Upcoming thriller Fall used deepfake tech to remove expletives

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Developing deepfake technology has been used to significantly alter a film for the first time, but probably not for the last. 

If you enjoy single location thrillers then the upcoming Fall is likely already on your watchlist. Set atop a rickety old radio tower in the middle of scorching desert plains, two friends find themselves trapped with no water, no phone signal and most importantly, no way down. What’s more, move over Tom Cruise as the film was shot completely on location atop an actual tower by two intrepid actors, Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner. Jeffrey Dean Morgan also appears although his character gets to enjoy the safety of terra firma, we believe.

Given that this is an edge of the seat thriller, going into this one knowing as little as possible is advisable, but this one story is so remarkable that it was simply begging to be covered.

When Lionsgate picked the film up for theatrical release in the US, it wasn’t keen on the film playing as an R-rated movie but unfortunately, Fall was simply too sweary to get a softer rating. Considering the two actors were actually filming the film from the dizzying heights of an actual spire, it’s unsurprising that more than a few F-words found their way into their performances and thus, the movie’s final cut.

Having helmed 2015’s Heist and 2009’s The Tournament, director Scott Mann is no stranger to the thriller genre, but what is less known is that he also the co-CEO of Flawless, a UK-based deepfake dubbing technology company. Flawless was able to redub the film’s expletives into PG-13 acceptable language such as ‘freaking’, saving Lionsgate millions in costly reshoots.

We can see this approach paying off handsomely for Fall. The movie is already picking up strong reviews and with the theatrical landscape set to be barren for a while, this could well be the sleeper hit of the summer, thanks in large part to the much wider audience the film can now play to. It feels like a watershed moment in film technology although at the same time, raises concerns about how this technology could be used in the future.

Remember that moment Fox begged David Fincher to replace a particularly unsavoury line in Fight Club? In typically antagonistic fashion, Fincher responded by infamously inserting an even more controversial line but in the future, with studios no longer needing directors to play ball or even actors to reshoot such lines, deepfake tech could be used to alter films in all kinds of troubling ways.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have also been speaking recently about their plans to use deepfake tech to shoot a Donald Trump satire, using the technology to manipulate footage of Trump to satirise the former president for a project called Sassy Justice. Whilst the project never came together (because Trump lost the election and the planned satire would have lost its relevancy) there are ethical questions to consider here regarding consent and the use of peoples’ images that haven’t yet been openly debated, at least not in regards to the technology’s use in the film industry. Contract law will likely need to be updated as the technology becomes more widespread too, with filmmakers and stars having to take cautionary measures to protect themselves against unwanted manipulation of their work.

Fall releases on the 2nd of September, although our friends in the US can watch it from next week.


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