Hollywood blockbusters are often criticized for being formulaic, but this year's summer hits have nothing on Sunspring, a sci-fi film entirely devoted to formula. The short movie, which made its online debut on Ars Technica yesterday, was written by artificial intelligence trained on science fiction screenplays—everything from Blade Runner (1982) to Cowboys & Aliens (2011).
Filmmaker Oscar Sharp and machine learning researcher Ross Goodwin created the LSTM (long short-term memory) neural network named Benjamin (its own choice) over the course of a year. Once the network was up and running, Benjamin wrote the script based on just a few prompts, including one line of dialogue and an idea for a future where mass unemployment leads young people to sell their own blood.
Benjamin spit out a sometimes incomprehensible script, and Sharp, Goodwin, and a group of actors went about turning into an actual film.
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The actors, including Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch, deadpan their way through lines like, “The way you were sent to me, that was a big honest idea.” Some of the weirder stage directions included "He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor." At one point early in the film, Middleditch gags, then spits out an eyeball, immediately moving on with no explanation. (The lyrics of the song playing in the background were also written by the computer, though humans penned the music.)
The effect is kind of like a futuristic, super-nonsensical Shakespeare play. If anything, the film shows that a movie can get surprisingly far relying entirely on body language, tone of voice, and a little mood music.
Benjamin’s creators have since turned the program to churning out feature film ideas, so watch out for a machine-learning movie to hit theaters in the future.
[h/t Ars Technica]
All images via YouTube.