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Late Night With the Devil Filmmakers Confirm Use of AI Art: A Growing Trend in Film

Last Updated March 22, 2024 3:31 PM
Giuseppe Ciccomascolo
Last Updated March 22, 2024 3:31 PM

Key Takeaways

  • The use of AI-generated art in Late Night With the Devil sparked debate despite positive reviews.
  • Similar discussions arose with Disney+’s Secret Invasion and its AI-created end credits.
  • Critics worry AI may take jobs away from artists and performers.

Late Night With the Devil, the latest horror film from directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes, hit theaters  on March 22. However, eagle-eyed viewers have noticed a controversial aspect of the project: the use of artificial intelligence (AI)-generated artwork.

This revelation came to light earlier in the week when social media users  flagged the use of image-generating software for graphics featured in teasers for the upcoming film. The posts quickly gained traction, with one user on Letterboxd accusing the platform of “shadow-banning” their review for critiquing the film’s alleged involvement with AI-generated content.

Directors Revelation

In a statement  provided to The Daily Beast, the Cairnes brothers confirmed viewers’ suspicions regarding the use of AI in Late Night With the Devil.

They explained: “Working closely with our exceptional graphics and production design team, who dedicated themselves to achieving the ’70s aesthetic we envisioned, we experimented with AI for three still images. These images were further edited and briefly showcased as interstitials in the film.”

The low-budget film features David Dastmalchian (known for roles in The Suicide Squad and Oppenheimer). It unfolds a nightmarish tale set on the fictional talk show set of the late ’70s. The film occasionally transitions to impromptu “commercials” with Halloween-themed eyecatches during live episode mishaps. While these moments are fleeting in the final cut, their appearance in early teasers hinted at something unconventional.

A clear example is the depiction of a skeleton with a distorted hand, strongly suggesting using generative image software. Despite Late Night With the Devil admitting to experimenting with AI for specific graphics, social media users call for a boycott of the film. This call to action comes despite the generally positive reception from critics. The film premieres in cinemas this Friday, with streaming on Shudder beginning April 19.

A Growing Trend

The use of artificial intelligence remains a contentious issue across various industries, particularly in Hollywood’s current landscape. Recent union negotiations , such as those with the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild, have grappled with the implications of AI-assisted or -generated work. These negotiations, often protracted, have highlighted tensions between creators, performers, and studios regarding the role of AI.

While these contracts address AI’s usage in on-screen performances and writing, they overlook its application in art and illustration. Consequently, viewers increasingly notice AI’s presence in various visual elements. This varies from fleeting on-air graphics to elaborate title sequences, as seen in Disney+’s Secret Invasion , which sparked debate last summer over its extensive, AI-generated end credits visuals.

Despite a prevailing inclination to dismiss projects employing AI, some critics argue against wholesale rejection. As expert journalist Geoffrey Bunting outlined  last June, AI’s potential transcends ethical concerns and mere replication of existing artwork.

He said: “Iterative AI doesn’t create art from a vacuum; it learns from datasets that include millions of images, including those from artists who never gave consent for their work to be used that way. That’s absolutely something we should be concerned about. It’s why I can’t blame anyone, as media layoffs reach a fever pitch and the WGA remains on strike  over, at least in part, job protections from AI, for regarding this as salt in the wound.”

Movies Under Spotlight

As said, another film that draws attention to its utilization of AI is Secret Invasion. As initially reported by Polygon, the film employed AI to craft its opening credits, depicting Earth’s invasion by shapeshifting Skrulls. The sequence unfolds with an imposing spaceship descending upon Earth, ominous green clouds swirling over cities, and faces morphing from human to Skrull.

This use of AI injects an uncanny quality into the visuals. That is clear due to elements like the slightly off-reduction of Samuel L. Jackson’s face or the depiction of the London skyline with two Big Bens.

Director and executive producer of Secret Invasion, Ali Selim, said  the incorporation of AI aligns with the show’s thematic elements. He said: “When we reached out to the AI vendors, that was part of it—it just came right out of the shape-shifting, Skrull world identity, you know? Who did this? Who is this?”

Similarly, the opening scene of True Detective: Night Country drew criticism for background posters that appeared to be AI-generated. Showrunner Issa López neither confirmed nor denied the supposition. She noted that some text from a standard image generator appears more coherent than expected.

Actors Concerned About AI In Movies

Despite the recent resolution  of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA ) strike, concerns linger over the regulation of AI in the union’s new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP ), giving actors pause.

The union leadership has provided an 18-page summary of the proposed agreement , outlining various elements, including protections concerning AI. However, some members found these provisions too ambiguous to provide adequate reassurance.

The contract acknowledges the increasing role of AI in acting, with studios already conducting body scans of background actors, a practice SAG-AFTRA sought to regulate more effectively during its 118-day strike.

The agreement outlines two types of digital replicas: Employment-Based Digital Replicas (EBDRs ) require the performer’s physical participation in a project, while Independently-Created Digital Replicas (ICDRs ) are generated without the performer’s involvement. Actors will receive compensation for these replicas, with rates varying depending on the type of replica and employment status under Schedule F, which involves a lump sum payment for a project.

Consent from the actor is mandatory for both forms of digital replicas. Exceptions are provided in certain circumstances for both EBDRs and ICDRs.

Moreover, the contract introduces a third category of digital performers: Synthetic Performers created by generative AI. These entities aim to create entirely new performers, distinct from natural performers. If the name of a human actor is utilized in creating a synthetic performer, resulting in a recognizable and prominent facial feature, producers must negotiate with and obtain consent from the actor.

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