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Edith Piaf Getty.jpg

Who The Hell Thinks An AI Generated Biopic Of Edith Piaf Is A Good Idea?!

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | November 15, 2023 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | November 15, 2023 |

Edith Piaf Getty.jpg

AI was a major issue for both the writers and actors unions in this season of the entertainment industry strike. Shockingly, the majority of people in film and TV aren’t keen about having their likenesses scanned into a computer and used against their will. Barely a week has passed since SAG-AFTRA reached a tentative agreement with AMPTP, and we’re seeing the industry scramble to chase after AI like an old dog startled by a squirrel.

Over in France, Warner Music Group has announced that it has partnered with the estate of the late singer Edith Piaf for a new biopic that will use AI to recreate her voice and image. Piaf, who died in 1963, has already been the subject of a biopic, La Vie en Rose, that won Marion Cotillard her Oscar. This movie will be narrated by an AI-generated facsimile of Piaf’s voice. According to the vultures at WMG:

‘Animation will provide a modern take on her story, while the inclusion of archival footage, stage and TV performances, personal footage and TV interviews will provide audiences with an authentic look at the significant moments of Piaf’s life.’

The project is based on an original idea from Julie Veille and written by Veille and Gilles Marliac. Said Veille in a statement, ‘When creating the film, we kept asking ourselves, ‘If Edith were still with us, what messages would she want to convey to the younger generations?” Call me cynical, but I’m not sure the legendary sparrow of Paris, an uncompromising figure who treasured her craft, would have been wild about being resurrected to do crap without her consent.

This is obviously craven and soulless and misses the point of Piaf’s music, which was earthy and full of the pain of a fully lived life. What is the crossover between Piaf’s fans and those who want to see an AI version of her? I can’t imagine the middle of that particular Venn diagram is large.

Hollywood is especially keen to dig up the dead for AI goodies. We heard, towards the end of SAG-AFTRA negotiations, that AMPTP essentially wanted the right to use dead celebrities for AI without their consent, which didn’t go down well. Of the 16-page summary detailing the tentative deal reached last week, more than five are spent on provisions over artificial intelligence. The document talks of ‘the importance of human performance in motion pictures and the potential impact on employment.’

There are still worries, however, that the agreement doesn’t go far enough. Though the deal requires advance notice and a specific description for the intended use, it allows members of the AMPTP to negotiate directly with performers for approval instead of requiring them to go through the union, which is obviously very scabby. This could end with the studios pushing actors into accepting their terms or risk losing work.

Actress Justine Bateman has already called out the agreement, telling MSNBC that actors should only approve the deal. ‘if they don’t want to work anymore. If they want to be replaced by synthetic objects that are made by generative AI, why not?’ Bateman, who served as a union advisor for generative AI, said she feels studio executives ‘think of themselves as being tech barons’ and ‘don’t know what it’s like to make a film.’

‘There are some aspects of this agreement that aren’t perfect,’ said chief SAG-AFTRA negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. ‘This negotiating team fought so hard to get the best possible protections in artificial intelligence. We all play our hand. This hand that we have played from our perspective achieves what we set out.’ Concessions were obviously made in some areas to improve others, especially regarding the consistent issue of residuals. But you can’t blame those who are skeptical about this deal when it comes to AI. If you’re a low-to-mid-level working actor and the studio is pushing you to sign over your AI rights in exchange for work, bypassing your union to do so, the pressure could be tough to resist.

The studios know that this isn’t something audiences are clamouring for. We’re not hungry to see humans replaced by copycats. The uncanny valley still reigns supreme and nothing beats the magic of living breathing people creating incredible art. But the AMPTP isn’t in the business of art. They want maximum profit and minimal human involvement. The fewer people involved with making a film, the more money they can keep for themselves. We already have Jeffrey ‘Quibi boy’ Katzenberg bragging about how AI advancements will drastically cut down the number of workers required to make an animated film. They see humans and art as being utterly independent of one another. I’d say they’re fools but they know exactly what they’re doing.

Perhaps we can bully David Zaslav over this too. It is always morally justifiable to bully David Zaslav.