Hollywood Already Losing the Plot with AI Hysteria

Tyler Perry Puts $800M Studio Expansion on Hold After Seeing OpenAI’s Sora: “Jobs Are Going to Be Lost”
The actor, filmmaker and studio owner is raising the alarm about the impact of the tech, saying, “I feel like everybody in the industry is running a hundred miles an hour to try and catch up, to try and put in guardrails.”

Tyler Perry saw OpenAI's Sora announcement and seemingly lost his mind:

After seeing Sora, what are your current feelings about how fast AI technology is moving and how it might affect entertainment in the near term?

I have been watching AI very closely and watching the advancements very closely. I was in the middle of, and have been planning for the last four years, about an $800 million expansion at the studio, which would’ve increased the backlot a tremendous size, we were adding 12 more soundstages. All of that is currently and indefinitely on hold because of Sora and what I’m seeing. I had gotten word over the last year or so that this was coming, but I had no idea until I saw recently the demonstrations of what it’s able to do. It’s shocking to me.

I mean, come on. You see a few video demos and you decide to scrap an $800M investment in a studio build-out? I don't buy it. It feels like there were perhaps other reasons to pause that build out and Sora is a good cover, or at least an interesting narrative.1 Otherwise, that is bananas.

What in particular was shocking to you about its capabilities?

I no longer would have to travel to locations. If I wanted to be in the snow in Colorado, it’s text. If I wanted to write a scene on the moon, it’s text, and this AI can generate it like nothing. If I wanted to have two people in the living room in the mountains, I don’t have to build a set in the mountains, I don’t have to put a set on my lot. I can sit in an office and do this with a computer, which is shocking to me.

It makes me worry so much about all of the people in the business. Because as I was looking at it, I immediately started thinking of everyone in the industry who would be affected by this, including actors and grip and electric and transportation and sound and editors, and looking at this, I’m thinking this will touch every corner of our industry.

I mean, sure, maybe that will all be true to some extent. But I would bet that it's not going to be true to the extent he's implying. Certainly not anytime in the near term which would constitute a complete change in direction for your current content plans. Sora isn't even open to the public yet. When it is, it's likely to be so resource intensive that it's going to be extremely expensive and as such, undoubtedly very limited in usage. That will change over time, of course. But again, is Sora going to replace Tyler Perry films any time soon? I mean, if that were even feasible, that would probably point to a far greater problem for Tyler Perry.

I think it's right to start thinking through the ramifications of all of this now. Especially because there are undoubtedly going to be some jobs that are displaced. But guess what? Other ones will pop-up. It's like when digital animation came about, it didn't end Hollywood as we knew it. It augmented it and helped new ways of movie-making (and new careers in those fields) blossom. There's no need for the hysteria here. It's neither helpful nor productive.

And guess what? Perry goes on to note that actually AI has been useful in some of his productions:

Are you currently implementing AI in any of your productions and/or do you plan to do so in the near future?

I just used AI in two films that are going to be announced soon. That kept me out of makeup for hours. In post and on set, I was able to use this AI technology to avoid ever having to sit through hours of aging makeup.

Again, if I had to bet, I would bet that AI augments the entire process rather than replaces it.2 Sure, some things undoubtedly will be made fully with AI far down the line, but it's impossible to know if any of that stuff will fly with the public. Filmmaking is a creative endeavor. People enjoy watching what other people create. The business of moviemaking has been challenged for a while now, well ahead of the current AI cycle. A lot of that has to do with extremely inefficient ways of doing things and an unwillingness to change and adapt, in part because Hollywood is perhaps the key example of an industry that romanticizes its past. It's a strength and a weakness, but it has been increasingly a problem as time marches forward. Is it naive to think that some level of technology can actually help solve what ails Hollywood? No, no it's not.

1 One thought: after a severe soundstage shortage during the peak of the streaming bubble, capacity is likely normalizing as everyone pulls back from the insane levels of production volume of the past few years. But that has absolutely nothing to do with AI and everything to do with the streaming wars and the pandemic.

2 Also, I'm enjoying the very general and broad use of "AI" in such articles. "AI" can mean about a million different things. What Perry is worried about is generative video AI, I suppose. But they interchange it with other meanings throughout.