Tyler Perry expresses concern over AI’s impact on the film industry

openAI Sora Tyler Perry
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Actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry has revealed he’s cancelled plans to extend his studio due to the rise of AI. “It’s shocking to me,” he says.

The latest in a series of generative AI unveilings seen in recent years, OpenAI’s Sora, which turns text prompts into photoreal moving images, has been met by a mix of awe, fascination and dismay.

As clips demonstrating the tech emerged on the 15th February, among those taking note was actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry, whose most recent film, the erotic thriller Mea Culpa, appears on Netflix today (23rd February).

Perry said that the possiiblities offered by Sora were “shocking” to him, and theorised that the software could be used to generate virtual environments – saving the cost of travel to real-world locations – and could even be used to generate, say, a pilot episode without spending money on sets and filmmakers.

In fact, Perry says he was on the cusp of greenlighting an $800m expansion to his production studio in Atlanta when the Sora demonstration prompted him to put construction on “indefinite hold.”

“I have been watching AI very closely and watching the advancements very closely,” Perry told The Hollywood Reporter. “I was in the middle of, and have been planning for the last four years, about an $800 million expansion at the studio, which would’ve increased the backlot a tremendous size, we were adding 12 more soundstages.

“All of that is currently and indefinitely on hold because of Sora and what I’m seeing. I had gotten word over the last year or so that this was coming, but I had no idea until I saw recently the demonstrations of what it’s able to do. It’s shocking to me.”

Elsewhere, Perry expressed alarm at just how many people in the film industry could lose their jobs to generative AI; after all, if everything can be created using a few prompts on a computer, then there’ll be less demand for the “actors and grip and electric and transportation and sound and editors” he says.

Perry rather proves this point – seemingly without meaning to – when he talks about using AI in two so-far unannounced film projects. He implies that AI was used to somehow make the character he plays in one (or both) of those films look older.

“I just used AI in two films that are going to be announced soon,” Perry said. “That kept me out of makeup for hours. In post and on set, I was able to use this AI technology to avoid ever having to sit through hours of aging makeup.”

That’s convenient for Perry, of course, but inevitably means that one or perhaps several makeup artists had their work replaced by a piece of software.

Still, Perry recognises that “guardrails” need to be put in place as AI is rapidly spreading into the film industry and elsewhere.

Said Perry, “Everything right now is so up in the air. It’s so malleable. The technology’s moving so quickly. I feel like everybody in the industry is running a hundred miles an hour to try and catch up, to try and put in guardrails and to try and put in safety belts to keep livelihoods afloat […] I’m hoping that there’s a whole government approach to help everyone be able to sustain, is my hope.”

Among the reactions to Sora elsewhere, there have been fears that it could be used to spread misinformation, and arguments that OpenAI has cherry-picked example clips to make the tech look more advanced than it currently is. All the same, the technology appears to be advancing at a startling rate, and where it’ll leave creative industries in even a couple of years’ time is anyone’s guess.

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