ND Expert Christine Becker: AI’s impact on the Hollywood labor market

Author: Carrie Gates

ND Experts

Christine Becker

Christine Becker

Film, Television, and Theatre

Christine Becker

While the Biden administration is drafting federal guidelines to regulate artificial intelligence, the adoption of generative AI within the entertainment business will be controlled primarily by industry self-regulation, said Christine Becker, an associate professor of film, television and theater. 

“That’s why the Writers Guild has made restrictions on its use a key goal of its strike platform,” she said. “Whether using ChatGPT to replace a human script polisher or hiring one polisher to punch up AI-generated content that would typically require a staff of writers to create, the major studios would jump at such opportunities to efficiently lower labor costs.

“But generative AI cannot think or feel or create anything genuinely new; it can only resurrect, parrot and alter what already exists and only at a surface level.”

Becker added that “a cynic might point to a plethora of sequels and franchises and say that’s not far from what we already have. But even if you do believe that defines our current entertainment landscape, you must acknowledge that the major studios’ profit motives got us there.

“Now they want AI — not because of any possibility that it could write on par with WGA members, but because it’s less expensive than paying writers, at least for now; we’ll see what AI companies charge after the introductory phase ends.”

Barring regulations enforcing it, generative AI also operates without original source citation, consent, compensation or control, and screenwriting is not the only entertainment job in jeopardy here, Becker said.

“An actor’s face and a director’s eye could be replicated or replaced via AI, so SAG-AFTRA and the DGA must also address this issue in their negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in the coming weeks,” she said. “While AI concerns alone probably won’t sustain long-term labor strife if producers give significant ground on monetary issues, it is possible the only force preventing the dramatic disempowerment of creative labor by artificial intelligence in just a few short years will be the strength and unity of organized labor this summer.”