One of the sticking points in the ongoing actors’ and writers’ strikes has been AI, which Hollywood studios could use to create scripts and recreate the likenesses of actors.
During a recent interview with Complex, Liu discussed why AI is such a big deal to writers and actors.
“We’re at a really interesting inflection point in the industry,” he said.
“And I feel like a lot of industries are going through the same thing to be fair, but generative AI, it represents such a tool, and an opportunity, but also such an existential threat if the clear terms and boundaries and delineations are not properly addressed,” he continued.
“I think, questions about AI, bring about further questions about what art even is. Where do you delineate human creativity versus machine learning? And where are the crossroads, and how do you draw a line? I think, with the market being the way that it is, if there is a way for a studio or a streamer to take advantage of this current situation, then they will. And that’s exactly why the unions need to hold them accountable and need to protect the intellectual property of the writers, and to protect the digital likeness of the actors,” Liu explained.
“I mean, these are definitely problems that we didn’t anticipate having 10 years ago, but this is the landscape that we’re in now, and so that, to me, is a big, big piece of why this strike, and this negotiation is important,” he added. “Nobody I think given a choice, no actor wants to be picketing. No actor wants to be not working. That’s what they love, first and foremost, out of anything, but, but but I think we don’t want to do it under the, under the wrong pretenses or with the wrong circumstances. We don’t want to do it, but we don’t want to participate in a model that’s exploitative to the bottom-line workers.”
Another key area for actors has been residuals.
“Everyone knows when streaming services came in, they really broke the mold, the model of how residuals are allocated,” he explained. “Before, if an actor does a recurring role on a long-running TV show, a few seasons, as that key TV show continues to get syndicated across networks, or gets continued success, and people continue to watch it over time, those actors and artists, including writers, by the way, continue to be compensated through a mechanism called residuals. And that just means that you may have just gone to work for the one day, but the art that you created continues to generate wealth for the producers and for the networks that participated in it. Therefore, that wealth should be shared with everyone; it’s a very simple idea.”
Streaming, however, has “turned that model upside-down and made it impossible for themselves to be held accountable to what residuals are owed to who, and so I think a lot of what the actors and writers are demanding is more visibility in terms of the metrics of success for these shows. How do we know who’s watching? How do we know how well the show is doing? If we know a show is doing well, and generating a lot of value for a company, then they need to pay.”
While the studios and the striking actors and writers continue to be very far apart on these issues, Liu admits that he’s “hopeful” that a deal can be reached.
“I truly have no insight, but I’m just hopeful that the studios are willing to come to the table,” he said. “Because I think every day that this strike goes on, it’s our industry as a whole that suffers. As artists, we want nothing more than to create. But again, we don’t want to create under an exploitative system.”