2016 is the year of AI. Deep learning algorithms are rapidly being deployed in numerous areas ranging from playing Go to scientific research. Is the movie industry about to be disrupted as well? Well, not really, at least not yet...
Last week Ars premiered Sunscreen, a short Sci-Fi movie made for Sci-Fi London entirely written by a deep learning algorithm called Benjamin. The project is the brainchild of filmmaker Oscar Sharp and technologist Ross Goodwin. They wanted to create an AI algorithm capable of writing screenplays. To get the task done Goodwin created a LSTM recurrent neural network, which has been fed a large collection of Sci-Fi scripts ranging from lots of X-Files episodes to classics like Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Interstellar. As a start they gave Benjamin a few prompts such as the title "Sunspring," while the machine completed the rest of thescreenplay. FInally the movie was shot in one day with actors Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley, Penn Zero), Humphrey Ker, and Elisabeth Gray.
While the movie lacks a plot and the dialogue jumps around in mostly non-sensical way, it is surprisingly emotional with consistent dark theme of pain and regret. It even has a classic emotional Sci-Fi style monologue to wrap it up, with the same incomprehensible collection of lines as in the rest of the movie. Chances are, screenwriters are not going to lose their jobs anytime soon, nevertheless with Benjamin being a deep learning algorithm the screenplay does offer some rather interesting insights into the most common themes in the sci-fi world:
It appears characters in sci-fi are quite pre-occupied with the unknown, or they are simply not very knowledgeable, as evidenced by the phrase "I don't know" being repeated 10 times in a 9 minutes movie.
People obviously prefer asking questions than providing answers. Thinking about it, this one does seem to be true.
The big revelation about the movie, life and everything comes at the end in the form of nice long monologue (played brilliantly by Elisabeth Gray).
While not groundbreaking the result is quite enjoyable. Have a look at the top.