Performers Worry Artificial Intelligence Will Take Their Jobs

    09 June 2023

    Leaders of the SAG-AFTRA actors' union say the group's members are concerned that they will lose work because of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, tools.

    The labor organization started talks with Hollywood movie studios about a new contract this week.

    Duncan Crabtree-Ireland is the main person speaking with movie studios on behalf of the actors. He is SAG-AFTRA's negotiator.

    FILE PHOTO: Harrison Ford poses at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo
    FILE PHOTO: Harrison Ford poses at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

    He said people who work in movies have their stock-in-trade, or their special qualities that make them different from another actor. He listed an actor's name, voice, personality and likeness when describing those qualities. Crabtree-Ireland wants to be sure actors keep making money from their special qualities.

    For example, the labor organization wants to prevent movie production companies from taking an actor's image in one movie and using it to create a "digital double" for a new movie.

    Crabtree-Ireland said it would not be fair to do that without paying extra.

    Artificial intelligence tools have already been used to make "deepfakes" of well-known actors Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves. Reeves called the technology "scary."

    Deepfake is the term for real-looking, but untrue, video. AI can be used to make deepfakes.

    AI tools have gained attention since the company OpenAI launched ChatGPT late last year.

    The tools that can create sound and video are known as generative AI. They can take real video of a person and make it seem as if the person is saying words that they never said.

    In Hollywood, the technology is being used to make actors look younger or to fix lip synch problems when a movie is dubbed into a different language.

    Justine Bateman is a producer, writer and actor. She was on the successful television program Family Ties when she was young. Her brother is the well-known actor, Jason Bateman.

    She has a computer science education and is concerned about how AI will change movies and television.

    She said studios could take parts from her old show and make a new season.

    Some stars give permission

    While many actors are worried about AI, others can accept it.

    Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones are two older actors who told moviemakers they could use AI. Ford will appear in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. He first played Indiana Jones in the 1980s. Now he is 80 years old.

    In parts of the new movie, Ford appears as a young man. Instead of using a different actor, the moviemakers used AI to make Ford look young. They used images of his performance in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    James Earl Jones recently spoke with Vanity Fair magazine. He said he agreed to let the producers of Star Wars use AI to recreate his voice. Jones is 92 and provides the voice for Darth Vader. He said he wants Star Wars producers to use his voice even after he dies. It is not the first time Star Wars used AI. The company Disney used the technology to put Carrie Fisher into the 2019 film The Rise of Skywalker after she died.

    The actors' labor union wants to be sure anyone acting in a movie has a chance to say "yes" or "no" about using AI every time they accept a job.

    If SAG-AFTRA cannot reach an agreement with the movie companies, it may join the Writers Guild, another labor group, in a strike. Both unions want protections in place before signing new contracts.

    If the actors do not push for the protections, Bateman said, creativity and innovation might disappear from movies, television and music. She said everything made in the future is going to be based on work from the past.

    "I don't want to live in that world," she said.

    I'm Dan Friedell. And I'm Caty Weaver.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by Reuters.


    Words in This Story

    stock-in-trade –n. equipment or materials necessary for a trade or business

    likeness –n. an image of a person, or thing that is known to represent an individual

    lip synch n. (entertainment industry) the matching of the sound of a movie or video with the images

    dubbed –adj. to replace the sound of a film or video with speech recorded in another language

    innovation –n. to use new ideas, processes or methods to create something