As Hollywood reels from a disastrous summer season in movie theaters, their chances to start putting things right remain limited by the ongoing strikes by both actors and writers. Productions are halted. Gestating projects are dead. The town, and the industry, are essentially paralyzed. Front and center of the demands from both aggrieved parties are the residuals they receive from their work featuring on streaming platforms.
What is talked about less as a reason behind the strike is the impact of AI. Writers are concerned that AI could eventually reduce their value in the industry. For actors, it is a little more sinister. Long-time Outposter Shelly Keith Childs shared a story in Disqus last week from actor Erik Passoja. This is what he had to say:
“Just to give you an idea of what’s at stake with SAG/AFTRA: back in 2014, I worked on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. I played a Belgian geneticist in several scenes, doing mocap work. I was compensated for the face scanning process and the acting work. But what happened next was unexpected.
A friend called me after the game’s release, saying, “Hey, my son just shot you!”
Turns out, my likeness was also used in the online PvP game. Players can shoot me in the face, blow me up, stab me, push me off a cliff, and burn me alive, all while I scream and die in extreme violence.
This is not a Belgian geneticist. This is a completely different character. The game grossed over a billion dollars. The online version, where players pay a monthly subscription to, among other things, play my character and/or kill my character, was a significant part of that revenue.
All I received was the original session fee. I had no say in how my likeness was used, or that it would be subjected to such violence.
If you believe that producers will fairly handle AI without specific legal boundaries, think again. We need to revolutionize actor compensation for the digital age.
P.S. In 2014, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare made more than Taylor Swift’s new album 1989, Disney/Pixar’s Frozen, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy COMBINED. These were the top-selling album and the top two box office movies of 2014.”
Another outposter, Toughguyrizzo, reached out to us at Outpost HQ (in reality a small pre-fabricated hut from the future, in the radioactive wasteland that will one day be Hollywood – it’s complicated time dilation stuff that only Drunken Yoda really understands) with something else on this. A friend of his in Hollywood has posted on Instagram about this practice perhaps being more widespread than anyone had previously talked about.
You can view the entire post and video right here. We are not talking about $20 million per picture A-Listers here. This is the background actors, the NPCs in games, and the masses that make the scene. So where do you sit? Is this more unethical Hollywood behavior, eventually sidelining the extra to be replaced with a digitally generated image, or did these actors know what they were getting into and signed contracts anyway?
This is going to be a key topic everywhere as we enter the not-at-all-terrifying brave new world of AI.
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