ByJack Zhang, writer at
Jack Zhang

I have been fascinated by the idea of artificial intelligence since I was a kid. The idea of an AI doing all the work for us and computers “thinking” by themselves just sounds amazing to me (maybe I am too lazy). Lately, with the advances of machine learning technology, that idea seems not far from reality.

But, can computers be creative?

A few weeks ago a short film called Sunspring came out and which was made by a filmmaker named Oscar Sharp, but written by an AI that could write screenplays! I was so excited to see this, but after a few minutes into the film, I realized that the story doesn’t make any sense at all

The AI failed to recognize the deep plot structures that are essential to creative work. Why did it not work? In short, writing a full script is probably too complex of a task for today’s AI.

As humans, we may not notice how much information each of us are processing everyday and our ability to extract structure from these information. This happens when we read books, blogs, watch movies, videos, even as you read this article right now. When we engage in creative works, we take full advantage of all those information we have processed in the past. Computers are very bad at doing that, especially if we want computers to write each word, each sentence on their own. There are too many combinations of words, sentences, and thus the problem becomes too complex for computers to solve, at least for today’s AI. If we use computers to store and process useful information into consumable form that human creatives can easily understand, what would happen then? Pure magic.

Why not combine human creativity with the power of A.I.?

At Greenlight Essentials, we have been developing the first feature film co-written by AI using this methodology. How did we do this? We first simplified the task for computers, and told our AI to take advantage of the decades of movie data and find the plot combinations that have high odds to draw in audiences. Then our creative team worked closely with the insights generated using our AI to turn these plot elements into a creative story. IMPOSSIBLE THINGS is born.

The early signs are showing a huge success! Remember our objective for AI is to draw in audiences? In a short month, our teaser trailer had over 100k views and 20k followers on Facebook, and the viewers are giving unbelievable positive engagement and comments (we didn’t tell them it is made using AI, for them it is just another indie film)!

How did this happen, exactly?

What did we do differently than Sunspring? Instead of ordering our AI to write each word and sentence, we made our AI to work on a more conceptual level - focusing on the key plot elements. This would simplify the complexity of the problem for computers by A LOT! Because there are over 1 million English words out there, the combination of these words into sentences is well beyond trillions. If we work on the plot level, we can shrink down that number to a manageable level. It is still big, we have about 40,000 different plot elements, but it is manageable. Then, we correlated these plot elements to the success of films that shared these elements. After that, we simply asked our AI - what combination of plot in horror genre would have the highest odds to draw in audiences?

Ghost and Family Relationships in Horror Genre
Ghost and Family Relationships in Horror Genre

One of the many plot elements that our A.I. identified was to have ghost and family relationship in our horror film.

We are able to feed the right content into the right hands.

Using our big data algorithm, we are also able to find where the audiences are for that specific combination of plot (demographics, geographical location etc.. some details can be found at the end of this article here). Doing this, we are able to draw useful information to tell us what to make and make it for whom. We are able to feed the right content into the right hands. Compare to traditional creative process, this information is largely unknown. You will have to guess what to make or guess where your audiences are, and hope that they will like what you created. But using technology, we are able to have answers to these key questions before anything is made.

Our script is done and our next step is to crowd-fund IMPOSSIBLE THINGS, and allow everyone to have a chance to join us in this movie! Our Kickstarter campaign will launch on July 26th, and we will be giving out the usual film rewards such as digital, physical copies of the film, and we are also giving out access to our AI software that helped us creating IMPOSSIBLE THINGS! There is limited access, so don’t miss out on it by sign up on our site to stay tuned or follow us on Facebook!


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