Can Chatbots Affect Screenwriting And Film Criticism?


Cinema has always been described as an art form based on magical realism. But the magic you see on screen is never the same on a film set. It’s total chaos. For some, cinema has been a very technical art form. The reason I brought up the technical aspect of films is because most people believe that to be a good filmmaker, you need to be a good technician who understands how gadgets and gizmos work. It has been the same with screenwriting, which has never been termed a “pure form of writing” but more of a “blueprint” for a film. Now, blueprint is a technical term that I believe shouldn’t be used by an artist, but here we are. 

The art form itself has been around for more than 100 years now, and throughout these years we have seen it go through numerous stages of evolution, be it the introduction of sound, color, or hand-sized digital camcorders. Every time a new technology is introduced, there is quite a chatter among the artists. With the introduction of sound, many silent-era superstars lost their limelight and whatnot. But here in 2023, we have another revolution heading our way with speed. The technical pundits call it an AI chatbot, and the most popular software of the tech was released under the name Chat GPT. However, the question I want to raise here today is about the effect it’s going to have on a filmmaker’s life, especially that of a screenwriter or people who write about films. 

As per the reports, in 2023, almost all big studios will employ chatbots to write screenplays. The finished product will probably be lame, but still, their intention here is quite horrifying. As much as I understand the use of these chatbots which through their hi-tech processing speed, can easily mug up an entire book (or books), which take days for an average human reader. With the information that’s gathered, they can mix two or three plot lines and write a screenplay that is “extremely” original or unique—a story that we may not have heard or seen before. However, the new books have a copyright issue, so the studio gurus will try the same procedure with the books in the public domain, but we already know what they’ve gotten from this entire facade. So, you may want to ask a question: why can’t an AI tell or write a good story?

As a screenwriter, the first thing I learned about writing was to put my own emotions and experiences on paper. Many writers have a traumatic childhood and may have felt neglected throughout their teenage years; some were even bullied. These are just some instances I am mentioning, but trust me, even if two events sound similar, they never have the same impact on two different people. The effect varies with our varying perception of things that depend on a lot of different factors, and that is too big of a topic based on psychology to discuss right now. However, in the case of AI chat, the language model is the same, so even if they can bring multiple outcomes to a certain story, it will always lack the human factor, i.e., the emotions. Can we train a chatbot to go into the wilderness, face existential crises, or maybe grow up with strict parents or absent parenting? There are so many conflicts that we experience throughout our lifetime, and these are experiences we bring to paper. 

So, the question here is, will an AI chatbot that has eaten up all the data on the internet in just 4-5 months ever be able to have those human experiences? I doubt it. A chatbot can surely construct a well-written sentence with correct grammar and punctuation, but what about the emotions and the magic? One can write the best lyrics in the world but singing them without feeling will make them sound vapid. And yes, personally, I find art in the rawness that life has to offer instead of a neat frame that never tells a good story.

The second profession that is in question here is that of the content writer. Honestly, I don’t know much about creating content, but yes, I do write about films, so that’s where I’d focus. As per my knowledge, a chatbot can gather aggregated data from the internet and present an answer that is most suitable to the needs of the user. For example, if a user wants to know the plot and ending of a film, then an AI can curate the perfect answer in a matter of seconds, and one doesn’t have to open a website to read the same. In this instance, there are no clicks on the website, and it is a win-win situation for the chatbot owners. However, there are two things worth mentioning. The first thing is that a chatbot only knows about things that are available on the internet, so a plot summary or a recap of a new film or episode will be impossible to gather until and unless a human user has already written it. But if a chatbot has already kicked millions of writers out of their profession, who is going to write the content? Plus, even if they wrote it, they wouldn’t be earning anything, so why bother?

Secondly, there is the artistic part. If we entertain the same query, then sometimes it can be the case that you like to read a narrative that is written by a human because they bring their own emotions and experiences to the narration of the story. “Narration” is the word I would like to highlight again because most chatbots follow the same language models, which will be updated frequently throughout the years, but even a teenager would be able to spot the structuring of those sentences as the tech evolves. Another concern is that most readers will fall victim to the monotony and may need a way out.

The artistic side of things is extremely important in this scenario because a critic or someone who writes about films often tries to bring their own perspective to the narration of a story. These perspectives or opinions are what most users like to read, but with AI chatbots, there will be plain and simple facts to a certain query. Also, if the chatbot has already revealed the big surprise to you, you might not want to look further, and in the process, you may overlook the gems that had been waiting for you. In short, AI is going to make us more lazy and stupid with time, taking away our autonomy to “choose.” In addition to that, there are many hidden layers in the film that a filmmaker tries to incorporate, and these themes are always up for discussion in well-made films. However, with the AI takeover, the human voices are certainly going to disappear, as writers need revenue to survive, and for most of us, it comes from digital advertising. But with the introduction of chatbots and AI-integrated search, we are not sure how many people would still prefer to open a website ever again.

Some people might prefer to open a reputable website to read what the experts in the business have to say about a certain work of art, but what about the independent voices? Will they be able to survive? Or will it all be back to zero, where a writer, a journalist, or an artist will have to look up to a big corporation with a huge subscriber base so that people may get to know their work? The world is heading towards another chaotic scenario, and this time, it’s all “online.” We hope people love the answers that an AI has in store for them, yet some of us would still be looking for people to arrive at our door so we can entertain them and meet them like the good old days. If not, then it’s goodbye for good.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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