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AI in Film

A clapperboard on a film set. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

OPINION: Pay no attention to the bot behind the curtain

FDMA 491.003 and the future of AI in film

The University of New Mexico film and digital arts (FDMA) department offers a variety of classes that teach students the ins and outs of the film industry and give them experience in every part of collaborative art filmmaking, from screenplay to silver screen.

Recently, a new class was added to the FDMA roster – FDMA 491.003: Data-Driven Digital Art, Collaboration with AI and Interdisciplinary Art.

“We explore the cutting-edge field of artificial intelligence, which has gained significant traction since the 2000s, to craft imaginative projects in digital art. In this class, we investigate ethical collaborations with computer-generated and data-driven creations, utilizing them as innovative tools across various creative domains such as photography, painting, video art, performance and beyond,” the course description reads.

The course will also involve discussions on the historical context and social implications of AI art, according to FDMA Assistant Professor Chanee Choi.

“It will teach students how to create projects using AI across various genres such as dance, music, animation and games. Each student will learn to integrate AI into their chosen field, taking their projects to the next level,” Choi said.

The creation of the course sparked controversy among some film students, professors and community members, like recent UNM FDMA graduate Sophie Carlberg.

“I have conflicting thoughts, but given the trouble that AI has given the creative industries lately, it’s negative. It’s bad taste, almost. Especially after the writer’s strike just wrapped up and one of their demands was assurance against AI taking their jobs. I like parts of AI development as a tool, but it's become so hyped to the point where it’s taking the creative process away,” Carlberg said.

As a creator and a creative, I try to stay away from AI as much as I can. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally see the appeal: let the robot do the boring parts, the busy work, the summaries and the discussion posts. But I’ve come to see the value in the small, boring tasks, especially as they relate to the arts.

It’s in the little details where you can find humanity, and in the boring moments where you can find ways to grow.

The problem with the use of AI to replace creatives is it turns film from an art to a product. Fundamentally, art is something that is meant to make you think and feel, while a product is something that is meant to be consumed and then discarded. Art is made with time and care. Products are made to minimize costs and maximize profit.

Another recent UNM FDMA graduate, Michael Madrigal, described the differences he sees between AI-generated images and text and human-made art.

“Film is really just the ultimate combination of all artistic passion. AI is code. It's computer, it's algorithmic … At the end of the day, it all boils down to ones and zeros. Humans don't create zeros. Everything you love about film, that I love about film, that everyone loves about all of the arts can't be boiled down to a one or a zero. And the concept of forcing it into a one or a zero category is the concept of artificial intelligence in art,” Madrigal said.

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FDMA 491.003 will require students to find and discuss all potential references to other works when creating original works with AI, Choi said.

“I'll continuously teach the standards between originality and copying through lectures. The key to solving ethical dilemmas is ensuring students remain aware of these issues, so I am developing creative methods to achieve this,” Choi said.

AI image generators come with the inherent risk of stealing and exploiting the works of other artists. As the New Yorker explained, image generators utilize a database known as LAION-5B, an index of over 5 billion images scraped from across the internet, including copyrighted artworks. The problem arises because many artists do not consent to having their art incorporated in LAION-5B, nor are they offered any compensation.

It is not just art that is stolen by AI, it is people’s faces, too.

UNM FDMA Professor of Practice Matthew McDuffie recounted a time when his child’s godfather encountered AI while working on a science fiction show.

“They said, ‘Would you come in for a day? We're going to scan you for some special effects.’ He said ‘Sure.’ They scanned him, paid him for that day and he shows up in every episode of the series. Because they scanned it,” McDuffie said. “So instead of paying him for six or 10 weeks of work, they paid him for one day … That's what we're up against in terms of the creative community. That's what outrages me.”

This story is not unique – even A-list celebrities are vulnerable to image theft. Scarlett Johansson, star of Marvel’s “Black Widow” recently took legal action against OpenAI for use of her image in advertising without her consent, according to Spiceworks.

Overuse of AI risks homogenizing the artistic voice. We connect with people by hearing their stories and sharing our own. If we were to lose that to artificial intelligence, what else would we lose? Our empathy? Our compassion? Our communities? Ourselves?

We stand to lose individuality in the arts to AI, according to McDuffie.

“At the beginning of every writing class, I say the same thing. And that is that no one in the history of the world, in the history of the universe, of the multiverse or any dimension ever imagined has ever lived your life. That's where art comes from. That's where pictures come from. That's where stories come from. That's what we look for in any work … and AI just can't reproduce that. It could bring in the 8 billion lives of the people on the planet, but it couldn't live them,” McDuffie said.

The future of the film industry and AI’s role in it is uncertain. The AI bubble may be popping.

“We can't put the genie back in the bottle. AI exists, but we don't have to encourage it in our educational communities. We don't have to have classes where it is encouraged that we use AI to generate stories, generate visuals or generate art. I don't want to speak in extremes, but I feel like 15 years from now, we're all gonna regret hopping on this train as quickly as we did,” Madrigal said.

Or, it may be here to stay. Choi described AI as a “new genre in the arts” that has evolved to enrich the artistic world.

If AI’s presence in the film industry continues to grow, it is essential that artists and audiences alike protect themselves from AI exploitation. The pursuit of money-making and profit already rules so much of our lives. The idea that big corporations could take even our creativity from us disheartens me.

Even as technology rapidly evolves and changes around us, we must remember the importance of the human element. There is power in the art of creation and we must protect it.

Addison Fulton is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at

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