do their jobs."

Rausch became an actor because she loves to be in a story, but she writes because she has so much to pen and share with others.

She is writing and co-creating the show "Corrine," a fantasy drama inspired by a 4 a.m. living room screening of Disney Junior's "Sofia the First" with her older sister. She kept the idea on the back burner for two years until pitching it to her co-creator Macy Brangers.

Right now, "Corrine" is about five years from airing. Rausch and Brangers are working on an airtight pitch for their 11-season show to send to production companies next year when they move to Atlanta.

Rausch said it's that type of human experience AI doesn't have and can't fully replicate. AI can make writing seem human, but it doesn't get colloquialisms and syntax quite right.

"Does it carry years of life experience with it? Does it have any soul to it?"

"Doesn't matter what you're writing about. There's already so much behind it because you put yourself behind it. But what is an AI going to put in there? What experience do they have that they can make it themselves? They can make it a part of who they are and their story? There's nothing there because it's not human."

AI Could Steal Your Script

Not only does AI challenge aspiring writers in Hollywood, but it also could steal writers' copyrighted ideas and even their style. This practice could lose writers money for their previous work and eliminate future use on set.

Since AIs like ChatGPT can only regurgitate existing content on the internet, they can use copyrighted content and writers' style to create something new. Rausch said copyright law only affects people stealing things people have written, but there's no law for an AI using others' work.

BestColleges asked OpenAI's ChatGPT to write a short story using comedian Eric Andre's writing style with characters from "Star Wars."

"In a galaxy full of chaos, absurdity, and unpredictable events, the most unlikely crew found themselves on an intergalactic adventure. Eric Andre, the master of chaos and unpredictable humor, joined forces with the iconic characters from Star Wars.

Luke Skywalker, the Jedi Knight with a noble spirit, was bewildered as Eric burst into the Millennium Falcon wearing a chicken suit and brandishing a rubber chicken lightsaber. 'What the heck is going on here?' Luke exclaimed, his eyes wide with confusion."

"We've never had to think about this possibility, and now suddenly it's here, and it's replicating the voice, and it's doing the work," Rausch said. "And you're like, 'Whoa, whoa, wait. But that's someone else's voice! That's someone else's work! You can't take them!'"

Well, legally, yes, AI can because there's no checks in place at this point.

AI Can Enhance Your Writing

Rausch said AI can have its place as a tool to enhance storytelling, not create it. Rausch has been using AI photo tools like DALL-E to brainstorm what a culture's religion within the show could look like.

She and Brangers have used it to create fictional components of worship or pictures of what they envision one of their main goddesses to look like.

"I'm writing a fantasy piece. Obviously, there's things about the world that I'm not going to fully understand until I can really visualize it and understand what I'm trying to do," Rausch said.

"And then to have that tool be like, 'Here's an image of this castle or this map,' or whatever, and I can be like, 'Oh, OK, that's more along the lines of what I'm looking for,' and I can go from there."

Will AI Affect My Acting Aspirations After College?

Jack Brownlee, a production assistant (PA) for a reality TV show and 2022 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill grad, told BestColleges acting is under fire from AI, right after writing.

Brownlee said actors have been working alongside computers with motion captures since about 2001. Now the question is, what do studio executives want more of — the computers or the real actors?

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) authorized a strike June 5 with a 97% vote in favor. An authorization does not mean the guild will go on strike. But it could if the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers does not reach a fair deal with the union by June 30.

Protections against AI are a central demand for the actors guild.

"Artificial intelligence has already proven to be a real and immediate threat to the work of our members and can mimic members' voices, likenesses and performances," SAG-AFTRA wrote.

"We must get agreement around acceptable uses, bargain protections against misuse, and ensure consent and fair compensation for the use of your work to train AI systems and create new performances."

Brownlee said an actor's physical look is so important to their success because if anybody walking down the street recognizes them, that alone gets them much more work and money.

"I think that AI, even right now, the AI technology has the ability to completely ruin someone's acting career, even if they're a great actor."

Brownlee said studios can now find a good up-and-coming young actor and cast them in the lead role, only to be the body for someone else more famous, like an older renowned actor or a deceased actor through computer-generated imagery.

Brownlee showed a tweet of Graham Hamilton, who played a young Luke Skywalker in "The Book of Boba Fett" — except you wouldn't know it because you never saw his face.

Instead of keeping the doppelganger to a young Mark Hamill, Disney decided to computer generate a de-aged Mark Hamill's face onto Hamilton's body. Brownlee said Disney likely paid Hamilton less since they only used his body.

That decision hurts young actors who walk into casting offices for their next project.

"Now no one knows what this guy looks like, even though he's a good actor," he told BestColleges. "So now, if he appears in something else, no one's going to be like, 'Oh, that's that guy that was in 'Star Wars'! He was really, really good in 'Star Wars'!"

Brownlee said instead what will happen when he walks into the room, casting officers will ask, "Who's this guy?"

"They're going to look at their thing [actor's resumé], and they're going to be like, 'Oh, this guy was in the 'Star Wars' thing. I didn't even remember him. I don't even recognize him. Therefore, he can't be that good,' even if he's great and stuff like that."

AI Is Learning to Take Over Video Editing, But Will Never Understand the Heart Behind It

Brownlee predicts AI will be able to cut video perfectly. But for now, AI can identify what people like and execute it at a rudimentary level. Like screenwriting, an AI cannot put feeling or motive behind what it does.

Brownlee shared an example of an AI trailer that asks what if "Star Wars" was directed by renowned filmmaker Wes Anderson?

Brownlee said this is an excellent example of AI being able to identify art and mimic the hallmarks of a director's style. However, the AI has no idea of the reasoning behind the shots it mimics, making them feel out of place and in the uncanny valley.

"As someone who's done a lot of editing, I know so much of editing is figuring out cutting this frame versus cutting on this frame," he said. "There's purpose behind every single frame that you edit."

"AI isn't to the point yet where it would be able to identify why one frame is better than another frame and so on, and how or why you would hold a shot for a millisecond longer than you would some other shot."

While AI will be able to perfectly cut eventually, it won't ever understand what it's doing. Brownlee said a movie is not just pretty pictures on a screen; you watch a movie or read a book to connect with the person who created it.

"I think that the people who push for AI to take over editing are the same, are very similar to the people who would push for AI to take over writing," Brownlee told BestColleges. "And those people are incredibly out of touch with what makes art, art."

AI Likely Won't Affect On-Set Production

"I don't think that AI would really replace that unless it grew a body and started walking around," said Brownlee.

He said production is pretty safe since AI can't replace a person holding a camera or microphone. Brownlee's role as PA for a reality TV show is to worry about the day-to-day operations so his crew, producer, and camera and microphone operators don't have to.

"My position is a lot more hands-on and very tangible and very boots on the ground," said Brownlee. "Being there, being on set, being in the office, doing things, everything from going to get resupply at the local store to running around, driving from various sets to deliver media or deliver materials and supplies and stuff like that."

"You have to have a physical presence there to do that. Your job security's pretty solid."