With ten pages left to go on editing SOS United States, I’ve started to ponder the next steps in this project. First, I’ll start to research agents and publishers in the political thriller field for their submission/review process. Just like the world of film, each company has a different process—one that must be followed. I’ll also start to look for an editor for that necessary work. Although, if the manuscript is picked up by an agent/publisher, they would have their own editors to bring to the manuscript. Another step will be to review self-publishing companies. While this method was a bit taboo years ago, like the film industry, it’s been standardized to make it a worthwhile commercial option.
Regardless of how the book winds up in the market, it’s a project completed. There is a certain satisfaction in bringing an idea to life. Whether you are committing it to paper or screen, knowing that it will eventually be shared with an audience is a thrill like no other. I remember so many years ago, when my first book Frozen Assets arrived in my office. Opening the box from the printer and seeing months and years of work bound into hardcover was something I’ll always be immensely proud of.
Works like this don’t happen overnight. So many want to be an accomplished screenwriter or author. What they must understand is that it’s hard work. Work done the old-fashioned way. Research, outlines, writing, rewriting, etc. etc. I’m not a slow or fast writer, I’m more methodical – midrange if you will. I like to move along, but I’m also thinking of the story, the characters, and various arcs. For SOS United States, I found that while the end of the book is basically the same as the screenplay, there are differences that I think give the story more heft, or as I like to say gravitas.
That is what makes a writer a writer. We think of an idea, and we execute. We labor over writers’ block to come up with a way of presenting a story that’s new and fresh. One that we hope will entice the reader to turn a page or to sit through the next minute of a movie. When we consider the centuries of creative writing and the great works that have been created that continue to entertain audiences to this day, I think we all shudder at the thought that something may terminate those efforts of genius—I speak about artificial intelligence.
Unless you are living under a rock or perhaps the planet, artificial intelligence, better known as AI, has now permeated nearly every industry. The threat to creative writing is the AI may soon replace humans. I have no interest in a book, screenplay or other creative work that has been written by a computer program. Yes, AI is wonderful for customer service, research and the like, but even that takes away from the originality of the human process. By another example, we know AI is actively working in the legal profession, but the mind of a skilled lawyer who has a feel for the law that shapes our society, is something that should never be relegated to AI—less, AI begins to regulate us.
I don’t believe in living in the past. We know that developments in AI and a host of new technologies make our world a better place. But that being said, we must be sure that technology doesn’t replace the gifted thought, creativity and compassion that makes up the human being. For while we created this new technology, let’s not have it recreate us.
“Machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make.” – Nick Bostrom
In the entertainment industry there are the readers. Those individuals who are assigned to read screenplays. Whether you are at a studio, agency, network, production company or film festival, there are the readers. They are on the front lines of evaluating your script. I was a reader for a film festival a few years ago. From reading screenplays that you can see on the silver screen with an Academy Award nomination to those that would be best served as fodder for a litter box, the net of the result is that a human being read it.
I have long been used to subjective industries. From sports to entertainment, a human being decides your fate. They decide if your performance or project is worthy of an award or the circular file. But the last thing this industry needs is a computer program to evaluate the quality of your screenplay.
This past week in The Hollywood Reporter came this article This New Artificial Intelligence Script-Reading Program Could Find Your Next Oscar Role. It was bad enough when I read a few years ago about some new program being developed that could write a screenplay and now reading about one that decides the fate of a screenplay by a computer? Both can immediately fade to black with no acts.
The absolute bottom line to the entire entertainment industry is the writer. Without writers nobody has a job. A writer comes up with an idea, researches that idea and then writes a story. A good reader sees the nuances between the lines of action and dialogue to properly evaluate a script. If after all the human checks and balances it pasts muster, it is then the responsibility of the director to breathe life into those pages to present a project that can be sold into the market. No computer program can do that.
There’s no question that tens of thousands of scripts are written on any given year and tracking them is a daunting task. We know the process of moving a project from script to screen is a herculean one. But if you start to marginalize the writer through the process of a computer program you are doing this industry a disservice because there is then no motivation to create. Last I checked computers don’t fill the seats of a theatre human beings do.
One of the biggest complaints that producers have is finding quality writers and, in particular, showrunners for TV shows. This is not an industry that works off a stopwatch. It is an industry that continuously yearns for that next creative idea to be championed into production. No computer program can do that.
I know that somewhere today on this “Pale Blue Dot” someone has thought of an idea that will eventually wind up in our theaters or as a TV series, because when all is said and done nobody will be presenting a Best Writing award to a Hal 9000.