We haven’t quite reached Terminator‘s Judgment Day, but there’s no doubt that technological advancement has lead to countless gadgets and computer programs that have taken over jobs that used to belong to humans (I used to be a projectionist, which is all but extinct in the age of digital). Could screenwriting be next? Yeah…probably not.
Director Oscar Sharp, producers Allison Friedman, Andrew Kortschak, Andrew Swett, and Silicon Valley star Thomas Middledtich teamed up to create the short film Sunspring — a nonsensical piece written by anLSTM recurrent neural network. Along with “technologist collaborator” Ross Goodwin, the team set out to build “Jetson”, a machine that could write screenplays. They fed the neural network hundreds of science fiction scripts, from TV and film, and proceeded to shoot and edit Jetson’scrazypants script over the course of 48 hours for the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Challenge.
“The question for us is, Can a computer write a screenplay that will win a competition?”, says the filmmaker over the credits. I’m happy to report that it cannot. While the result of the experiment is funny and entertaining thanks to Middledtich and actress Elisabeth Gray, who manages to make her closing monologue comprehensible despite having to deliver lines like “I just wanted to tell you that I was much better than he did,” the end script is a mishmash of choppy dialogue, incoherent characters, and a complete absence of story. For now at least, screenwriting is safe from the ravages of technological job thievery. All the same, Sunspring is an entertaining and unusual film experiment and you should check it out below.
Here’s the set up:
In the wake of Google’s AI Go victory, filmmaker Oscar Sharp turned to his technologist collaborator Ross Goodwin to build a machine that could write screenplays. They created “Jetson” and fueled him with hundreds of sci-fi TV and movie scripts. Building a team including Thomas Middleditch, star of HBO’s Silicon Valley, they gave themselves 48 hours to shoot and edit whatever Jetson decided to write.