Hollywood has been, to say the least, hesitant about AI in the last year. Indeed, the largest strike in sixty years has at its core a fear and loathing of artificial intelligence. Yet a world away at the 80th Venice Film Festival earlier this month, a more hopeful, optimistic view of AI’s cinematic potential was endorsed by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including Tom Hanks, Robert Zemeckis, Joe Russo and Darren Aronofsky.

While promoting his AI-powered movie Here by Robert Zemeckis, Hanks said he could see an AI version of himself acting after his death. Joe Russo, director of Avengers Endgame envisions a future where people can come home after a long day to ask their AI TV for a new movie starring themselves and Marilyn Monroe.

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Director Harmony Korine (Kids, Spring Breakers, Beach Bums) premiered his AI Film Aggro Dr1ft, which used Stable Diffusion to create the film’s stunning visuals. The new AI-assisted work was lauded by Variety, which said the film constituted a “hard reset for the rules of filmmaking.” Korine insisted we have nothing to fear from AI. “I think it’s a tool,” said the director at a presser. “I don’t necessarily think it’s an existential crisis. I think if you’re looking at it as a creative tool, it’s very exciting.”

Three AI film studios launched at Venice, Korine’s own EDGLRD, financed by Matt Holt, Chairman of the Paris Review. Pillars, a new AI studio cofounded by Scott Lighthiser and Katya Alexander with adviser Edward Saatchi, premiered The Red at Venice, and announced a slate of 5 new AI films. The team is building an “AI Cinema Technology suite” called the Pillars Engine which will enable Deepfakes, AI VFX, including Creature FX, and text-to-video for virtual production.

The Simulation (formerly Fable Studios) launched a new version of its Showrunner AI text-to-episode AI application. The tech used South Park to show off its new technology. Now it’s previewing its first original AI TV series, Thistle Gulch, set in a simulation of a Western town that’s filled with dynamic AI characters seeking a new future in the Wild West.

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The Simulation’s AI Showrunner tech heralds a potential future where you will come home to both binge watch TV shows made by AI and also speak to your TV to remix or create episodes of TV shows – and even make entirely new original AI TV shows yourself. What unites these AI film studios is a focus on what comes after the cinema of today and a desire to combine game engines, XR, AI, and cinema to create something completely new.

With the strike, AI cinema continues to be controversial, but with top Hollywood filmmakers like Joe Russo, Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky, Oscar Winners Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis embracing AI, it seems like a moment when Hollywood is starting to wonder if AI may not only be a threat, but also an opportunity.

Charlie Fink is the author of the AR-enabled books “Metaverse,” (2017) and “Convergence” (2019). In the early 90s, Fink was EVP & COO of VR pioneer Virtual World Entertainment. He teaches at Chapman University in Orange, CA.

Header image credit: Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash

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