artificial intelligence

The Filmmaker Who Says AI Is Reparations

What changed for you?

I had meetings lined up with four different agencies, including MACRO, one of the biggest. Then the strike started and they stopped taking meetings. At the time, I was a member of the Black Boy Writes [Media] TV fellowship program. We had a Slack group, and people were in there talking bad about AI. By that point I’d already been using ChatGPT and was obsessed with it. So I started making animations, or films, using [Midjourney and Runway]. I was using it so much that I was just like, let me just see what happens. They started getting attention, and I went all in with it. For me, instead of making a pitch deck, I was like, I can make an AI trailer that shows people exactly what it is that I want to create.

Your introduction to AI filmmaking coincides with the strike, and one point writers were arguing for was more ownership over their stories. AI represents the opposite of that. There’s a lot of justifiable pushback on both sides. How do you negotiate that tension—your urge to essentially create mini AI movies despite them not always being welcome by your colleagues?

I find that once people start messing around with these tools, their stance totally flips. Maybe a month or two into the strike I did a class with a bunch of my screenwriter friends showing them how to use these AI tools. We focused on ChatGPT to create pitch decks and treatments, you name it. And they were blown away. Once they figured out what AI could do, their tune changed. They would text me on the side, like, “What prompts do I need to get this or that?” There are a lot of creators that use AI on the low but just won’t say anything. They don’t want to seem like they’re not credible or not producing their own work. Especially if you are a writer and people find out you’re using AI—

It’s like a scarlet letter.

Exactly. For me, it’s just a tool. It is a tool in the way that we use Google or Photoshop or Adobe After Effects. It just depends on how the person is using it. AI just enhances what you already bring to it. This is how I look at it, and I am going to be straight-up honest: AI is our reparations. I’m going to use these tools to make whatever it is I can make, which will allow me to accelerate my career and move to a certain space. I got executives and all sorts of people reaching out to me now that never looked at me when I was just putting out content and making scripts. I had meetings set up before the strike and couldn’t even get an email returned. Like, hey, look at what I’ve done on Clubhouse, look at the millions of hits I got on YouTube, look at the shows I’ve produced. I should be in a writer’s room. You don’t deserve anything in life, but my résumé was long enough.

You felt you had proved your worth.

Using AI now, the conversations are different. And that’s reparations. Still, I don’t know what this ends up becoming, because the tech is advancing so fast. It’s getting scary. I used to be able to spot an AI image. Now I see images that are real, and I’m like, is that AI? So we’re headed to a very interesting place.

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