The heart of tech is coming to the heart of the Mediterranean. Join TNW in València this March 🇪🇸

This article was published on June 10, 2016

An AI wrote a sci-fi short film by learning from 90s screenplays

Abhimanyu Ghoshal
Story by

Abhimanyu Ghoshal

Managing Editor

Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and culture. Hit him up on Twitter, or write in: [email protected].

We’ve previously reported how AI is developing rapidly and gaining the ability to do things like defeat human champions at the game of Go, describe photos in words for vision-impaired users, detect cyber attacks and even write novels and financial reports.

That’s old hat – there’s now an AI that can write screenplays. It’s named itself Benjamin and its first film, a sci-fi short, has just been released on YouTube for the world to enjoy.

‘Sunspring’ was directed by Oscar Sharp and stars Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch. It was made for the 48-Hour Film Challenge at the Sci-Fi London festival.

Sharp’s collaborator Ross Goodwin, a researcher at New York University, built Benjamin over the course of a year. It all that it knows about science fiction from a corpus of dozens of screenplays of sci-fi movies from the 80s and 90s.

The nine-minute film is mostly absurd, as the three characters’ dialogues don’t make much sense and the sequence of events is confounding as well. It’s about what I expected, given how some other AI has fared in various creative efforts. For instance, after Google’s neural network was trained with roughly 30,000 romance novels, it’s yet to write anything worth publishing.

However, as Sharp noted when speaking to Ars Technica, there’s an interesting recurring pattern in which the actors often say things like “I don’t know,” and “I’m not sure,” which are reminiscent of scenes in several sci-fi movies where the characters are trying to understand their environment and how they came to be in the situation they’re in.

Sharp’s next directorial venture is a film titled Randle Is Benign, about ‘a computer scientist who creates the first superintelligent computer in 1981.’ Meanwhile, Benjamin’s already begun learning to write film synopses. Here’s the first:

“The Squires of the Landscape”
Set in 1942 in a post-apocalyptic world, the film follows the journey of a young man who falls in love with a sexy couple who have started to fall in love. As they fall in love, they learn that they are not alone in their own way. The film follows the two groups of people who reconnect with the world and their relationship and the secrets they live.

I’d say Benjamin can look forward to a bright career in show business. You can find more synopses on this Facebook page, and read the screenplay for ‘Sunspring’ here (PDF).